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LSU Football Coach Brian Kelly Should Have Looked Closer At Frank Wilson Before Hiring Him

BATON ROUGE – One of the many great features about LSU’s hiring of former Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly last December is the fact that he is an outsider to LSU.

After going 11-12 the last two seasons on the field and having to face a myriad of sexual assault and sexual harassment lawsuits involving former players and former coaches off the field simultaneously, LSU needed someone new and from far away, with no connections at all to “the family.”

LSU got that in Kelly, who is from the Boston area and has spent all of his coaching career in the Midwest. He is a no-nonsense, kick-ass coach much more like former LSU coach Nick Saban than the two glad-handers between Saban and Kelly at LSU who were fired.

Kelly also took his time hiring his new staff, which worked well for him as he clearly has a better one than the last two of former coach Ed Orgeron, who hurriedly put his together. In some cases, Orgeron did not even talk to the new hires much.

The only returning LSU assistant is offensive line coach Brad Davis, and he has only been here since June. So, he was not a part of the culture problem in and around LSU the last two years on the field and for several years off of it. Plus, Davis is from Baton Rouge and has coached at Southern Lab High in town and is known as a top recruiter.

Kelly did make one hire from LSU’s too recent past, however. That was Frank Wilson as running backs coach. Wilson had been LSU’s recruiting coordinator – and a very good one – from 2010-15 under coach Les Miles before becoming head coach at Texas-San Antonio from 2016-19 and then at McNeese State in 2020 and ’21.

Wilson previously coached in the SEC as an assistant at Ole Miss and Tennessee. Plus, early in his career, he was a high school assistant and a head coach in New Orleans – a prime recruiting area.

So, Wilson appeared to be a great hire by Kelly, who brought in his people for the most part, but sprinkled in local experts Davis and Wilson.

“First and foremost, getting the entire staff through HR (Human Resources), getting that process completed, doesn’t happen overnight,” Kelly said just last week, explaining a laborious process.

The question now, though, is how did Frank Wilson get through HR?

On Thursday in federal court here, former LSU assistant athletic director Sharon Lewis alleged in an amendment to her 2021 sexual harassment lawsuit against LSU and Miles that Wilson showed her his genitals in her office in 2013. The story first appeared in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Welcome to LSU, Coach Kelly.

“Some time in 2013, coach Frank Wilson came into plaintiff’s office, closed the door and pulled out his erect penis and asked her to touch it,” the amended lawsuit says.

This is who you hired, Coach Kelly. Allegedly.

Lewis reported the incident to associate athletic directors Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar, “and they failed to investigate or take any action,” the lawsuit says. That tends to be what Ausberry and Segar have done over the years, but they were listening to orders from superiors, including former athletic director Joe Alleva, in a systemic mess.

The lawsuit also says Wilson kissed a female employee without her consent in 2013, and after Lewis reported that, nothing was done.

Lewis maintains she and other female student workers in the football office were sexually harassed from 2012-16 with little done after reports were made to LSU superiors.

“We are unaware of any prior allegations against Frank Wilson, and there is no evidence that any such allegations were ever reported to LSU officials,” Ernie Ballard, media relations director for the university, told reporters Thursday.

“Further, none of these allegations were shared during the highly visible, independent Title IX review that LSU initiated last year,” Ballard said.

That, however, is not true, according to Lewis’ lawsuit. They were reported to Ausberry and Segar, who were suspended by LSU last spring after the Title IX and sexual harassment investigation Ballard spoke of by the Husch Blackwell firm. That investigation found that Ausberry and Segar did not properly report incidents of sexual harassment by athletes they knew about.

Lewis also wrote a letter to LSU in 2019 about Miles’ sexual harassment of student workers that mentioned Wilson as a witness to how others treated Lewis, and that Wilson once told an intern who worked under Lewis that she “had to do as he said,” according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

That letter was part of the independent review of LSU’s sordid Title IX, sexual harassment history by Husch Blackwell.

There is also this:

“Everybody knew how Frank was,” an unnamed former LSU athletic department employee is quoted by USA TODAY on Thursday. “It got to a point where we didn’t want any of the girls working with him. I dealt with Frank’s sexual harassment for years, his comments, his behavior. He always made, not only me, but so many of the girls feel so uncomfortable.”

Why is Lewis just now making these claims against Wilson, which include claims for the first time that she was sexually harassed? Because she has been told that her lawsuit needs some beefing up. It’s funny how those who are defending Wilson immediately bring up how long ago his alleged activities were as opposed to whether he did them or not.

Perhaps, at first, Lewis figured she did not need to include Wilson’s alleged activity as her original lawsuit went after a much bigger fish – Miles. What LSU people should be worried about is about is what else she may have on the football office. Lewis also likely decided to go after Wilson because Kelly just re-hired Wilson and LSU allowed it even though some at LSU likely knew of his alleged behavior back in 2013. So Lewis is probably thinking – same ole LSU. Just do whatever it wants.

It sure seems like somebody at LSU would have gotten word to Kelly back in his first month on the job in December that Wilson might not be a great hire. There are so many people in the football office and the athletic department at LSU that have been there since the 1990s in their tight little circles who know a lot that it’s amazing to think Kelly didn’t hear anything.

Or perhaps something about Lewis’ problems with Wilson would have come up while “getting the entire staff through HR,” as Kelly said.

But Wilson is a great recruiter. Maybe Kelly was warned about Wilson by someone at LSU, but he dismissed it because he really needs great recruiters like Wilson.

Or maybe the people at LSU who knew about Wilson’s situation kept quiet so Kelly would hire Wilson. These people know how to keep secrets. They’ve been doing it for decades. And they take care of their own. Wilson is part of that family, but maybe not for long.

Wow, Kelly has only been here just over three months and “the family” has already gotten to him via Wilson and all his baggage.

Even if Wilson didn’t do anything close to what Lewis is saying, Kelly still should not have hired him. The Baton Rouge Advocate also received through public records requests a disciplinary file concerning Wilson’s recruiting practices.

Wilson was reprimanded by LSU in 2012 for meeting with a recruit off campus against NCAA rules. LSU banned him from recruiting off campus. And no one told Kelly about this? This got through HR?

A 2011 letter from Alleva said Wilson was “not forthright and honest” in his testimony to the NCAA about the violation. LSU’s football program is still under NCAA investigation as is basketball, and Kelly hired someone in Wilson who was a part of that investigation. Perhaps, LSU should investigate its own HR department.

If Kelly knew of Wilson’s NCAA issue, he shouldn’t have hired him. And if he didn’t know about it, he should make some heads roll at LSU for this mess he has now inherited.

Either way, Kelly should have known better. Wilson is linked to both Miles and Orgeron. Kelly knew that. Wilson coached with Orgeron under Miles at LSU and coached under Orgeron at Ole Miss and with him at Tennessee.

As many well-publicized issues as LSU has had with Miles and Orgeron off the field, Kelly should not have hired someone like Wilson who is so closely associated with both.

Yes, Wilson is a great recruiter. But there are a lot of great recruiters out there. Remember, recruiting tends to be an entry-level position. And recruiting to LSU is not exactly the most difficult job in the world. The school is surrounded by high school talent from New Orleans west to Houston and east through the Florida panhandle and from north Louisiana west to Dallas and east through Mississippi. The talent base is so strong and close, guys like Miles and Orgeron won national championships.

Wilson is like a lot of great recruiters LSU has had. LSU recruited well before him, with him and after him. It will be able to recruit without him again, because he might not make the spring game on March 24.

Kelly could have and should have found somebody else with no ties to Miles, Orgeron or LSU and someone without this alleged past of Wilson that will be haunting his future.

Depending on how these revelations about Wilson, which aren’t revelations to some at LSU, progress, Kelly may be wise to cut as many ties as possible to all things before him at LSU as soon as possible. That clearly includes Wilson.

Considering LSU’s recent past of sexual harassment in the football office, Kelly should have fully vetted someone like Wilson because he is from that past and that office, which does not appear to be very comfortable for young women.

Or perhaps Kelly should not have fired Sharon Lewis last January in a complete house cleaning that saw 48 people fired in all, providing a much-needed fresh start with the exception of Wilson’s hire. Lewis knows the LSU program – inside and out – as well as anyone.

If Brian Kelly really wants to take over this LSU program before he leads it to the promised land, he should re-hire Sharon Lewis. That will send a message to the remaining members of “the family” and maybe clean out this dumpster quicker.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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  1. The Kelly Era @ LSU could surpass both the Miles / Orgeron Eras for Total Trainwreck potential.
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    Is Tiger Stadium built over an ancient Indian Burial Ground and allowing for the occasional Magical Moments is forever doomed to self-destruct?

    • Maybe so. It would be funny if that is what happened. Even if that is what happens, we will still have to suffer through LSU being ranked in the pre-season top 10 for the next 50 years. Name one really good QB from LSU not named Joe Burrow in the last 30 years…

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