A Letter from Athletics Director Scott Woodward: Husch Blackwell Report
Dear LSU Athletics Community:
Today, Husch Blackwell, the law firm retained by LSU to conduct a comprehensive review of the University’s handling of past sexual and domestic assault cases—including those involving student athletes — released a detailed report of its findings.
I encourage you to read the report in its entirety, as its findings are an important step in the journey and commitment by LSU to create a safer community for all who call LSU home. You have my unwavering commitment that our department must, and we will, do better.
As just one part of a greater institution, it is important that we, as an athletics department, work with the University to move forward to make our campus safe for everyone. I want you to know that we fully support the recommendations suggested by Husch Blackwell and the steps taken by President Galligan to address the shortcomings of the past and to invest resources into strengthening University structures. Working in lockstep with the University, we will continue to seek ways to ensure that all incidents involving athletics are reported, survivors supported, and perpetrators held accountable for their actions.
Throughout this challenging year, LSU Athletics has spent significant time evaluating the priorities of our athletics program. As part of our examination, we recognized that we needed a stronger commitment to staff, coach, and student athlete training and education; a renewed emphasis on fostering a healthy, respectful climate; improved accountability across the board; and increased collaboration with our campus and our community partners. Those priorities have resulted in an investment in staff, resources and comprehensive education.
With our commitment to doing better, our action has already begun:
- A permanent council has been established to help lead our department through the ongoing efforts to combat sexual and domestic violence and to help create a healthy and respectful athletics program culture. The council is comprised of athletics staff as well as campus and community members with experience in the fields of sexual and domestic violence intervention and prevention.
- The Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Black Student Athlete Association (BSAA) have committed to being advocates on behalf of survivors and serving as bystanders by participating in Step Up, a nationally recognized “prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others.” As part of one of their first advocacy and awareness efforts, SAAC and BSAA will work together to ensure that all LSU teams are unified throughout the month of April to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
- The Department has added two full-time positions in human resources and another full-time position in Tiger Life. The human resources positions are upholding our commitment to increasing awareness of sexual and domestic violence and ensuring a healthy and respectful climate among coaches, staff and student athletes. The Tiger Life position is dedicated to student athlete development and education.
- Athletic administrators, members of our health and wellness team and Tiger Life staff formed a working group and took a number of proactive measures to address our comprehensive education program for coaches, staff and student athletes. The group met with several experts in the community, at peer institutions, and with agencies that the NFL and other professional sports organizations rely upon. These efforts have led to immediate steps that have already begun for comprehensive, department-wide education for coaches, staff and student athletes.
- LSU Athletics contracted with A Call To Men to assist with our educational programming during the spring of 2021. A Call To Men is committed to “helping create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women, girls and those at the margins of the margins are valued and safe.” The organization has already engaged with some of our student athletes and will continue to engage with all athletics constituents throughout the semester.
- The Department contracted with Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), a local non-profit organization, whose mission is to “support survivors of sexual trauma, improve systems response, and create social change to end sexual violence.” STAR will provide education and on-going consulting services to LSU Athletics. STAR’s expertise in the field of sexual violence is unmatched in the community, and we are already benefiting from its guidance.
- LiveRespect, a comprehensive education program for all coaches, staff and student athletes, has been introduced. There are several tools and resources that are a part of the program, including, but not limited to:
- A Call To Men
- Game Plan
- Preventing Sexual Misconduct: Commitment to Community
- Protection For All
- Step Up
- Numerous guest speakers including members of law enforcement, The Office of General Counsel, Title IX Office, national experts on sexual and domestic violence, survivor advocates and industry leaders
In addition to this work, we are focused on other proactive measures: conducting and evaluating climate surveys on sexual and domestic violence; evaluating and auditing trainings, education, communication, and resources; creating workplace standards; and demonstrating that our commitment and actions are in the fabric of who we are as an athletics program. Whether a student athlete, coach or staff member, you will know who we are and what we stand for as we strive to be a leader in our industry and our community.
We believe these actions, as well as today’s release of the Husch Blackwell report, are initial steps in the right direction as we transform our thinking from compliance to culture change. The work to combat sexual and domestic violence, to improve reporting and education, to further support survivors, and to earn the trust of all in the LSU community is never-ending. I expect all of our staff, coaches, and student athletes to engage with this work, and I will accept nothing less.
Our commitment to change will be more than a statement. It will be backed by action, with input from survivors, advocates, and the community. We have and we will continue to dedicate ourselves to that work, as we seek to become a model department in these life-changing areas.
Director of Athletics