LSU Board of Supervisors member Collis Temple, Jr. asked Friday for the board to review the school’s relationship with LSU athletics sponsor Rouses Supermarket.
Rouses owner Donald Rouse Sr. and former Rouses human resources director Steve Gaither were in a Facebook photo in Washington D.C. last Wednesday when a mob of outgoing President Donald Trump supporters violently invaded the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to derail a congressional vote certifying the election of Joe Biden.
“In our roles as leaders, we must stay vigilant to embrace diversity on every front,” said Temple, Jr., 68, the first African American basketball player signed by LSU in 1970. “I’m worried about this and wonder if something could be done to address this concern about these explosive responses. I’d like you to bear in mind that silence is generally consent.”
Temple’s comments came at the end of the Board’s two-hour monthly Zoom conference meeting. Earlier, the Board’s athletic committee approved the contract terms for recently hired LSU football offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and quarterbacks coach DJ Mangus.
Also approved was a buyout for fired defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and the financial settlements for retiring offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and Bill Johnson as they transfer to roles as staff analysts.
No board member had any questions about the contracts or buyouts. Temple didn’t join the meeting until almost the very end when he expressed his displeasure about the actions of Rouse.
Gaither posted the Facebook photo of him and Rouse. Though Rouse and Gaither were not pictured inside the Capitol, they were shown facemasks and baseball caps in a park where Trump supporters gathered near the White House. Other pictures Gaither posted were of the surrounding crowds, accompanied by the caption: “Millions in DC today with us.”
There was immediate public backlash to the picture. Rouse Sr. quickly countered issuing a public statement in which he said he condemned “the actions of those who unlawfully entered and damaged our hallowed institutions and threatened our public servants. . .violence and destruction do not represent our country’s values, or the values of Rouses.”
His attempt at damage control didn’t prevent the Louisiana chapter of the NAACP from saying it’s ending its relationship with Rouses, which has been a longtime supporter.
Temple wants his alma mater to take a hard look at Rouses continuing its sponsorship with LSU.
“Rouses Supermarket signed an exclusive contract with LSU Athletics in 2019 to be the exclusive LSU supermarket sponsor and official caterer for the Oaks at Patrick Taylor Hall,” Temple said. “In the eyes of some people, Rouses is an LSU staple. What Rouses says reflects on LSU. What Donnie (Donald Sr.) Rouse posted on Facebook reflects on LSU. Donnie Rouse has his First Amendment right to say what he wants.
“But as an owner, Donnie Rouse’s comments are equated to the position of Rouses Supermarkets. Since Rouses and LSU have an exclusive arrangement, the public which LSU serves can view that relationship as being that of two entities with the same world view.
“LSU does not support rioting and insurrection against our United States and should not have that image reflected upon its sponsors.”
Earlier in the meeting, the athletic committee rubber stamped the contractual obligations of the football staff changes.
Peetz’s two-year deal pays him $1.2 million in 2021 and $1.3 million in 2022. He also receives a one-time payment of $150,000.
“We’ve got a good, young, energetic offensive coordinator who’s excited to take us back to the heights we’re used to in our 2019 offense,” LSU athletics director Scott Woodward said. “Coach (Ed) Orgeron is excited. And when I’ve seen our young kids going to work out on their own, they’re excited and they have a lot of pep in their step. There’s a good vibe about what’s going on.”
Mangus has a two-year contract that pays him $400,000 in 2021 and 2022.
“DJ was an integral part of our 2019 national championship team,” Woodward said. “He was (then-passing game coordinator) Joe Brady’s analyst. He went with Joe to the Carolina Panthers and we recruited him back.”
Both coaches have postseason incentive packages that max out at $75,000 annual. Their contracts expire March 31, 2023.
The Board also approved a buyout for Pelini, who will receive $4 million on Jan. 31.
Also, the Board approved a one-time payment of $500,000 to Ensminger, who had a one-year left on his $1 million contract as offensive coordinator. The athletic committee agreed to pay Johnson $500,000 for the final year of his contract.
The Board also approved the 5 percent voluntary pay cuts by any athletic department coaches under contract.
“With COVID, we’ve had serious budget issues,” Woodward said, “but our department with the leadership of two senior associates Verge Ausberry and Stephanie Rempe have done a good job of cutting expenses without hurting our student-athletes. That is our top priority.
“Our coaches didn’t have to do this (volunteer for a salary reduction) and they willingly did it. We had great participation across the board. I’m very proud of our coaches for doing this and accepting something we don’t have to do again.”