Cajuns’ Lexie Elkins, Alex Stewart and Mike Lotief sweep the Sun Belt softball honors _lowres

Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Michael Lotief. Brad Kemp/

The UL-Lafayette athletic department has placed softball coach Michael Lotief on administrative leave after what Lotief’s attorney said was a “passionate conversation” with university officials about perceived gender inequities in the program.

A university statement released Wednesday said that Lotief, coach of the successful Ragin’ Cajuns program for 15 seasons, was put on leave almost two weeks ago. The statement did not give details on the length of his absence or whether it would affect his status for the 2018 season.

The statement reads: “Since Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, Michael Lotief has been on a leave of absence from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In Lotief’s absence as head coach of the softball team, assistant coach Chris Malveaux is coordinating the program.”

University officials declined further comment. Lotief’s response came through local attorney John E. McElligott Jr.

“Approximately two weeks ago, Coach Lotief was informed that he was placed on administrative leave,” the statement read. “We would like the softball fan base, Ragin’ Cajun supporters and the good people of Lafayette to understand that this action arises out of a passionate conversation about gender equity, between Coach Lotief and other university personnel.

“In this conversation, Coach Lotief raised simple issues like 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."

This is Lotief’s third significant absence from the program since he joined the Cajuns staff in 2001 as a volunteer coach. He became co-head coach with wife Stefni from 2003-2012 and became sole head coach before the 2013 season.

One week before that 2013 season began, Lotief abruptly resigned citing family concerns, but it was later reported that dissatisfaction with administrative support of the program was also a factor in his resignation. He returned later that season and helped guide the Cajuns to an NCAA super regional berth.

Lotief also missed time midway through the 2015 season, citing health issues related to his three-decade battle with throat cancer. Infections stemming from carcinoma of the nasopharynx forced him to miss several road trips that season.

“The Lotiefs have spent their university careers fighting for better opportunities for female athletes and to make sure they are afforded equitable opportunities,” the statement from McElligott, Lotief's attorney, reads. "While no formal complaints have been made against Coach Lotief, we hope that this brings greater awareness to the issues of gender equity, and ask the community for their continued support and prayers for UL’s softball players in this difficult time.”

The Cajuns went 47-8 last season, winning the Sun Belt Conference title with the best record in league history (23-1) before losing to LSU in the Baton Rouge Regional finals. Before that loss, UL-Lafayette had advanced to five straight NCAA super regionals and had won NCAA regional titles in seven of the previous nine years.

Lotief holds a 729-174 career record heading into this season, which begins Feb. 8 against Samford in the opening game of the Mardi Gras Classic at UL-Lafayette’s Lamson Park.