Lotief sues university over firing; alleges Title IX retaliation, defamation

Posted at 3:31 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 21:37:32-04

Ousted Ragin’ Cajuns softball coach Mike Lotief has filed a lawsuit against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, its president and its athletics director and deputy director.

The 51-page petition was filed in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, where the University of Louisiana System is based. It outlines Lotief’s decades-long career in Lafayette and makes claims of Title IX retaliation, defamation, discrimination because of his health disabilities, the wrongful conversion of property for failing to return his personal items and personally contributed softball equipment and breach of contract.

Attorney Glenn Edwards said at a Thursday press conference, which Lotief attended, that the longtime former coach’s firing was “for standing up for the rights of his female athletes at the university.”

Watch the press conference here. Scroll down to read the full lawsuit. All of the documents relating to this story are posted at the bottom of the page.

Attorney: Complaints against coach were ‘false’

The university said last year that Lotief was fired because of his abusive language, and sometimes physical behavior, toward his athletes. Through public-records requests from the media, the university released some of the complaints made against him. They were filed in the months leading up to Lotief’s firing.

“We believe, quite frankly, that this information was false,” Edwards said on Thursday. He said the university released the information without releasing any “exculpatory” evidence, including statements from other players who countered the claims.

“We think it’s gonna be very easy to prove that they intentionally defamed and slandered him,” Edwards said.

Edwards pointed out that the softball community reacted with an outcry when Lotief was placed on leave and later fired, “so they (the university) had to come up with something pretty serious.”

Edwards also said the university still has Lotief’s personal property, including some athletic equipment he and his wife Stefni personally bought to use in the softball program, and that the university fired Lotief so it didn’t have to honor his contract any longer.

Further, the lawsuit claims the university discriminated against him because his disability.

Lotief has suffered with cancer for decades, Edwards said. He requested help with maintaining the fields, “just like the male sports got, and he was continually told, ‘You can do that yourself.'”

The lawsuit names the University of Louisiana System, doing business as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, E. Joseph Savoie, university president, Jessica Clark Leger, deputy athletic director; and Bryan Maggard, athletic director.

The lawsuit also alleges the university retaliated against Lotief when he raised concerns that the university hired a football defensive consulted who pleaded guilty to domestic abuse against his wife.

The lawsuit claims “Lotief is a whistle blower and should be afforded all protections under the law.”

Read the full lawsuit below.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Released the following statement about Lotief’s firing in response to the lawsuit Thursday.

“Michael Lotief’s termination was not related to gender equity claims or his disability. He was fired for:

  • A documented physical and verbal attack of a female coworker
  • Use of sexually violent language toward and physical abuse of female student-athletes.

As multiple victims came forward with complaints, a thorough investigation was conducted which revealed that Lotief subjected student-athletes and coworkers to a mentally and physically hostile environment. His reprehensible actions violated the University’s Prohibited Sexual Conduct and Violence Free Workplace policies.

Lotief created a cult-like environment where student-athletes were told at weekly “mind meetings” not to trust anyone outside of their inner circle, including their parents. He told them that they could not share what they learned in the “mind meetings” because outsiders would not understand.

He repeatedly berated players with rape and sexual violence references.

While athletics are important to the collegiate experience, there are behaviors that will not be tolerated, no matter how many games a coach wins. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball was a premier program before his arrival and continues to thrive.

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.”

Below are all the documents we’ve collected in this story, including the lawsuit, the former softball players’ recent Title IX complaints and the university’s investigation against Lotief and related materials, along with the university’s statement submitted by the university.