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Ed Orgeron has to go.
And he might not be the only one at LSU, in athletics and beyond, who needs to be sent packing.
On Monday, USA Today published a thorough investigation into LSU, which seems to have a robust culture of turning a blind eye to women on campus who report domestic violence and sexual assault claims to police.
Especially when allegations are made against members of the football team.
According to USA Today, in the four years that Orgeron has been head coach, no fewer than nine members of his Tigers program have been reported to police for sexual misconduct and dating violence.
And those are just the ones who went to police. According to RAINN, the national anti-sexual violence organization, a small percentage of women — about 20 percent of those college-aged — report sexual assault to authorities, so it’s almost certain there are more who haven’t stepped forward.
Not surprisingly, Orgeron and LSU seemed especially protective of running back Derrius Guice. Documents show that Guice was accused of rape by two women and a third said he took semi-nude photos without her permission, which he sent to at least one other person.
Orgeron was not the head coach when the first known accusation against Guice was made, but he was a member of the coaching staff. He was named head coach about five months before the second rape allegation against Guice, which came in April 2017.
In all three cases, USA Today writes, LSU officials either doubted the women’s stories, did not investigate or did not call the police.
Which meant the Tigers’ star running back could go about his life, and LSU could reap the benefits of having him on the field. In 2017, Guice rushed for 1,251 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns. His attorney says Guice was never punished by the team or school.
Who cares about young women as long as the football team is good, right?
LSU isn’t the first school and athletic department to send this message. Just the latest.
Guice was hardly the only troubling instance. USAT reports that at least seven officials at the school knew wide receiver Drake Davis was physically abusing his girlfriend, and did nothing for months. It wasn’t until after Davis pleaded guilty in court to several misdemeanors that the school expelled him.
Quarterback Peter Parrish was accused of raping a woman earlier this year, suspended for a year by LSU and has since transferred to the University of Memphis.
Three more players have been accused of rape, and a fourth of recording a woman during sex without her knowledge. Only one has been arrested. Two other players accused of dating violence were arrested.
LSU would not confirm or deny if any of those players were disciplined.
The story conjures bad memories of the sexual assault scandal at Baylor, particularly as the rot at LSU doesn’t stop with the athletics department. Samantha Brennan, the woman who accused Guice of taking photos of her without permission, said the school’s Title IX department never reached out to her after she filed a report with campus police, as required. (Brennan did not want to press charges then, and maintains that stance now.)
LSU has refused to provide records of one rape allegation, from a member of the women’s tennis team, to the victim and her attorney despite repeated requests. Davis’ victim, also a member of the women’s tennis team, told an athletic trainer about her abuse and the trainer told no one for a year. Meanwhile, the young woman’s father informed the tennis team’s co-head coach what was happening and was told, “couldn’t be possible, wouldn’t be possible.”
And there are multiple other cases of non-athlete male students being found responsible for sexual assault and facing little more than a slap on the wrist. They include, according to USA Today, a fraternity member who was accused by two women of sexual assault during a bus trip to New Orleans. He was found guilty in both cases but received only “deferred suspension” or a probationary period for four semesters, a meeting on anger management or healthy relationships, and a class on ethics and decision-making. What’s worse, a third woman stepped forward accusing the same frat member of sexual assault and school officials never contacted her about the allegation.
What a joke.
Prioritizing the success of the football team over protecting women and other victims has far-reaching effects. Brennan, who bravely reached out to USA Today reporters after their August story about the rape allegations against Guice, left the school when she realized who the administration actually cared about — and it wasn’t her.
Guice was a second-round draft pick of the Washington Football Team in 2018, and earlier this year was arrested and charged with assaulting a girlfriend, including allegedly strangling her until she passed out. He was released by the team.
It’s possible that Guice felt invincible after not facing consequences for being accused of rape twice. If he actually had been punished for those incidents? In a perfect world, he would’ve ended up in jail; at the very least, he likely wouldn’t have been drafted and the girlfriend he assaulted this year could have been spared.
As for Davis’ victim, her suffering escalated while several members of the athletics department did nothing. One night in June 2018, the drunken receiver keyed into her on-campus apartment, jumped on her in her bed, strangled her and hit her. Her roommate called police after hearing screams.
Afraid that she might lose her scholarship and aware of who would be protected — again, not her — the woman covered for Davis when police arrived the night of the June 2018 attack, saying it had been a verbal argument. But there were other reported assaults already on record, including a text from Davis to deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry in April 2018 in which he admitted to punching his girlfriend.
Orgeron gave a statement to USA Today in advance of the story, and when meeting with reporters Monday afternoon, he offered a mealy-mouthed read of much the same, some empty sentences about being “committed to a culture of safety, equity and accountability for all students and staff” and that “every allegation” is reported to the school’s Title IX office.
Ask the victims of the at least nine players who played for you, Ed, about safety, equity and accountability. Ask the women who have had to uproot their lives and transfer schools because you and your department protected those men and treated those women as little more than nuisances.
While we’re asking questions, let’s ask LSU’s senior administration: What the hell is going on in their school that a student can be found guilty of rape twice and his “punishment” is attending an anger management class? Why it is their Title IX office can’t be bothered to investigate when a young woman accuses her boyfriend of multiple incidents of physical violence, with photos showing her wounds?
Ed Orgeron has to go. But he’s not the only one.
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