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LSU's secret plan to fire Coach O

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BATON ROUGE – LSU President William Tate and Athletics Director Scott Woodward used lines of communication that are not part of public records in the days leading up to football coach Ed Orgeron’s buyout being announced in October.

The revelation came in a series of WBRZ requests for the communication between the two men around the time of the October 17 ousting of Orgeron amid a tepid football season.

Tate asked for a phone call with Woodward the day before Orgeron was let go – October 16, the day of the Florida game: “Can I call you later?” Tate asked Woodward in a text message at 6:53 p.m., hours after the 11 a.m. kickoff.

“Yes sir,” Woodward replied.  LSU later told WBRZ no phone call record exists from the time period because no publicly-funded or official LSU phones were used.

WBRZ requested phone call records, emails and text messages between Woodward and Tate from the time surrounding Orgeron’s termination.  LSU said Woodward does not have an LSU-issued cell phone.  LSU attorneys said there were no emails pertaining to a request for messages related to Orgeron between two of the highest-ranking people on LSU’s campus.

WBRZ also requested appointment calendars for Woodward and Tate.

Three days before Orgeron was pushed out, Tate and Woodward met for an athletics budget meeting together.  Woodward’s schedule shows specific meetings with Tate three times between August and the October departure of the football coach.

Tate’s schedule is chock-full of meetings nearly every day.  His life is crammed with phone calls, “office time,” luncheons, travel to New Orleans and numerous breakfast meetings.  Details about each day were made available to WBRZ except the afternoon Orgeron was fired.  Unlike days where the calendar listed “telephone call” or “depart for [a location],” meetings on October 16 were redacted.

LSU said it only obstructed “personal entries” from the schedules and did not elaborate. 

Woodward had five meetings or notes obstructed from view.  None were on Oct. 16 or 17.  In fact, Oct. 17 showed zero events for Woodward, although WBRZ interrupted programming for a live news conference with Woodward and Orgeron that evening.  Watch the news conference here.

Text messages obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show Woodward and Tate would often communicate through public means only to set up what appeared to be a private phone call later.

“I have a quick question when you have a minute,” Woodward texted Tate on Oct. 6.  There was no additional public communication between the men until Oct. 7 when, again, Woodward asked for a minute of Tate’s time.  The next text message entry is three days later.

The week leading up to Orgeron’s firing, Woodward met with three people for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and reminded Tate he was going: “Dinner Monday 6:30pm Ruth’s Chris,” Woodward messaged.  “Will do!” Tate wrote back.  Woodward’s schedule showed the swanky dinner was with three people labeled only as “DB, CT, CL.”

Records obtained by WBRZ also show Woodward met via Zoom with sports super agents Jimmy Sexton and Mike Levine on September 20, a month before Orgeron was bought out of his contract for nearly $17 million.

In a string of text messages, Woodward and Tate share their fondness of new LSU Women’s Basketball Coach Kim Mulkey.  After Woodward had to send Tate her number in September, Tate wrote back, “outstanding flagshipping [sic] performance!  I spoke with Coach Mulkey.  Good discussion…”

“Excellent,” Woodward wrote back.

“She is special!” Tate responded.

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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