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Latest on Lotief: University releases report, coach's attorney threatens suit

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A former Ragin’ Cajuns softball player hurt herself after a post-game team meeting with Coach Michael Lotief, whose coaching style — including “coercive” mental conditioning — and aggressive interactions with athletics staff recently led to his termination, according to newly released documents.

After the incident, Lotief “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,” University of Louisiana at Lafayette officials wrote in the investigative report detailing reasons for the coach’s firing.

Attorney: Getting closer to legal action

Lotief's attorney, Glenn Edwards, said in a Friday afternoon interview with KATC TV3 that they object to the report's release, alleging the university did not allow them an opportunity to comment on the document.

"Had we been given an opportunity to see this report or an opportunity to know what its contents were before it went out we would have had the opportunity to object to its release under appropriate provisions of the public records law," Edwards said.

"We're rapidly approaching a position where we're left with no choice but to take legal action," Edwards later continued, noting the process would allow cases to be made in open court and under oath.

KATC TV3 reached out to university spokespeople on Friday, but they were not immediately available for comment because the university closes at noon.

University spokesperson Aaron Martin told KATC TV3 earlier this month that Lotief did not provide written responses to the allegations, but that he "could have provided responses" at in-person meetings on Oct. 10, 17 and 24.

'The circle of safety'

Upon the player’s allegations that Lotief fostered a “brainwashed” culture, university investigators found Lotief “employed specific ideologies and coercive persuasive techniques in managing student-athletes” through weekly “mind meeting” sessions documented in a two-inch-thick binder.

The meetings lasted 1-4 hours, during which “members were taught concepts such as ‘the circle of safety’ and ‘trusting the process’” and were encouraged not to share the methods, because “’outsiders’ would not understand,” according to the report.

The newly released documents also show Lotief reportedly violated the terms of his initial two-week suspension by contacting some of his players, who were “being called in and questioned” and “contacted by members of the community,” according to an email exchange between Lotief and chief human resources officer Paul Thomas.

The player who filed the initial complaint in August was urged by her teammates “to retract her statement and say good things about” Lotief, with one of them trying to convince the player that she “was coerced” into making the complaint, according to the report.

Thomas warned that such communication, including through a third party, could be considered retaliatory.

Assistant Coach Sara Corbello reportedly had been questioning players about some of the events brought up while the university made its case against Lotief, according to a text exchange between Thomas, Athletics Director Bryan Maggard and Deputy Athletics Director Jessica Leger.

Corbello skipped an Oct. 30 summons to the university’s Title IX office and was terminated the same day, according to the text messages.

The university announced Lotief’s firing the following day.

Attorney: Positive comments not considered

Edwards said the university failed to released comments and correspondences released in support of the coach.

Lotief's termination was based on two complaints and 11 witness statements, including from five university employees, three former and two current softball players and one football player, according to the investigative report.

He’s alleged he was fired because he fought to gain gender equity for his players, and most of his current team, as well as former players, have been vocal about their support of the coach.

"This is about retaliation for raising gender equity concerns, and everybody involved in putting this report together was instructed to out out, fill the gaps, backfill, to justify the decision that the university made," Edwards said.

The university said in the report that its investigating the gender equity allegations “independent of” the investigation that led to Lotief’s firing.

Edwards said the university has not contacted Lotief about the gender equity investigation.

Read more on the complaints that led to Lotief’s firing here.

Note: This article was updated at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2017, to include comments from Lotief's attorney.

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