Former University of Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the university ginning up false allegations as pretext for his firing. Lotief claims he was fired for speaking up about illegal gender discrimination against the softball team.
Lotief was fired in November following a university investigation concluding he verbally and psychologically abused his players. His lawyers claimed in a press conference Thursday that the investigation was a sham, with coerced accusations, and that administration officials suppressed exculpatory information.
“They were going to get rid of a man who constantly complained about gender equity issues,” said Glen Edwards, an attorney representing Lotief. “They had to come up with something ugly so they could do it and survive the public criticism.”
The lawsuit includes as an exhibit questionnaires completed by 16 softball team members as part of the university’s investigation into allegations against Lotief. The questionnaires ask if respondents recall specific abuse allegations. None of them reported witnessing any abuse.
The questionnaires included with the lawsuit also show respondents answered negatively to more general questions about whether Lotief fostered an abusive environment, and positively to questions about whether their experience on the softball team was positive.
Lotief claims the university excluded these questionnaires from their investigative findings.
Lotief’s supporters rallied around him after the firing. An open letter signed by 60 people assailed the administration’s action, and more than two dozen players joined Lotief at a press conference the day after the firing.
Nine of those players have since filed individual complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, accusing administration officials of a range of discrimination and misconduct. They include two vaguely worded allegations against that university president, Joseph Savoie, inappropriately touched the players. Savioe vehemently denies those claims.
Nine former University of Louisiana-Lafayette softball players are claiming the university discriminated against them and failed to properly i…
The university rejected the claims in Lotief’s lawsuit, saying in a statement that he was fired because of “his reprehensible actions,” including what the university says was “a documented physical and verbal attack of a female coworker.”
“This lawsuit is more evidence of Michael Lotief’s refusal to accept responsibility for his abusive actions and manipulative behavior that led to his termination. The University will vigorously refute his false and baseless allegations in court,” the statement reads.
Regarding the alleged physical attack on a female coworker, Lotief claims in his lawsuit that the coworker, strengthening coach Candace Walls, “was the aggressor and more physically imposing.”
Lotief is accused of poking Walls during an argument, and the lawsuit notes that Lotief uses a speaking valve and has a feeding tube in his stomach resulting from throat cancer.
Shortly after the encounter with Walls, Lotief's lawsuit claims, a deputy athletic director, Nico Yantko, “attempted to intimidate Lotief into submission by hitting Lotief in the chest with the back of his hand” as they discussed the university’s unfair treatment of the softball team.
Lotief’s lawsuit lists a dozen gender discrimination complaints, including unequal provision of medical care, trainers and facilities for women’s athletic teams as compared to men’s teams.
In addition to gender discrimination, Lotief claims the university slandered him, breached his contract and violated the American with Disabilities Act, among other claims. He is seeking punitive damages from the university, Savoie, Athletic Director Bryan Maggard and Deputy Athletic Director Jessica Clark Leger.