Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
Bob Allen, the West Virginia State softball coach who recently stepped down under what he claims was pressure from the university's athletic director, said that progress is being made toward a resolution.
"I have been contacted by [West Virginia State President] Dr. [Brian] Hemphill," said Allen in a phone interview Monday evening. "I think we're making some progress. I think Dr. Hemphill wants to resolve this issue.
"I know one thing, the phones have rung off the hook over there. I'd just like people to know I resigned under duress. They pushed me out. I was forced to resign. I love the university. It's been good to me. All I want is what's right."
Allen last coached the Yellow Jackets on March 27 when they lost in a doubleheader to the University of Charleston in Institute. State has also scrubbed Allen from its athletic website.
In published reports Monday, State athletic director Sean Loyd refuted claims that Allen had been fired and said Allen resigned last Friday. Loyd said that Allen had not been removed from his position as head coach. Loyd said Kerri Blackwell, Allen's former assistant, has been named acting head coach for the remainder of the season. Loyd also said that State will conduct a search for a full-time replacement for Allen at the end of the season.
"Coach Allen resigned and his resignation was accepted," said Kimberly Osborne, State's vice president for university relations and operations. "It's a personnel matter so there's really not much I can say. When the coach resigned there needed to be a coaching staff in place."
After Blackwell was put in charge Friday, several players quit. Freshman pitcher and first baseman Becca Baldwin, a former all-state selection at Sissonville High School, freshman shortstop Megan Davis, a former Point Pleasant standout, and sophomore pitcher-utility Codi Evick, a Pendleton County graduate, left the team.
Allen had previously fired Blackwell after a verbal altercation March 26. Allen said following a team meeting after a road trip that saw the Yellow Jackets drop five of six games that Blackwell and assistant coach Phillip "Nip Anderson complained that they were not invited. Allen said Blackwell had been named head-coach-in-waiting prior to the incident under the premise that Allen would retire when he turned 70.
Allen, 67, said he received a call Friday from Loyd telling the coach that several parents had called the university expressing concern over Allen's ability to drive the team to Sunday's games at West Liberty.
"That put pressure on me and I felt like I was the one screwing everything up and that was unfair," said Allen.
Allen said he then visited Loyd's office later Friday and asked the AD if it would be better if Allen resigned.
"If I'm Sean Loyd, help me resolve it," said Allen. "I asked him two or three times, Sean, do you want me to resign? Would that make it easier on you?' He would never answer me. When he didn't respond to me that pretty much answered my question."
Allen said he submitted an email to Loyd and Hemphill stating that he rescinded his offer to resign, and in order to remove him from his position the school would have to fire him.
"After I got out of the meeting I started hearing stuff from players and parents and it was apparent I was set up," said the coach. "I don't have the proof. I don't think this is the way you show kids that if you want something you go behind somebody's back and get it."
Allen said he saw an email concerning the athletic department's use of buses and drivers.
"What it said was the university needs to get trained drivers and charter buses," he said. "I think essentially [Loyd] lied to me.
"I didn't get any help from the athletic director to help solve the problem. It was obvious to me that [Loyd] didn't care if I went or not. I think they need to tighten up this athletic department."
Allen owns a career record of 330-189 in nine seasons as State's head coach. He guided the Yellow Jackets to a pair of West Virginia Conference championships and three NCAA tournament appearances. The school's softball field is also named for Allen.
Allen said the team's cumulative grade-point average was 3.40.
"I think that's what we're supposed to do is graduate players," said the coach. "I don't have any NCAA violations and I haven't done anything to disgrace the university. The last four or five years I feel like we can compete with anybody in the country."
Allen said he would like to be reinstated as coach.
"What I want to do is not hurt the girls," he said. "I don't want them to go through that again. I would like to have this issue resolved that's satisfactory to the university and myself. I'd love to have that team back. If they want me to resign let me do it with dignity and not do it this way."
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.