Amid Scandal, LSU’s Title IX Consultant Makes His Business Pitch

·9 min read

Amid the wreckage of LSU’s escalating Title IX scandal—which has so far spawned a $50 million lawsuit and implicated at least two other universities in the mishandling of alleged sexual assaults by athletes—is a five-year-old consulting contract that was supposed to provide the school’s athletic department protection against just this sort of event.

In the summer of 2016, following a string of very public scandals at several other big-time athletic programs, LSU leaders hyped the retention of consultant Dan Beebe as a “proactive” move, indicative of how seriously they were taking the issue of campus-based sexual misconduct. Given the $123 million LSU athletics spent that fiscal year, the $34,518 allocated to the Dan Beebe Group was equivalent to the spare change found between couch cushions. Nonetheless, administrators boasted about this investment, which would provide group sexual harassment sensitivity seminars for LSU athletes.

“We’ve been actively educating student athletes and coaches for years,” Eddie Nuñez, LSU’s then-deputy athletic director said at the time, according to the Advocate newspaper. “We understand what’s happening in the industry and in the world, and we want to be proactive to expand on training and education.”

The professed proactiveness of Beebe’s hiring was further touted by F. King Alexander, the school’s president, who claimed that only two other university athletic departments were undertaking Beebe’s kind of sexual harassment prevention work.

These assurances have not aged well.

As it turned out, Beebe’s arrival at Baton Rouge came three years after the school’s then-football coach, Les Miles, was secretly investigated by the school’s outside law firm over allegations of inappropriate conduct toward female students, including claims he sent suggestive text messages and kissed one student in his car. The details of that probe remained hidden until USA Today pried them into the open with a public records lawsuit in January; the ensuing outcry led to Miles and Alexander losing their respective jobs at Kansas and Oregon State.

The revelations also called into question Beebe’s work as a consultant, and whether his practical value to schools like LSU was as a five-figure fig leaf, allowing tougher, more expensive, front-end decisions to be avoided. Indeed, as was later alleged, within months of Beebe’s contract being signed, two LSU football players, including star running back Derrius Guice, had separately been accused of committing either physical or sexual abuse against women—and that the school had effectively turned a blind eye.

In a recent telephone interview, Beebe defended both LSU and his consulting work, but also said his general experiences as a consultant over the last decade have testified to the higher education system’s intransigence when it comes to taking charge of sexual misconduct reporting, specifically in college sports.

Beebe largely couched his comments as generalities, noting that he remains on contract with LSU and would like to continue in that role, rendering him unable to speak specifically about ongoing school matters. Beebe said that his training program, which addresses various HR and NCAA issues beyond Title IX matters, is not designed to be “the total package.” Rather, Beebe’s stated objective is to make athletes and staff aware of the available channels within the university to report misconduct.

“We can’t be a [complete] check-the-box, because our training is about these other places for people to go to,” Beebe said. “Frankly, we have had a good record of hearing of things and subsequently getting those issues resolved, but if we don’t hear about them, we can’t do much about them—and if a person in the audience isn’t going to utilize the resources, I am not sure what you can do.”

Beebe initially came on board as part of LSU’s contract with another college sports consulting firm, CarrSports, to conduct a top-down review of the athletic department. On its website, CarrSports lists Beebe as a member of its advisory council. Beebe’s once-eponymous firm has since been rechristened Protection for All.

Now 64, Beebe began consulting with athletic departments after his ouster as Big 12 commissioner in 2011, which came amid Oklahoma’s threat to bolt the conference over Texas’ exclusive partnership with ESPN. Tax filings later revealed that Beebe received $4.5 million on his way out the door, a data point that at least lends some credence to Beebe’s insistence that his going concern is not primarily motivated by money.

“I am not making the money I used to,” Beebe said. “I am really doing it for the right reason.”

Then again, he acknowledges that the work hasn’t been nearly as profitable as he once hoped, having launched his consultancy while the college sports world was reeling over the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

“I think I am onto a business model that will blow up, because this is a badly needed service,” Beebe said. “I have been flabbergasted how little we are used.”

In addition to LSU, Beebe said his recurrent clients include Minnesota, Clemson and Iowa, which faced its own major scandal last summer over allegations of racism within the Hawkeye football program. Other schools have, over the years, brought Beebe in mid-firestorm, such as Illinois—which hired him in 2015 following multiple coaching abuse claims by former athletes—and Louisville, which added Beebe to their consulting carousel in the denouement of Rick Pitino’s coaching tenure. In 2018, Beebe was hired by Idaho to do the rare (for him) ex post facto investigation of an athletic department, after a female diver accused the school of mishandling her sexual assault complaint against a football player.

But Beebe says that he has largely abstained from doing the more lucrative work of probing college athletic departments, in part because his many friendships in college sports make for too many conflicts of interest. In more recent years, he has created a side business conducting Title IX investigations for school districts in Washington state, where he currently resides. As a former lawyer who once led the NCAA’s enforcement operation in the late 1980s, Beebe questions schools’ heavy reliance on expensive law firms when it comes to addressing systemic issues related to Title IX allegations.

“Having been burdened with a law degree,” Beebe said of his current work, “I had to be retrained.”

That more universities haven’t proven willing to invest big on the preventative side of human resources, Beebe argues, has not only undermined his business, but has contributed to the string of unethical and at times criminal behavior by athletic departments around the country.

In Beebe’s telling, the “fault lies” not with college athletic directors, but with main campus leaders who “have turf in these areas”—whether it be student affairs or legal—and are intent on protecting it from outside encroachment.

“I talk to ADs who have wanted to use us and go to their campus and get blocked,” Beebe said. He recalled an example where he said he had pitched his services to a school president “who I knew pretty well,” and who had a legal background, over a situation involving a sports program’s director of operations who was accused by multiple younger women of sexual harassment.

“They ended up bringing in an outside law firm, paying the director of ops to go way, and paying a settlement to the women,” Beebe said. “They probably spent over a million dollars; I [told the president]: ‘We could have worked for 25 years to help prevent this for what you ended up paying.’”

Prior to the Larry Nassar scandal exploding at Michigan State in 2017, Beebe said that he had pitched his business to the school’s then-president Lou Anna Simon but was never retained. Simon eventually was criminally charged over the university’s handling of the numerous claims against Nassar, who was employed as a team doctor and professor of osteopathic medicine at MSU.

“These things do take a little bit of time, but if we had been in front of that gymnastics team or softball team or the trainers, I guarantee you—not in year one… but we would have heard something [about Nassar],” Beebe said.

Asked about the limitations he—as a rich, white man in his 60s—might face when speaking about the most intimate of matters with a diverse group of young, college athletes, Beebe says his relatability is a “gift God gave me.”

“I can be in the harshest of circumstances of a student athlete and talk to them and make them comfortable to talk and [also] be in the president’s office and be in the head coach’s office,” he said. “In our work, I don’t think you should automatically assume if you are not of that [subject’s] gender or race—or even if you are, that you are going to get that information. I think a lot of it depends on your demeanor.”

In its report released last month, Husch Blackwell, the outside law firm hired by LSU to investigate its handling of issues raised in USA Today‘s reporting, determined that the athletic department had been “disconnected from the Title IX Office and the broader University community.”

Of Beebe’s work, Husch Blackwell wrote: “While this training has been praised by participants as engaging and informative, concerns have been expressed from the Title IX Office and other stakeholders that the training added an additional layer of confusion regarding options and expectations for students and employees to report Title IX-specific misconduct.”

Meanwhile, Nuñez, now the athletic director at New Mexico, expressed shock when asked about his being listed as the “project manager” on Beebe’s original 2016 agreement with LSU.

“I honestly had no idea,” Nuñez told Sportico. “There was no indication that I was a project manager. I remember being project manager for actual projects [at LSU], so I don’t have any comment since I didn’t even know.”

In a statement, an LSU athletics spokesperson said that the school has “invested significant time and resources into providing comprehensive education for our student athletes, staff and coaches.”

To supplement Protection for All, the school has also enlisted A Call to Men, an organization that promotes “healthy, respectful manhood,” as well as the nonprofit workplace training group, Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR).

“We will continue to reevaluate our expenditures in these areas each year and prioritize prevention of sexual and domestic assault,” the LSU spokesman added. “Our commitment to this work is more than a statement.”

(UPDATE: This article has been edited in the 21st paragraph to clarify that Dan Beebe used the word “blocked” and not “mocked” in the interview. The headline has also been updated.)

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