Former Ragin’ Cajuns softball coach Michael Lotief violated University of Louisiana-Lafayette policies prohibiting battery, sexual misconduct and workplace harassment, according to an investigative report the university released Thursday.
In doing so, Lotief sought to control his players by ordering them not to violate a “circle of safety” by discussing team business with “outsiders,” including parents and university administration, according to the report. He also reportedly demanded log-in credentials to access to players' email and student accounts.
Lotief, considered the most successful softball coach in the university's history, was fired last month following staff and player complaints. Among other things, there were complaints that Lotief used sexually derisive language. Lotief has accused the university of concocting a fraudulent investigation in retaliation for his outspoken advocacy for the softball team, which he says the university neglects in violation of gender discrimination laws.
Lotief, referred to in the report as “Respondent,” sought “to gain trust, control, secrecy and authority over Softball student-athletes,” the report states.
“Respondent told the student-athletes that his treatment of them is a part of a process and that they should trust the process, and that only he can be trusted — that he is the only person who cares about them,” the report states.
The report centers on two complainants and is corroborated with 11 witness statements. It includes detailed notes summarizing interviews with the complainants and witnesses, as well as multiple interviews with Lotief.
The report centers primarily on allegations of psychological and verbal abuse, but it also highlights unwanted physical contact, including multiple instances of hair pulling. In one instance during a game at Baylor University, Lotief pulled a player’s hair “hard enough to make her take a step back,” according to the summary of an interview with a witness.
Lotief denied the hair-pulling incidents, according to interview notes, and specifically the alleged incident at the Baylor game.
“What I did for (the player) is love her,” Lotief is quoted as saying in the interview notes.
Longtime Ragin' Cajuns softball coach Michael Lotief has been fired following complaints from students and staff that he subjected “student-at…
More than 20 former players have previously released statements supporting Lotief. Some, such as Courtney Trahan, who played for Lotief from 2006 to 2010, credit him for giving them confidence and strength.
“While these were some of the toughest years of my life, they were the years that molded me into the strong, confident, courageous woman I am today,” Trahan said in her statement. “Coach Mike instilled in me a desire to fight and a passion to not let anyone or anything allow me to think I’m not good enough.”
Others expressed anguish at watching the way in which Lotief’s storied career has come to an end. Lexi Elkins, a star who led the nation in a slew of offensive categories last year as a senior, said the situation “breaks my heart.” Elkins said she decided to speak up after seeing the distress inflicted on former teammates, fans and friends by “what I can only imagine are lies that are being to told to the administration.”
“If these claims were made by SOFT or MENTALLY UNSTABLE individuals, they should be avoided for the sake of this program and the credibility of UL athletics. If these allegations are TRUE and if the program was THAT hostile why would any STABLE INDIVIDUAL stick around for the abuse. It does not add up,” Elkins wrote.
The university report highlights an episode on the team bus in which Lotief made a rape reference while criticizing the team’s performance. One player inflicted harm on her herself following that incident, according to the report, although the method of self-harm is blacked out.
“The next day Respondent berated her in front of other team members, telling her to ‘hang herself with a rope’ and that the next time she should try harder to kill herself,” the report states.
The report acknowledges that many players, including witnesses cited in the report, credit Lotief for his dedication, competitiveness and creating “a spirit of sisterhood.” But this support does “not warrant turning a blind eye to Respondent’s continued mental and physical abuse,” the report states.
Lotief told his interrogators his comments and actions had been taken out of context, according to interview notes.
"He stated that he is aware of his sins. He said, 'I wish I could keep from doing it. It is not malicious,'" the notes say. "'It is just who I am.'"
An attorney representing Lotief, John McElligott, did not immediately return a call Thursday evening for comment.