Longtime Ragin' Cajuns softball coach Michael Lotief has been fired following complaints from students and staff that he subjected “student-athletes and co-workers to violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment,” according to University of Louisiana at Lafayette officials.
Meanwhile, Lotief and his lawyer, Glen Edwards, told reporters Wednesday the firing was retaliation for Lotief’s “passionate” advocacy for gender equality in the university’s athletics department. Lotief and Edwards said they believe the complaints were coerced. More than two dozen sometimes-tearful players sat behind Lotief in support as he addressed reporters.
The university on Wednesday evening released hundreds of pages in response to a public records request for the complaints. A sampling of the records shows multiple former players accused Lotief of regularly using the word “p****,” either to attack them or to make inappropriate jokes.
“There was a series of three days after the Texas A&M games where he held hour long verbally abusive attacks on me. Saying things like I am a p**** but it ain’t my fault, I come from a family of p******,” says one letter.
Another former player said Lotief used the word “on a daily basis, multiple times, throwing the word around at girl after girl.” The letter says Lotief expanded on President Donald Trump’s use of the word in the infamous Access Hollywood tape that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Lotief had made a joking remark mocking Trump where he stated to the team, ‘Shoot I wish I could grab a girl by the p****,” the letter states.
Edwards said the university’s statements about Lotief have been “slanderous.” Asked by a reporter if he plans to sue the university, Lotief accused the reporter of asking “a crazy question.”
Lotief said his actions and words have been grossly mischaracterized. He admitted that on one occasion, he poked someone, but labeling the incident physical assault is “a very liberal use of the English language.”
As for the accusations of verbal abuse, Lotief allowed that he is “not an angel.”
“When I get onto the field, sometimes I have a loose tongue,” he said, referring to the competitive nature of college sports. “But to take that and make it become vulgar and offensive and hostile … that’s a stretch, that’s inaccurate, I even say it’s a lie.”
The university placed Lotief on leave on Oct. 6 for reasons it didn’t explain at the time. Another of Lotief’s attorneys, John McElligott, said then the action followed “a passionate conversation about gender equity” with university administration. McElligott said Lotief had advocated for “getting the grass cut, making sure students have an athletic trainer at practice, making sure the assistant coaches get paid and ensuring female athletes get a functional assessment before doing weight training.”
A group of more than 60 self-described “Ragin' Cajun supporters” earlier on Wednesday released an open letter to UL-Lafayette President Joseph Savoie in support of Lotief, saying he is “respected and honored by the coaching community across the country.”
“We don’t want to judge, but if there are Title IX violations, how is it going to look if our school is penalizing our coach for voicing his objections to the problems and stating his needs?” the letter states, referring to the federal law banning sex discrimination in education.
The first signatory of the letter and person who emailed it to The Advocate, Clark White, did not return a call Wednesday evening.
Edwards, the lawyer representing Lotief, said Lotief is suffering punishment for his defense of female athletes.
“There is a culture of vengeance being developed within the university’s athletic department directed at persons who would seek to promote the rights of female athletes assured them under federal law,” Edwards said.