LAFAYETTE — Michael Lotief, who won 500 games in 10 seasons as co-head coach of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball team and took over as head coach following the departure of his wife Stefni as co-head coach last summer, resigned Friday, ULL Athletic Director Scott Farmer announced.
Megan Granger, a senior on last year’s NCAA super regional squad who was added to the ULL staff in January as a full-time assistant, will serve as interim coach for an undetermined period. Her naming is the latest in a series of changes on the staff over the past eight months. Co-head coach Stefni Lotief stepped down in July citing family issues, leaving Michael as solo head coach. Pitching coach Joy Webre-LeBlanc resigned in December citing family issues, and Josh Johnson was hired in August as the program’s second assistant.
Michael Lotief will continue to work with the team as a volunteer coach, watching video, refining batting mechanics and helping in any way Granger requests. He will be in the dugout for the games this weekend at Houston.
“On behalf of everyone connected with Louisiana athletics, I would like to thank Michael for all of his efforts over the last 12 years,” Farmer said. “He has dedicated his life to Ragin’ Cajuns softball and its student-athletes and the program has benefited greatly from his efforts.
“I have confidence in Megan’s ability to lead the program this season. Her experience playing in the program the last four years will allow her to teach the system that the team has always used and her familiarity with the players gives her the insight needed to make decisions and work with the squad.”
Lotief told sportsnola.com that family issues were paramount in his decision, turning aside speculation that disagreements with athletic administration and increased work duties played a major role.
“This has been weighing on my mind ever since our kids were born,” he said. “This isn’t new ... the question was how can I stay involved with this program that I love, put the welfare of these student-athletes first, and still be fair to our family and have healthy and balanced lives.
“When our children were younger, we were able to raise them on the field ... they rode the bus with us, they were with us, it’s not like they were separated from their family. Now that one’s a teenager and one’s 12, things are different. They want their own lives and be able to do different things. I’d rather be a great dad than a great coach.”
Lotief also disagreed that the timing for his decision could not be worse.
“People are saying the timing is horrible,” he said, “and that’s the mindset of those that don’t understand the process. The timing is perfect if you understand the process of college athletics and the preparation that we go through to get ready for the season.
“The preparation is done, the recruiting is done, the scheduling is done. At the end of the season, you have everything going on .. you have kids in recruiting. The fall isn’t the best time because you have to get the freshmen acclimated to the team, play the fall games and do the fund-raising, do the scheduling. The preseason isn’t good because that’s boot camp, you’re putting in the system and trying to decide on a lineup.
“I disagree with all of that. I know I’m always out there a little bit, but this is the perfect time. There’s never a good time, but this is absolutely the right time.”
Lotief leaves the Ragin’ Cajuns on the eve of the 2013 season with a 500-122 overall record and a 173-36 mark in Sun Belt play. ULL, which is ranked 11th in the preseason USA Today/NFCA Division I poll, is scheduled to open the season Saturday with games against Lipscomb (4:30 p.m.) and Iowa (7 p.m.) at the Hilton Plaza Classic in Houston.
The Cajuns return six starters and eight letterwinners from the team that went 53-6, won the Sun Belt regular season title and advanced to the super regional, where they faced defending national champion Arizona State and fell one win short of advancing to the Women’s College World Series.
In 2001, his wife Stefni took over as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns as head coach and he joined the coaching staff as a volunteer assistant coach.
Two years and 99 wins later, Michael Lotief was elevated to co-head coach.
In his 10 seasons as co-head coach with Stefni, Michael Lotief helped guide the team to nine Sun Belt regular season championships and eight Sun Belt Tournament titles.
The Cajuns earned an invitation to play in the NCAA Softball Championships in all 12 seasons that Lotief was with the program.
The Cajuns advanced to the NCAA super regional round in three of the past five seasons (2008, 2010, 2012) and made Women’s College World Series appearances in 2003 and 2008.
Information from a university news release and Dan McDonald of sportsnola.com contributed to this report.