4.23.19 New AD

LSU athletic director Scott Woodward holds an introductory press conference in the Journalism Building on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

The Tiger Athletic Foundation has re-entered the campus discourse, this time as the supposed piggy bank funding disgraced head football coach Ed Orgeron and his $17 million buyout.

TAF exists as a separate fundraising arm—distinct from the LSU Foundation—with the express purpose of supporting athletic endeavors here at the flagship university. Its function could easily be taken over by the LSU Foundation, which currently manages academic donations on campus.

However, as any time spent at our university will show you, the priorities of many LSU boosters is not to promote the academic well-being of our campus, but rather to ensure that football fans pay their annual dues for the privilege of buying a football ticket.

In an amended lawsuit regarding the university's ongoing Title IX scandal, the complainant directly implicates TAF for its involvement in the athletic department and Title IX violations more broadly.

"By subsidizing the salaries of LSU employees, including the Orgeron defendants, TAF exerts control over LSU athletics and protects the male student-athletes who generate large sums of money for TAF and LSU," the lawsuit writes.

In 2019, TAF donated over $60 million to LSU Athletics in the form of contributions made either directly to the department or through the foundation renovating various athletic facilities. Among these renovations was the new football operations building that has often been compared to the neglected LSU Library.

To its credit, TAF once allocated part of its massive athletics revenue to support academics; however, that academic support was cut off in 2019 at the behest of Athletic Director Scott Woodward.

A 2016 report by The Advocate noted that the university is the only one in the SEC that raises more money for athletics than for academics.

“The University of Florida's Gator Boosters athletic foundation resembles TAF, bringing in about $45 million a year. But the University of Florida Foundation, by comparison, brings in roughly $110 million a year for academics—nearly three times what its counterpart at LSU raises.”

If TAF does not wish to support academics—the core purpose of a university—but to instead unconditionally support and sustain the people who perpetuate the abuses detailed by the Husch Blackwell report, then the foundation doesn't deserve a place here at the university.

LSU needs to do better at supporting the academic side of campus here and it could start by allowing the LSU Foundation to absorb TAF and require a donation to academics on campus to secure any athletics tickets.

Charlie Stephens is a 21-year-old political communication junior from Baton Rouge.

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