© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

With Head Coach Les Miles Under Fire, What Will KU Do As Fans Eagerly Eye Return To Football

In this Sept. 13, 2019, file photo, Kansas coach Les Miles stands with his team during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Boston College in Boston.
Michael Dwyer/AP
In this Sept. 13, 2019, file photo, Kansas coach Les Miles stands with his team during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Boston College in Boston.

A damaging investigation alleging inappropriate behavior with female students during his years at LSU is raising questions about the future of KU head coach Les Miles.

Updated at 9:42 a.m. March 9, 2021: The University of Kansas and Les Miles mutually agreed to part ways Monday evening, effective immediately.

In hopes of turning around a moribund football program, the University of Kansas attempted a big splash with the hiring of Les Miles as the new head coach in 2018. Indeed, it was. But in hindsight, particularly after the damaging investigation into Miles' tenure at Louisiana State University (LSU) where he was accused of inappropriate behavior with female students, it was a cannonball splash with plenty of bystanders getting wet.

It starts at the top with KU chancellor Doug Girod, who athletics director, Jeff Long, thanked in his opening remarks on November 18, 2018, when Miles was introduced in Lawrence. Long acknowledged Girod’s “confidence and support” during the hiring process.

Now the question is how much confidence and support Girod still has in Long. Long placed Miles on administrative leave last Friday night after the close of the business day.

Long’s decision came on the heels of two law firms, Husch Blackwell and Taylor Porter, chronicling a series of alleged inappropriate acts toward female students and staffers at LSU. Miles, who coached at LSU from 2005 to ’16, was mentioned in those reports.

Upon placing Miles on leave, Long said in a statement, “Even though the allegations against him occurred at LSU, we take these matters very seriously at KU.” Long said KU would conduct its own review to determine what to do next.

Miles’ New York-based attorney, Peter Ginsberg, released an ensuing statement that characterized KU’s actions as “disturbing and unfair.” Ginsberg claims that KU did its due diligence before hiring Miles. How much KU uncovered in its due diligence before hiring Miles remains unclear.

When reports surfaced on February 24 of a sexual harassment claim, an investigation and a settlement involving Miles and a student at LSU, KU said in a statement that “KU was not aware of these allegations” when Miles was hired.

Trouble on the gridiron

On the field, the team went winless in its pandemic-shortened nine-game schedule last year. The year before, KU finished 3-9 under Miles. KU has not had a winning football season since 2008.

But football has been messy under Long apart from the Miles situation.

In an expensive and drawn out legal battle, KU finally reached an out-of-court settlement over the money that Miles’ predecessor, David Beaty, felt he was owed when he was fired.

At a time when college football programs are promoting the prospect of bringing back fans this fall, KU appears to be further alienating its fans.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.