University of Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief was fired Wednesday for subjecting student-athletes and coworkers to "violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment."
Lotief, who amassed a 729-174 career coaching record while leading the Cajuns to five straight NCAA Super Regionals between 2012 and 2016 and three Women's College World Series appearances (2003, 2008, 2014), denies the allegations, claiming his 30-plus-year battle with throat cancer and resulting tracheotomy precluded him from such behavior. "Having a trach and not being able to breathe and a tube in my stomach, pretty much prevents me from physical confrontations," he said, according to ESPN.com.
Lotief's attorneys allege that the coach's termination has more to do with his advocacy for gender equality in athletics at Louisiana-Lafayette. "This matter arose out of a passionate discussion between Coach Lotief and several other persons within the university's athletic department wherein he complained of gender equality issues adversely affecting UL's female athletes, specifically the softball team," said attorney Glenn Edwards. "In response to a complaint of at least one participant in that conversation, Coach Lotief was immediately placed on administrative leave even though the written statements obtained about the conversation present completely divergent descriptions of what occurred."
Lotief had been on administrative leave since Oct. 6. He addressed his termination Wednesday with several team members in support behind him. "It's surreal, how unfactual it's been. It's totally untrue," said Lotief, whose assistant coach and video coordinator were also fired to — as a university statement put it — "allow the new coach to assemble their team." After the news conference, student-athletes discovered that they had been locked out of the team's facilities.
The team went 47-8 last season, winning Lafayette's 12th Sun Belt Conference title under Lotief.
"The allegation is that I poked someone in the shoulder, which seems like a very liberal interpretation of physical assault," said Lotief, who called accusations of verbal confrontation "a stretch. I'd even go so far as to say it's a lie."
Lotief and his attorneys said it was too soon to comment on future pursuit of legal remedies.