Michael Lotief Files Suit Against UL
Former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun head softball coach Michael Lotief has filed a lawsuit against his former employer.
During an hour-long press conference on Thursday, Lotief's legal team announced that a 51-page petition was filed in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, where the University of Louisiana System is based.
The lawsuit names the University of Louisiana System, doing business as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, along with E. Joseph Savoie, university president, Jessica Clark Leger, deputy athletic director; and Bryan Maggard, athletic director.
The extensive lawsuit makes a number of claims, including Title IX retaliation, defamation, discrimination, the wrongful conversion of property for failing to return Lotief's personal items and personally contributed softball equipment, and breach of contract.
Below are only some highlights, and a shot at breaking some claims down, in a long and extensive petition.
Title IX retaliation: The claim here is that the softball team received inferior treatment, as compared to the UL men's programs. Claims include that three women associated with the coaching staff weren't compensated for multiple months, the softball program was operating without an athletic trainer, and that the university failed to provide the softball field with the same maintenance that was provided to the football practice fields, which the petition claims was maintained everyday.
One of Lotief's attorney's, Glenn Edwards, said that Lotief was dismissed “for standing up for the rights of his female athletes at the university.”
The lawsuit also alleges the university retaliated against Lotief when he raised concerns about the hiring of James Willis, who the university hired as a football defensive consultant, after Willis pleaded guilty to domestic abuse against his wife while working for another university.
Defamation: Louisiana terminated Lotief on November 1 of last year, after what the university says were multiple complaints about harassment.
The university released the following statement announcing the termination less than a month after he was put on administrative leave:
Following complaints of students and a staff member of the Louisiana Athletics department, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has terminated head softball coach Michael Lotief, effective immediately.Lotief violated University and UL System policies by subjecting student-athletes and coworkers to violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment.“Behavior of this nature will not be tolerated,” University President Dr. Joseph Savoie said. “I want to commend the students for coming forward. They exemplified great courage in sharing their stories.”A national search for a new head softball coach will begin immediately, according to director of Louisiana Athletics Dr. Bryan Maggard.
On Wednesday, Edwards argued against that statement, claiming the university released that statement, and some complaints made against Lotief, without any exculpatory evidence, and without statements from those same players who also said positive things about Lotief, as well as statements from other players who countered the claims.
“We believe, quite frankly, that this information was false,” said Edwards. “We think it’s gonna be very easy to prove that they intentionally defamed and slandered him (Lotief)."
Discrimination: Basically, this is a claim that says the university violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, as they discriminated against Lotief's health disabilities.
Edwards said Lotief, who has battled cancer for decades, had requested help with maintaining the fields, as has been done with the fields of male sports, but was often told; "You can do that yourself."
Wrongful conversion of property: The claim here is that Lotief still has personal property, which the university has yet to give back. Edwards said the university still has some of Lotief’s athletic equipment, which Lotief and his family purchased with their own money, as well as $20,000, from a softball camp fund.
Breach of contract: The claim here is that the university fired Lotief so it didn’t have to honor his contract any longer.
That's a very Cliff Notes version of the lawsuit.
During the press conference, the lawsuit filed by nine former UL softball players, claiming Title IX violations, was also brought up.
Those nine softball players filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights, which they allege they were deprived of appropriate trainers, and that they weren't provided with the same types of facilities, equipment and supplies that their male counterparts had.
The university released a statement, in response to the lawsuit, which can be viewed below:
“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.”
Prior to his termination last November, Lotief had been on administrative leave since October 6, after what Lotief’s attorneys say was a “passionate conversation” with university officials about perceived gender inequities in the program.
In 15 seasons as either head coach or co-head coach at Louisiana, and 17 seasons overall, Lotief was part of a program that advanced to the NCAA tournament in every single one.
Originally a volunteer coach from 2001-02, before becoming co-head coach with his wife Stefni from 2003-12, Lotief became the sole head coach prior to the 2013 season.
Lotief led his teams to over 40 wins in every season, eight seasons with 50-or-more victories, and a school-record 60 wins in 2004.
Under his guidance as head coach, the Cajuns advanced to three Women’s College World Series (2003, 2008 & 2014), seven NCAA Super Regionals and 15 NCAA regionals.
In addition, Louisiana captured the Sun Belt Conference regular season championship 13 times in his 15-year tenure as a head coach, including 15 titles in his 17 seasons, overall.
A 1981 graduate of Teurlings Catholic High School in Lafayette, Lotief compiled a career record of 729-174.