Sports Illustrated’s first installment of a five-part series on alleged impropriety in the Oklahoma State football program while LSU coach Les Miles was in charge of the program (2001-04) raises a lot of questions. Though answers will come less quickly as the magazine releases its report incrementally, and Miles and LSU wait to respond it, here are the best answers we can offer to the most pressing questions of the moment:
Miles left Oklahoma State nearly nine years ago. Does the NCAA have a statute of limitations on what SI is alleging?
The short answer: Yes. But the much-maligned governing body built in a key clause to bylaw 32.6.3, which otherwise limits investigations of possible violations occuring “not earlier than four years” before an inquiry starts. If the allegations in a case “indicate a pattern of willful violations” by a school or individual, then the NCAA can expand its scope. Simply, if the Cowboys football program engaged in long term violations of NCAA bylaws, then the university and Miles aren’t subject to the statute of limitations.
If Miles is found to have done anything wrong at Oklahoma State, is LSU in any danger of sanctions from the NCAA?
Right now, LSU doesn’t appear at risk. The magazine’s reporting indicates any misconduct occurred only in Stillwater. The revelations are still relatively fresh, and they could always expand. But as it stands, LSU would be spared any penalties from the NCAA if it levies sanctions against Oklahoma State.
Could the NCAA punish Miles now for anything that might have happened on his watch at Oklahoma State?
Unless the NCAA can establish Miles had knowledge of or directed any of the actions that took place while he was the helm, then the answer is no. The magazine is releasing four more portions of its series, detailing academic misconduct, drug abuse and a sexually permissive atmosphere within its recruiting hostess program. Those subsequent reports could contain material that lands Miles in hot water, but as of right now, there is no portion of the story that ties Miles directly to potential violations.
If the NCAA doesn’t punish Miles but he is found to have acted inappropriately, what action might LSU take against Miles?
Since he arrived in Baton Rouge nine years ago, Miles has renegotiated his contract several times, but clauses outlining any punishment or termination for misconduct haven’t changed. Broadly, Miles could be let go with cause if the NCAA makes a “finding or determination” that Miles or a member of his staff committed “significant or repetitive” violations of NCAA rules, or should have “reasonably known” about it but failed to stop the behavior. That clause not only includes his time at LSU, but also any earlier coaching stops. If fired without cause, Miles would be owed $15 million, and zilch if there is cause. Let’s be blunt: The chances range between slim and none that this situation comes to reaching that conclusion. First, the NCAA would have to conduct an investigation and tie Miles to any inappropriate conduct. Next, LSU would have to consult with its attorney to see whether that hypothetical ruling trips the clause — a ruling that could be several years away.
When can we expect Miles or LSU to further comment on the allegations?
Miles will have several chances today, starting with a 10 a.m. appearance on the SEC coaches teleconference with reporters. Next, he’ll face a pack of reporters at his Wednesday press briefing at 6 p.m., followed an hour later by his weekly radio show. Don’t expect Miles to change his message, which he rolled out Saturday night when word of the Sports Illustrated investigation leaked and he was asked in his postgame press conference after a 56-17 drubbing of UAB. “We have always done things right,” Miles said. “I really enjoyed my time at Oklahoma State. I felt like I met a lot of wonderful people and made our football team better. We worked hard. It has never been a place you have to cheat to have success.” Miles will probably roll out some variation of that response, or offer a no comment. Unless circumstances force his hand, expect Miles to remain coy.
How long might it take for this to play out?
Let’s be honest: no one knows. Sports Illustrated will continue to release portions of its report this week, and it will have a final piece out next week detailing the fallout from Oklahoma State’s alleged improprieties. If the NCAA launches an inquiry, chances are it will be lengthy. The magazine reports allegations for at least a decade-long period and a complex system of payments and other transgressions. Untangling claims and sifting evidence will take time. For example, the organization is still trying to sort out allegations levied against Miami’s football program by former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme artist Nevin Shapiro, a process that is now going on two years. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a investigation span a similar period in this instance.
Advocate sportswriters Matthew Harris, Les East and Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.