Les Miles statement from Kansas reminds us where priorities lie

Late Monday night, the Twitter feed for the Kansas University athletics department sent out a statement attributed to director of athletics Jeff Long with an announcement that it was “mutually parting ways” with head football coach Les Miles.

If you read the statement and don’t know what led to it, you are given no indication that it’s because of the sordid details that have come to light about Miles’ repeated, predatory behavior.

But you would be reminded, again, that at nearly every Power Five school, there is not a single thing that matters more than winning at football and the money that comes from it.

Not a single thing.

“I am extremely disappointed for our university, fans and everyone involved with our football program,” Long’s statement says. “There is a lot of young talent on this football team, and I have no doubt that we will identify the right individual to lead this program. We will begin the search for a new head coach immediately with an outside firm to assist in this process. We need to win football games, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”

Where is any mention of the myriad misdeeds Miles is accused of while at LSU? Where is any semblance of an apology to KU players, support staff, students and boosters for the mistake of hiring Miles in the first place? Where is even a whiff of contrition for potentially putting young women on campus at risk of enduring Miles’ gross behavior? Where is the idea that you’ll hire a coach who can field a winning team without sexually harassing women on campus?

You just, out of nowhere, Mr. Long, decided to part ways with Miles? Is that what we’re to believe?

And while we’re asking questions, what rationale would there be to give Long the chance to hire a new football coach? Miles was investigated by LSU in 2013 — years before Kansas hired him — for inappropriate conduct with female students, and back then the Tigers’ athletic director thought it was best to fire Miles, advice LSU’s administration didn’t heed. But Long, who may end up getting fired as well, either didn’t do any due diligence on Miles or, more likely, knew of those credible allegations and ignored them, as an ESPN+ documentary on Miles’ hiring at KU would suggest.

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To read Kansas athletic director Jeff Long’s statement on Les Miles’ firing, you’d believe it was strictly due to losing football games, and not the ghastly allegations against Miles from his time at LSU. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

The young women at KU, the young women at Louisiana State, where Miles preyed on female students despite warnings to stop and a directive that he could no longer be alone with them, deserve so much better than schools are providing right now.

But if we’re to take Jeff Long at the words provided in his statement, none of them matter.

All that matters is winning football games.

And Miles wasn’t even good at that, not with the Jayhawks. In his two seasons, they went 3-18.

Forgive us for believing that if Miles’ record was 18-3, Long and the school would be covering for him and keeping him on staff.

Why is it that the NCAA historically has seemed to delight in punishing student-athletes for not following their draconian rules to the letter, but lets coaches and administrators behave like this and just float from job to multi-million-dollar job when they’ve gotten caught behaving badly?

At this point, there is no reporting that Miles behaved inappropriately with students at KU, and at least one school administrator said it did a background check before hiring Miles. But simply by hiring him, it gave tacit approval to what he’d done at LSU and potentially put its own students in harm’s way.

LSU is a different story, because the brilliant, continued reporting by USA Today is uncovering a rotten institution that has placed profits and winning above anything else for over a decade, if not longer. It did nothing to punish star running back Derrius Guice for multiple reports to police of sexual assault, ignored the pleas of young women experiencing dating violence at the hands of football players — at least one of them also a student-athlete — and now, we’ve learned, by keeping Miles as head coach for years after an investigation showed he was sexually harassing and traumatizing female students.

It’s so tiresome, reading stories like these over and over. Are we really to assume that winning games and doing so with coaches that aren’t creeps or players who aren’t abusive are mutually exclusive? That the potentially lifelong trauma experienced by some female students is a fair price to pay for a couple of conference championships or a national title? Because this is calculation these schools are making.

Les Miles hopefully won’t ever coach again. The sad thing is, history tells us it’s only a matter of time until we hear about another program that has sacrificed its female students at the altar of winning.

Because as Jeff Long told us, that’s all that matters.

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