What’s Next for Softball – From the Bird’s Nest
We've now had over a week to digest what has happened in the Louisiana softball program. Coach Michael Lotief, beloved by most fans and many players is no longer the head coach after the Department of Human Resources found he had verbally and emotionally abused players and had a confrontation with a female staff member that included physical contact.
He's not coming back. He's not being reinstated. His chapter as the Ragin' Cajuns coach is closed. Shut. Done.
So the question is, now what?
The latest in this whirlwind has to do with the current players. Who wants out? Who is staying? In a statement released yesterday, a spokesman for the athletic department said student-athletes will be allowed to transfer after proper protocol is followed.
I'm sure not all will stay. In fact, I'm banking some won't.
There are some players who said the reason they came to UL was to play for Lotief. They loved his coaching philosophy, especially when it came to hitting. Yet, on game day, every single player wore the same name across her chest.
And, it wasn't Lotief.
It was LOUISIANA. Or, RAGIN' CAJUNS.
Perhaps those who plan to leave think Mike is going with them. Probably not. Whether they stay or go, he won't be coaching them.
Yet some will leave. Perhaps it's to make a point. Perhaps it's to spite the administration. Perhaps it's just a fresh start.
But they won't find a jersey to wear that says Lotief.
Hopefully these young women realize there's a chance not all their credits will transfer. Hopefully they'll understand there may be some schools who don't have roster spots this late. Perhaps they'll understand scholarships won't be available right away. Perhaps they'll choose not to play but remain at UL as students, at least through the spring semester. The administration has said their scholarships will be honored.
But perhaps time helps. Perhaps they'll get a chance to meet their new coach. After all, it's not like they'll leave immediately. The semester doesn't end until December. Perhaps the lure of Lamson and the relationship with the fans is something they decide remains very important to them. Because let's face it. Unless they're transferring to a major program, they'll never see crowds like this again.
For those who, after all this, decide they want to go elsewhere, we wish you well. We thank you for your contributions to the program. We thank you for the hard work and dedication you put in, on and off the field. We hope your decision turns out to be a good one for your career and for your future.
But, this program will survive this. It wasn't that long ago when Yvette Girouard left to take the head coaching job at LSU. The program was doomed. That love affair with the Lady Cajuns, as they were known then, would never be the same.
But Stefni Lotief walked in. Mike came with her as a volunteer. And, the program survived. And thrived. They inherited a good thing and kept it good. Some would say made it even better than ever.
Here's something to remember.
The program will survive this, too. And, with the right hire, will continue to thrive. That is Dr. Bryan Maggard's charge as athletic director. Michael Lotief won a lot of games here. But he's not bigger than the program (although some would have you believe he is.)
As of today, I'm done talking about those who will eventually make the choice to leave. Oh, we'll report it. That's our job. But for me personally, I've made a decision.
I rarely get to watch softball. My baseball duties, work duties and personal duties preclude my making many games. In fact, I was unable to see a single game last year, despite the fact so many were played at home.
But next season, for the first time, I will be a softball season ticket holder. I'll probably give the tickets away and treat some kids to some free softball. And my reason is simple.
For those who persevere. For those who value their UL education. For those who want to give a new coach a chance. For those who have gone through a tough time but can't wait to get back out on the field, I choose to honor them.
After all, they want to be Ragin' Cajuns. And they're proud of the name they wear across their chest.