NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana State University has a leak associated with its athletic department - and high-ranking officials say they know who it is.
The university released nearly 2,000 emails to us, and they reveal some of the behind-the-scenes details of how LSU handled Les Miles' job future. They also reveal discussions of that internal leak, and the emails to and from the school's athletics director and chancellor reveal some dissension among board members.
Five hours before LSU kicked off against Texas A&M on Nov. 28, the athletic department started working on a press release, announcing Miles would stay on as head coach.
At 12:31 that afternoon, an employee in the school's sports information department emailed athletics director Joe Alleva with a first draft of a release, saying, "Les Miles will remain the football coach at LSU."
Alleva responded an hour later with a change, asking them to add that "adjustments to our team" were needed, and he and Miles had talked about it.
Throughout the process, a few stories had been leaked to the media, beginning November 17 when The Advocate reported Miles would be coaching for his job. LSU board member Blake Chatelain, an Alexandria banker, sent Alleva an email in response, writing the article was "pretty much it."
Alleva communicated the most with Chatelain, the board's athletic committee chairman. On Tuesday, November 24, Chatelain asked Alleva to send him a "scanned copy of his contract."
In our public records request to LSU, we asked for all emails sent Nov. 2 through Nov. 29, to and from Alleva and LSU System president King Alexander, with the following keywords: Miles, Fisher, Jimbo, Sexton, Coach, Les, and contract.
Judging by the content, board members and Alleva seemed well aware their emails are considered public records under the law, and could be requested and read by the media and the general public. Much of the time, they were reserved or measured in their responses.
Consider this November 29 exchange between Alleva and Chatelain. They discussed an ESPN story that reported the Miles decision was made during the third quarter of the Texas A&M game.
Alleva wrote to Chatelain, "Leak. I know where. I told you on phone."
Chatelain replied, "That leak has caused problems thorough out this ordeal. Put us all in tight spots. Would not do anything about it. Just be careful. Will discuss in person when we can. "
The emails also reveal dissension among board members. On the morning of that Texas A&M game, a USA Today article quoted board member Stanley Jacobs, who said, "Les Miles is our coach. I wish him well."
Alexander sent the article to a handful of board members and wrote, "Stanley felt compelled to do his own press release on behalf of the board."
Another board member, Ann Duplessis responded, "I agree...not cool."
Five days before that Texas A&M game, the board had a lengthy email exchange in which board member Stephen Perry called Les Miles "quirky... sometimes lovable... sometimes exasperating... sometimes maddening... sometimes hard to understand." The email concludes, "Whatever our decision, let's do it right, and let's get it right. Let's have a great process, trust it, and do it well."
Chatelain responded, writing that Alleva and Alexander need time to evaluate but will consider six points in their evaluation, including the financial ramifications, the university impact, whether the issues of the past two seasons can be fixed, whether they can find new and better leadership - and at what cost.
Many in the college football community thought a change would come. Alleva received a pitch from Omnia Coaching Search and an "urgent and highly confidential" email from Collegiate Sports Associates, both looking to handle a future search.
For any LSU fan wanting Alleva to be fired, this may be of note. After LSU decided to keep Miles, ESPN commentator Paul Finebaum said Alleva should be fired. But Alexander wrote, "Finebaum is a talking head and has no accountability to anybody."
Les Miles will be back as football coach. Nonetheless, the emails show that any future decisions will be handled differently.
Chatelain wrote the following:
Board member Ray Lasseigne responded that a protocol or policy for future coaching changes needs to be developed, with the biggest lesson being that "extreme confidentiality along with quick and decisive action will be key."
And board member Rolfe McColister seemed bothered by the attention going to football, writing: "The public and fans are divided. What I don't hear is their position on who we hire for Provost. The key academic position and one king also has to make and we hear nothing [sic]. Only views on football coach. This speaks volume. Same with media. Oh well, we see their priorities."