Connect with us


LSU Reaches Settlement in Sexual Misconduct Case Involving Football Players



Baton Rouge, LA – Louisiana State University has reached a settlement agreement with a group of 10 former students who filed a federal lawsuit in 2021 alleging the school mishandled reports of sexual misconduct and domestic violence incidents involving LSU football players and other students. While terms of the settlement were not disclosed, it brought an end to a case that put a harsh spotlight on the university’s policies and procedures for addressing Title IX violations.

The plaintiffs included former LSU students Abby Owens, Samantha Brennan, Calise Richardson, and Ashlyn Robertson, each of whom accused former star running back Derrius Guice of rape or sexual assault. Tennis player Jade Lewis was also a plaintiff, stating she was in an abusive relationship with former football player Drake Davis and that LSU failed to appropriately respond despite her reporting the domestic violence.

Other plaintiffs like Elisabeth Andries, Corinn Hovis, Sarah Beth Kitch, and Kennan Johnson made additional claims of experiencing sexual misconduct, harassment, or sex-based discrimination, with allegations that LSU repeatedly mishandled their Title IX complaints in violation of federal law.

Accusations Shed Light on Systemic Failures

The disturbing allegations first came to widespread public attention in 2020, eventually prompting LSU to commission an independent review by the Husch Blackwell law firm. Their scathing report concluded that the university routinely failed to comply with federal requirements under Title IX for properly addressing and investigating reports of sexual misconduct, domestic violence, and dating violence involving students.

Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. It requires colleges and universities to have established procedures for promptly addressing incidents of sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination.

However, Husch Blackwell’s assessment found that LSU’s Title IX office was critically understaffed and underfunded for years. Often there was “a strained relationship” between the Title IX office and athletic departments, with coaches and staff frequently intervening in ways that impeded proceedings.

“The University’s response to incidents of athletic student-related violence and misconduct …displayed a deficiency in both resources and institutional focus,” the report stated.

High-Profile Guice Rape Allegations

Two of the most high-profile allegations involved former star LSU running back Derrius Guice, who was drafted by the Washington Commanders in 2018. Both Abby Owens and Samantha Brennan accused Guice of raping them in separate incidents several years apart while they were LSU students.  

Owens stated she was orally raped by Guice in 2016 after she passed out following heavy drinking. She officially reported it to LSU in 2018 but felt the investigation never seemed properly pursued and that athletic department officials attempted to discourage her from proceeding with the claims.

Brennan reported being raped by Guice in 2017 after the two had been on dates. She called LSU’s Title IX office the day after the alleged assault occurred to file a report but said there seemed to be little urgency or follow-up at that time. It was not until her allegations resurfaced publicly over two years later that LSU issued a revised report finally finding Guice responsible for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policies.

For his part, Guice has denied all wrongdoing and the rape accusations did not lead to criminal charges after investigations by law enforcement. However, in 2020 he was arrested on domestic violence charges in separate incidents – first for allegedly choking his then-girlfriend, and then for allegations of assault against a former girlfriend. The Washington Commanders ultimately released Guice in August 2020 amid mounting legal issues.

Tennis Star Details Abusive Relationship

Another plaintiff, Jade Lewis, was a star on LSU’s nationally-ranked women’s tennis team who said she was trapped in an abusive relationship with former LSU football player Drake Davis for years. Lewis stated that Davis began physically and emotionally abusing her in 2017 after they started dating, alleging that he would choke her until she passed out, drag her by her hair, and threaten violence if she tried to break up with him.  

Despite reporting the abuse to LSU, Lewis stated the school failed to promptly or meaningfully intervene. It was only years later in 2020 that Davis was found responsible for relationship violence and dismissed from LSU under the Student Code of Conduct.

Lewis eventually left LSU and transferred to finish her tennis career elsewhere. In her lawsuit, she stated LSU’s “deliberate and systematic failures to enforce its Title IX policy…placed herself and other vulnerable women at ongoing risk.”

Change at LSU After Scandal

Following the external review and public outrage over the numerous reported incidents, LSU President William Tate acknowledged the university had fallen short of its obligations under Title IX.

“The standing up of a centralized Title IX office and all that must be done to support the university’s compliance responsibilities under federal laws and system policies is an institutional priority of the highest order,” Tate stated in 2021.

LSU subsequently allocated over $1 million to add staff members to its Title IX office. It also formed a University Safety and Permission Culture Initiative meant to promote education and prevention programs around issues like sexual assault, hazing, discrimination, and alcohol abuse.

The settlement brings a legal resolution but likely does little to fully restore trust and faith in the university among those impacted and their supporters. Attorneys for the plaintiffs stated the case exposed deficiencies in the treatment of sexual assault victims, retaliation against reporters, interference by athletic officials, and a lack of commitment to Title IX compliance.

Impact Going Forward

While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, such legal agreements often involve financial payments to the plaintiffs as well as commitments by institutions to adopt systemic changes and reforms. It remains to be seen what specific measures may come from this agreement at LSU.

The case has drawn comparisons to the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University several years ago that ultimately resulted in the firing of its president, athletic director, and head football coach after an investigation found the university repeatedly mishandled reports of sexual violence involving athletes.  

LSU will likely face pressure to ensure its policies, resources, and responsiveness regarding Title IX protections are sustainably improved and monitored for full compliance going forward. A zero-tolerance environment that prioritizes the rights of victims is considered paramount.  

No student should ever feel unsafe, discriminated against, or lack confidence that their university will properly address incidents of sexual misconduct, harassment, or violence. Ultimately, that needs to be the driving force behind changes at LSU and peer institutions in this critically important area. While legal settlements bring closure, the true remedies remain to change cultures and uphold the highest standards of safety, accountability, and support for all students.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *