Forgive me for the jarring headline, but I feel passionately about this. Calling for someone to be fired is usually not a smart idea and Oregon State’s current President, F. King Alexander, isn’t automatically a ‘bad guy’ because of a large error in judgment as the President at LSU eight years ago. BUT COME ON! Why is this guy still the President of a public university that happens to be the school I perpetually root and pull for? It’s a stain on the community and a slap in the face to everyone who wants to associate with Oregon State. Let’s run through what’s happening and where we stand as of March 22nd, 2021.
Les Miles is an (in)famous football coach who became a household name while coaching the LSU Tigers for 12 seasons. His team won a championship in 2007 and he had a 114-34 record during his time in Baton Rouge. Despite the on-field successes his time with LSU always seemed tenuous like he was on the verge of being replaced at any moment. It didn’t really make sense to most outsiders, but now that the Husch Blackwell report has been made public (back on March 4th) it all makes a bit more sense now.
I unfortunately was a fan of Les Miles. I thought he was a good football coach who became a victim of his own success, but boy was I wrong. Back in 2016 at the time of his firing from LSU the only reason given was his poor on-the-field results or perhaps his stubbornness. It wasn’t public knowledge that Les Miles was sexually harassing college-aged girls and generally behaving inappropriately.
At the height of Les Miles’ fame when he was “the big-man on campus”, the highest paid public employee in the State of Louisiana he was also accused of texting female students, taking them to his condo alone, making them feel uncomfortable and even kissing a student and then suggesting they go to a hotel room together and then afterwards he would help her career. At the time a law firm investigated LSU and Les Miles’ behavior/allegations. They found his behavior to be inappropriate (obviously). To give you an idea of how misogynistic and gross Les Miles was/is he “tried to sexualize the staff of student workers in the football program by, for instance, allegedly demanding that he wanted blondes with big breasts, and ‘pretty girls.”’
Les Miles was the head coach of Kansas when this report was made public. Kansas officials placed him on administrative leave the day after the report was released and then he and the University ‘parted ways’ three days later.
HOW IS OREGON STATE INVOLVED?
Okay I get it Les Miles is not a good guy, but how does this implicate Oregon State? That’s where current OSU President F. King Alexander comes into the picture. Mr. Alexander was the President of LSU from July 2013 - December 2019 until he took the job at Oregon State and decided to be Ed Ray’s successor.
You might be asking your self hold on... Did Oregon State’s President even know about Les Miles’ disturbing conduct and actions? Yes he absolutely did. He was keenly aware of Les Miles’ behavior and as the man in charge, tasked with upholding the values of LSU he did nothing. Actually doing nothing is too generous, he used his position of power to suppress this information and disregard or downplay the allegations. LSU’s athletic director at the time was Joe Alleva. Mr. Alleva was aware of Les Miles disturbing behavior and strongly encouraged Mr. Alexander and other top LSU officials to fire Les Miles as their football coach. Here’s what LSU’s Athletic Director wrote via email to Alexander and others in 2013:
As we move closer to deciding how to handle the results of our investigation I want to recommend at minimum a few items... a written reprimand outlining his inappropriate behavior and the consequences for it occurring again, sort sort of counseling, and a reduction to any bonuses paid to him equal to the attorney fees incurred as a result of his inappropriate behavior... I also believe the full board needs to be made aware of the situation before any decisions are made. I think his continued employments needs to be seriously considered. When reviewing the use of a secret personal phone, the text messages, the fact that I had already advised him against such behavior, the evening meeting off campus, etc. it gives me great concern for the future. This issue can or will have serious impact on our university and athletic department.
In another email a few weeks later Joe Alleva begged F. King Alexander to consider firing Les Miles writing:
Bob and King, thanks for call today... one more time I want us to think about which scenario is worse for LSU. Explaining why we let him go or explaining why we let him stay. Proactive or reactive... I always believe that people are innocent until proven guilty and in this case I believe he is guilty of insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic dept and football program at great risk. I think we have cause. I specifically told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and obviously he didn’t listen. I know there are many possible outcomes and much risk either way, but I believe it is in the best interest in the long run to make a break. The court of public opinion would favor us. The court room? On July 2nd we will know more but the facts will remain the same... thanks.
How could F. King Alexander read those emails, be a part of these discussions and decide to take any course of action besides immediately firing Les Miles?? Instead Les Miles coached LSU for three more years under Alexander’s leadership.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Oregon State’s board called an emergency meeting (to be held Tuesday 3/23). I would be shocked if F. King Alexander remains the President of Oregon State University after that meeting. Why the repeat meeting less than a week after they decided to place Alexander on probation? Didn’t they just vote 12-2 in favor of not terminating Alexander? The repeat meeting probably has to do with the many voices in the Oregon State community that are rightfully outraged. Jarrid Denney of the Gazette Times has done an amazing job reporting the events of the past few weeks including this recent story detailing the outrage towards Alexander and the OSU Board of Trustees.
As for Les Miles? He settled out of court (likely for hundreds of thousands) with the woman who accused him of lewd behavior and now that these allegations have become public knowledge Les Miles will never coach football again.
Back at LSU the university has not fired any current employees whose conduct was criticized in the Husch Blackwell report.
THE BIG PICTURE
Allegations need to be investigated, not disregarded or swept under the rug. Especially against powerful men like Les Miles. Miles got a huge contract extension in 2013. Just imagine you were an LSU student and the millionaire football coach was sexually harassing you and LSU officials (especially Alexander) just tried their hardest to ignore it and defend Les Miles; that’s awful.
To take it a step further, football coaches at state schools and University Presidents are public employees. F. King Alexander is paid a robust salary with benefits including: $630,000 per year (in base salary), a car allowance, supplemental retirement pay and is provided with a university residence/home. Yes, your Oregon State taxes and your tuition money is in part going directly into Alexander’s pockets. To top it all off this country currently has a student loan crisis as tuition prices have soared over the last 30 years, the wealth gap is widening and it appears that basically every system in the US was designed to benefit wealthy white males at every possible turn.
Alexander didn’t personally design the system that allows rich white men to be treated differently by law enforcement/the legal system, to be more likely to get away with sexual assault, to enjoy loopholes when paying taxes and have access to the highest paying jobs; but it’s clear his decisions and actions were intended to keep that discriminatory system in place. Mr. Alexander’s failure to act as the President of LSU embodies why we still have the need for social justice movements and protests in the 21st century.
Oregon State made a mistake hiring F. King Alexander as their next President. That’s okay mistakes happen, their hiring process didn’t uncover the Les Miles scandal like it should have. The University compounded that mistake when they decided not to terminate Alexander last week. Alexander should have been terminated as soon as the Board found out about his role and involvement in perpetuating Les Miles’ behavior and his decision to keep Miles as LSU’s head football coach. Quite frankly it’s embarrassing that the Board is having another meeting to right that wrong decision. Oregon State fans everywhere want to celebrate the success of their basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament, but instead there’s a dark cloud hanging over the University. His name is Fieldon King Alexander and as of March 22nd, 2021 he is still the President of Oregon State University.