LSU head football coach Brian Kelly led off what turned out to be the final day of the evidentiary portion of Sharon Lewis’ $50 Million federal civil lawsuit trial against the university on Tuesday – three full days ahead of schedule.
LSU rested its case late Tuesday afternoon following nearly two hours of testimony from Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Verge Ausberry.
Ausberry claimed that he and Lewis were close for more than two decades back to when they were both student athletes at LSU together.
He testified on direct that he always did everything he could possibly do to help her during her time at LSU but on cross from Lewis’ attorney Larry English things got heated as English challenged several assertions Ausberry had made and confronted him, Ausberry said Lewis was lying and said Lewis was a racist.
The trial, which began on December 11, pits Lewis against the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning in the Baton Rouge Middle District federal courthouse.
Each side is expected to be allotted 30 minutes to present their closing statements and then the case will be handed over to the all-white, eight-person jury to begin deliberations on a verdict.
The five men and three women who have listened to six days of testimony must then return a unanimous verdict for either side to be declared the winner. If the jury cannot agree in whole, the result will be a hung jury that could then lead to Judge Susie Morgan stepping in directing a verdict.
Lewis contends she was wrongfully terminated and retaliated against because of the lawsuit she filed in 2021, as well an EEOC complaint she filed, also in 2021.
Lewis also says she was terminated because she refused to back down to the toxic, power-based male dominated and discriminating culture prevalent within the football recruiting department she helped run.
Lewis also claims in the lawsuit she was sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, bullied and that she was subjected to a hostile working environment for most of her nearly 21-year career.
A total of six witness’ testified for LSU on Tuesday, including Kelly’s Associate Head Coach Frank Wilson and former Associate Athletic Director/COO Stephanie Rempe, now the Athletic Director at the University of Nevada.
During Kelly’s testimony, he said firing Lewis was not due to retaliation, but part of a sweeping staffing change to nearly 40 positions in the football program. Kelly also said LSU’s human resources department cleared the hiring of Wilson in December of 2021.
Wilson, during his testimony, denied Lewis’ allegations that he exposed himself to her in her office in 2013. He also denied two other testimonies of former female recruiting interns that worked for Lewis who accused Wilson of sexual harassment.
Ausberry and Wilson both said in their testimonies they were once close to Lewis and both described being shocked when Lewis filed suit.
They both denied all of Lewis’allegations on direct from LSU attorneys. They both said Lewis was lying about her allegations. Ausberry also said Lewis is a racist and often called anyone whom she perceived as crossing her at work a racist
Kelly testified that he eliminated Lewis’ position as part of sweeping changes he began making almost immediately when was hired in 2021 to rebuild the LSU football program.
Kelly said in his testimony on Tuesday he lacked any tangible knowledge of Lewis personally and knew nothing about her or her lawsuit against LSU until his first day on the job.
He first learned about Lewis and her lawsuit against the university when he wanted to move his Chief of Staff into Lewis’ cordoned office, Kelly said, but was told that space was off limits.
Kelly questioned this because he had been given complete authority over football operations by Scott Woodward when he agreed to take the LSU job, he said.
Either Woodward, Ausberry or Rempe told Kelly about the lawsuit, Kelly said.
He further said he could not recall which of the three filled him in at that point, but that the lawsuit did not really matter to him because he was focused on beginning the rebuild that brought him to LSU in the first place.
Kelly said he was also told Lewis matter was not in his purview by the athletic administration.
Ausberry and Rempe were straight line No. 2’s to Woodward at the time, Ausberry explained later in the day during his testimony.
Lewis has maintained throughout the trial she was fired for reporting alleged sexual misconduct allegations, most notably against former head coach Les Miles and Wilson – both of whom Lewis’ attorneys have labeled sexual predators during this trial
Lewis’ lawsuit, which was filed in April 2021 about 10 months before she was terminated in an email signed by Woodward that Lewis received without warning while on leave, accuses Miles, several athletics administrators, LSU’s board of supervisors and the board’s athletics committee of fostering a hostile work environment, gender discrimination.
Lewis also asserts that her pay suffered as a result of her reporting Title IX violations.
Lewis was the Assistant Athletic Director of Football Recruiting and Alumni Relations at LSU before her contract was terminated in January 2022. She joined the football program as a recruiting coordinator in 2002 when Nick Saban hired her.