The LSU Board of Supervisors went behind the back of former President F. King Alexander, negotiated a contract with current Athletic Director Scott Woodward and forced Alexander to hire him, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported Friday.
The report focuses on an April 2019 meeting between Alexander and four board members. There, the ex-president said that then-board Chair James M. Williams gave him an ultimatum: fire Joe Alleva, athletic director at the time, and hire Woodward, a Baton Rouge native and previous LSU administrator.
Williams denied to The Chronicle that he forced Alexander into making a change.
“King Alexander was never told, ‘You must do this or else; do this or you’re fired; do this or it’s not going to be good for you,’” he said.
The meeting in a private room at Juban’s, a Baton Rouge creole restaurant, was held at the height of tension surrounding head basketball coach Will Wade and allegations that he paid recruits. Alleva had suspended Wade just before the NCAA Tournament, after news broke that an FBI investigation had caught the coach on a wiretap discussing the payments.
Woodward is known to have a particularly strong relationship with NCAA President Mark Emmert. The two’s friendship goes back to their early days working at LSU. Fans were reportedly frustrated with Alleva, who had overseen rocky, sluggish football seasons and suspended Wade at an inopportune time.
“They said, ‘no, you have to fire [Alleva] tomorrow,'" Alexander said.
Williams said the directive was less explicit.
“We had several discussions with King about where things were heading, and he just didn’t seem situationally aware,” Williams said. “Nero was on the fiddle, and Rome was burning. Board members had had discussions about: ‘Hey, this is something that is perhaps not going as it should be, and this is within your purview. Do you have this under control?’”
Alexander said he then met with Alleva to fire him.
“I said, ‘Joe, I’m so sorry,’” Alexander recalled to The Chronicle, “‘But the board leadership has hired a new athletics director, and I’ve got to fire you.’ It was the three of us in a room. He said, ‘It’s not your fault.’ He said, ‘I know these guys have been after me.’
“It was kind of a Monday-night massacre. I said, ‘We’ve hired a new AD, and it’s a good ol’ boy from Baton Rouge.’”
The board’s direct influence over a change of athletic director could violate LSU’s regional accreditation standards. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) is reportedly investigating LSU’s accreditation status. To receive federal financial aid, LSU must comply with regional accreditation standards.
Alexander recently resigned from the presidency of Oregon State University after coming under fire for designing a system and fostering a culture at LSU that turns a blind eye to sexual assault. In a hearing with OSU supervisors, Alexander blamed the LSU Board of Supervisors, its obsession with athletics, its secret proceedings and its conservative values on LSU’s Title IX shortcomings.
Louisiana is “a very conservative state with very conservative values,” he said, claiming that Oregon “is much more advanced in how we see what our values are.”
LSU Board Chair Robert Dampf then wrote a letter to his OSU counterpart in response to Alexander’s testimony.
“I feel confident that I can speak not only on behalf of my university, but also for my state in saying that I am beyond offended by Dr. Alexander’s arrogant and condescending comments about Louisiana’s culture, our state and our university,” Dampf wrote. “When sharing his opinion that Louisiana has a different moral standard than Oregon, he omits the fact that he enthusiastically counted himself as one of us for almost seven years.”
Alexander said that Husch Blackwell never even interviewed him while the firm conducted its review of cases and policies during Alexander’s tenure at LSU. But Dampf contended that investigators reached out to Alexander twice, and he offered responses only in writing.
“Had Dr. Alexander accepted the invitation for a detailed interview,” Dampf wrote, “naturally the report would have included many of the details he indicated that he wished he would have been able to provide, and perhaps he wouldn’t be in the position he currently faces.”