Editorial: Miles must specifically address his many accusers, or he must be fired as KU’s football coach

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

It is hard to deny that the University of Kansas has become a perennial doormat in college football. But it is equally as obvious that KU can’t allow itself to be in the rug business.

There are growing signs that current KU football coach Les Miles had extremely inappropriate conduct swept under the rug while he was the successful and powerful head coach at LSU. KU leaders must make it perfectly clear there can be no rugs and no brooms when it comes to such serious matters at the University of Kansas.

KU’s decision on Friday evening to place Miles on administrative leave while it investigates the matter is a good first step. Now, we all need to see some steps from Miles.

Miles, through his attorney, has denied kissing a student employee while at LSU. While he has acknowledged being alone with her in his vehicle, he has said he never did anything inappropriate with her and only sought to mentor her. That set up a scenario of a classic “he said/she said” dispute.

But the story took a significant turn on Friday, when LSU released its most recent report looking into allegations that the university’s athletic department had a history of mishandling complaints of sexual harassment. In that broader report, multiple people — some of them speaking on the record with their names attached — discussed language and actions by Miles that are inappropriate on their face.

There are employees of the athletic department who told attorneys that Miles provided specific directions about the type of student employees who should be hired to represent LSU football. Those directions were to hire “pretty girls,” and more specifically “blondes with the big boobs.” Miles has not addressed those allegations. Did he provide such direction?

At least three witnesses also referenced Miles referring to student workers as “a.m. and p.m. girls.” Miles has not addressed those allegations. Did he use that language? Again, the report found multiple people who recalled Miles referring to certain student workers looking like a “bad bowling team.” No response yet from Miles. Did he say it?

Perhaps Miles will come out and deny saying any of those things. If so, he needs to not simply deny but also explain why so many of his co-workers at LSU recalled him saying things that were so inappropriate. Are we to believe, with no evidence, that these LSU employees simply have it out for Miles? To be blunt, at this point, there are many reasons why Miles may lie about his past activity. We aren’t yet aware of reasons why these LSU employees would be lying about what they saw or heard. The court of public opinion does not work like a court of law. Miles has a significant burden to help us believe that any denial he issues is truthful.

Miles must undertake that task, make those public denials and do the hard work of winning the trust of the public. If Miles wants to remain silent, then we should never hear from him again as a coach at the University of Kansas. If Miles won’t do the work to win back the trust of the public, then KU should fire him.

Alternatively, Miles may acknowledge some of this language and attitude that multiple people have attributed to him. He may express regret, promise that he has changed and ask for forgiveness. There are some really good books that say forgiveness is a virtue. To be clear, though, sometimes you can be forgiven and keep your job, and sometimes you can be forgiven and lose your job. If Miles does acknowledge mistakes and says he has changed his attitude on women and respect, then KU will have a decision to make. That decision should be grounded in the specifics of the situation, which are still emerging. KU should err on creating an atmosphere of respect for women and one free from harassment and discrimination.

In the end, KU must be entirely confident that students and staff at the University of Kansas are protected from abuse. The most recent LSU report reminds of the importance of doing so. The report details how the student employee who alleges Miles kissed her and touched her inappropriately confronted Miles. She did so in the presence of other athletic department employees.

“This child had a dead stare . . . she just kept saying, over and over, ‘You know what you did to me,'” an employee who was present for the meeting told investigators. Others present described the meeting as “emotional” and “traumatic.”

KU can lose a lot more football games and never lose as much as a victim of sexual harassment.


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