Former UL Softball Coach Mike Lotief has flatly denied all the accusations levied at him by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette when the institution fired him today.
At a press conference in his lawyer's office, held just hours after UL announced Lotief's termination, the coach said the accusations against him are "lies."
He also said that his players had been asked about claims he committed physical and verbal assault, created a hostile environment and used vulgar language, and they all denied it. Lotief has maintained that he was first suspended, and then terminated, because he raised concerns about Title IX violations involving UL's handling of his team. To read the story about his termination, click here.
"The allegations, the players denied all of them. Every one of these kids, in every one of these statements, said no. So why are we here?" Lotief said. "These issues are connected. It's the same issue. When you can't cut the grass and you don't believe your own student athlete's statements to you, it's the same issue. It's respect."
Lotief said he has run a competitive program that is in the top 10 in the nation. He said the players on his team came to win championships, adding that at practice they "bring our most competitive personalities." Sometimes that might include interaction that might be misinterpreted by people who don't understand the competitive environment, he said.
However, he added that all his scrimmages and practices are always open to boosters and fans, and they have attended, but no UL administrators ever have.
To read our story about Lotief's suspension, click here. We interviewed the attorney who some of the players have hired to represent them in what they claim are Title IX violations; to read that story, click here. To read our story about his players' statement, which was issued yesterday, click here. To read our story about the season ticket holders' statement, click here.
Lotief's attorneys noted that, just this summer, Lotief was given a "glowing" evaluation and a bonus in pay. Lotief donated that bonus back to the program, his attorneys said.
Lotief wasn't provided with any documentation regarding the allegations against him, and initially was told his suspension would end within days. He later was "ambushed" by a UL attorney with new allegations from people identified only as "former players" from "seasons past." Lotief was questioned for nine hours, he said.
"I have to say, I am really shocked and amazed at how completely false, misleading and slanderous that statement is to Coach Lotief and his family, and more importantly, the ladies who make up the Lady Cajun Softball Program," said Lotief's attorney, Jack McElligott.
McElligott's partner, Glenn Edwards, said that the allegations are based on statements that either were coerced or "otherwise unreliable."
Edwards said the university "didn't even try" to interview other players and people who would have witnessed the alleged activities. He said he believes that the assistant coach who was fired on Monday was fired because she was trying to do just that. He added that people with the university have been leaking information about the allegations and his impending termination. When Lotief heard about it, his attorneys asked for a discussion, which the university rejected, and then he was terminated.
"We believe there is a culture of vengeance being directed within the Athletic Department toward persons who would protect female athletes' rights under federal law," Edwards said. "We flatly deny all the allegations in the press release."
At the press conference, a reporter asked Lotief what he hoped for the program he has run since 2002.
"My hopes are no different than what they were when I recruited these players," he said. "I love them. I want them to be successful. I want them to keep fighting for what is right. I want them to be agents of change. I know that they know what is going on right now is not right. They want the little girls to go sit in a corner. These are strong women. They aren't going to sit in a corner. They're going to make a difference in this world."
The press conference video is below:
Part 2 below: