Louisiana-Lafayette made on Monday what it hopes is the first step toward keeping the Ragin’ Cajun softball program among the national elite.

Gerry Glasco, who has coached in the Southeastern Conference for the past nine seasons at Georgia, Texas A&M and most recently at Auburn, was introduced as the Cajuns' new head coach at a packed press conference.

“I can’t tell you how honored I am that the university has trusted me with this program, and make no mistake: This is a great program, one of the best in the country,” said Glasco, the fourth head coach in the softball program’s 38-year history. “The people here are passionate about softball.”

Glasco got a first-hand dose of that passion not that long ago, while serving as associate head coach at Texas A&M when the Aggies visited Lafayette for the 2016 NCAA Regional.

“I’ll never forget going out there and ‘discussing’ a play at home plate with the umpire,” Glasco said, “and I heard somebody yelling from the stands, ‘Throw him out, throw him out.’ I turned and it was this little bitty lady yelling.

“Now I discover that was the president’s wife.”

The animated Gail Savoie was in attendance Monday along with UL-Lafayette president Dr. Joseph Savoie, both of them avid softball fans.

“This marks a new chapter,” Dr. Savoie said. “It’s Thanksgiving week and we have a lot to be thankful for. We’re especially thankful we have so many people who care about the program.”

That passion has been heated and divided over the past five weeks, since 15-year head coach Michael Lotief was first suspended and then dismissed from that position after UL-Lafayette officials said he subjected “student-athletes and co-workers to violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment.”

Lotief, who compiled a 729-174 record in his 15 years, was removed from the position Nov. 1, and Ragin’ Cajuns director of athletics Bryan Maggard said that a quick search for a replacement was a priority. Maggard did the hire without a formal committee, but said he received input from several sources as well as coaches and softball people from around the country.

“I told the girls when I met with them that we would move swiftly, but we’d be thorough,” Maggard said. “We were not going to compromise time to sacrifice the quality of a head coach. But it happened that we found the right guy early on in the game. I thought it was critically important that we get this hired one quickly, because I wanted them to have stability.”

Both Maggard and Glasco said they did not expect wholesale departures from a program that went 47-8 last year and won the Sun Belt Conference title with the best record in league history (23-1) before falling to eventual Women’s College World Series finalist LSU in the Baton Rouge regional finals. Before that, UL-Lafayette had won five straight NCAA regionals and seven of their past nine.

“We had a team meeting yesterday, and it’s important to acknowledge that these girls didn’t get to choose who their coach was,” Glasco said. “They lost one of the greatest softball minds that’s been in the college game the last few years, and it’s a difficult transition for them. I’m committed to giving them everything I can possibly give them to be what they deserve and what they need.

“I hope every kid stays here. That may or may not happen. I told them let’s be calm and stay non-emotional as we can and let’s try to find out what’s best for each one of them individually. I have confidence that there’s too much here to offer and we’re going to hold onto if not all of them, almost every one of them.”

Maggard said Glasco’s hire is subject to board approval, as is his five-year contract through June of 2023. He will receive a base salary of $170,000, plus a deferred $30,000 annual contribution if he is still employed at the end of the contract. Incentives include a $10,000 bonus for either a Sun Belt regular-season or tournament championship, a $10,000 bonus for a super regional appearance, a one-month salary bonus for a World Series appearance and a two-month bonus for a national title. He will also receive a $5,000 bonus for the league’s academic award or if selected as league or Louisiana Coach of the Year.

Glasco said he has a staff tentatively in place and hopes to make an announcement to that effect within the next few days.

Glasco spent two months as associate head coach at Auburn after three years at A&M as associate head coach, where he helped the Aggies lead the SEC in home runs the last two years. Texas A&M teams set eight offensive records during that time and reached the World Series last May.

Before that, the Crab Orchard, Illinois, native was the hitting coach at Georgia and helped lead the Bulldogs to a 282-92 record in six years. Georgia won the SEC Tournament in 2014 and twice reached the final four at the College World Series. Glasco also won two titles as a head coach in the National Pro Fastpitch League, one last summer when he coached former Cajuns standouts Nerissa Myers and Brianna Cherry.

“There’s no reason we can’t compete for and win national championships here,” Glasco said. “The facilities are here, the support is here and the tradition is here.”