“The greatest thing about the tournament happened outside the foul lines”
Cathedral City, CA – You wouldn’t be wrong to say that you saw great softball at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic over the weekend. Watching some of the best NCAA teams the country like UCLA, Oklahoma, Kentucky was amazing. Athletes were making extraordinary plays all over the field.
No one would be surprised if your jaw dropped watching Monica Abbott throw pitches at blinding speed. Or that the professional players for the Scrapyard Dogs and Team Japan were so strong and skilled as they develop even more after college.
But the greatest thing about the tournament happened outside the foul lines. I sat there and watched families cheering on their daughters, granddaughters or nieces. They waited eagerly after the games to give them hugs and tell them how proud they were. The young ladies were off to college and times like these with family were cherished moments.
Parents chatted with their daughters’ old teammates. Old teammates who had gone to different schools were catching up. Parents chatted with parents and coaches they knew from softball teams gone by.
It was slow getting from one game to the other because you would see people you knew, or be introduced to new friends. Or maybe you were just reminiscing about how these girls had grown from being t-ball players to collegiate or potential collegiate athletes.
Yes, the games were amazing and the competition was fierce. But the massive gathering of softball families and friends was a heart-warming feeling. This sport brings people together and helps them build bonds that last a lifetime. Can’t wait to see it again next year.
Nine former players of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Softball Team have hired a civil rights attorney to help with their complaints that the school violated Title IX and retaliated against them.
They have hired attorney Allison Jones from the Shreveport, LA in hopes that the University will address the complaints filed earlier this year. Their grievances were filed in April and May of this year to the U.S. Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights but there has been no response to those complaints which were filed in spring of this year. They had not had previously hired an attorney for the matter.
Jones said her clients hope that the University of Louisiana will make changes to comply with the law. “They want this university to be in compliance with Title IX, not necessarily for them at this point, but the young women that come behind them,” said Jones. “I think they would like to tell their stories and for the administrators of the university to come meet them, to mediate to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”
As of the publishing of the article, University of Louisiana Lafayette Athletic Department had not responded to questions about the matter.
The complaints filed by the nine former Ragin’ Cajun softball players were not identical. But they include:
Softball fields were not maintained at all compared to the fields maintained for the male athletes
Softball team was not provided athletic trainers
Players were not given proper medical insurance and care
The complaints submitted to the Department of Education that they asked former coach Mike Lotief to raise the concerns to the University, which he did in October of 2017. By November 1, he was fired. Some players claim:
The school retaliated against them and they were locked out of their locker rooms after appearing at a press conference in support of fired coach Mike Lotief
They were forced to stay at practice for seven hours only to do menial tasks by the new Head Coach Gerry Glasco and not allowed to practice and play
Jones said normally the university is required to respond within 60 days of the complaint being filed but she knows of no response from the ULL to the Office of Civil Rights.
A press release stated that nine players threaten legal action if changes are not made. Jones said this would entail a federal court case, forcing the university to comply but would not be the intended outcome. “My clients would really like that to be a last resort,” she said.
Check back for updates as Softball Nation will continue to follow new developments in this story.
Full text of the statement announcing the complaints and future legal action:
During the month of September 2017, Title IX violations were, once again, brought to the attention of the administration of the University of Louisiana Lafayette.
Now, those violations are being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights due to efforts by nine former female softball players to ensure compliance with the law.
In November 2017, just weeks after Coach Michael Lotief, one the nation’s most successful softball coaches, informed Administrators of the University of Louisiana Lafayette, that ongoing Title IX violations needed to be remedied, Coach Lotief was fired (for reasons which are now being challenged as pretextual for retaliation).
Following the firing of their coach, the female softball players of University of Louisiana were locked out of their locker room and left with uncertain futures. They have decided to fight back by filing complaints with the Office of Civil Rights for Title IX violations and by threatening litigation.
Nine female, softball players — Aleah Craighton, Alyssa Denham, Chelsea Lotief, Doni Sanders, Miranda Grotenhuis, Sarah Koeppen, Shae Schreckengost, Kimber Cortemelia, and Teryn Haley Pritchett — have filed complaints with the Office of Civil Rights alleging that they were deprived of appropriate trainers, comparable playing facilities, equipment and supplies as the same were provided to their similarly situated male athletes. They further allege that their coaches were denied payment, scholarships were not properly honored, and that, despite their complaints regarding Title IX violations, no appropriate remedial action was taken.
The players have now retained counsel, Allison A. Jones, of the law firm Downer, Jones, Marino & Wilhite, to pursue their claims. Ms. Jones, a well-known civil rights advocate for women, is also representing four female professors, Lise Anne Slatten, Lucy Henke, Patricia Lanier, and Gwen Fontenot, who have filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sexual harassment and blatant gender discrimination by University of Louisiana – Lafayette.
Both the softball players and the female professors have stated that they are committed to taking all steps necessary to ensure compliance with the law. Counsel for both echoed that commitment:
“The University of Louisiana Lafayette has a shameful record of condoning gender discrimination — for both students and faculty. The University has consistently failed to adopt necessary policies to prevent gender discrimination, has failed to investigate complaints of gender discrimination and, instead, has chosen to engage in a modus operandi of retaliating against any complainant.
Coach Lotief’s case is just one example, and the University’s conduct has extended to the female softball players and female professors – all of whom have only asked that policies of the University simply comply with the law.
If University students are being asked to become agents of change, then my clients are prepared to lead the charge. Each of my clients is committed to seeing gender equity at University of Louisiana Lafayette become a fact.
The University’s Administration should: (i) ask serious questions of its Human Resource department and legal counsel; (ii) find a way to resolve all these conflicts as soon as possible; and (iii) immediately begin to support gender equity in all programs. The students and faculty deserve no less.
If the current Administration cannot accomplish gender equity, then perhaps a change in the Administration is required.”
Division 3 and NAIA Schools (which stands for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) don’t have the same recruiting restrictions as D1 or D2 schools. So Head Softball Coach Chris Thompson says you can email her about softball no matter what your age.
In this video, Coach Thompson describes what it’s like to play for her at Menlo College. She also describes the benefits of going to her school.
Coach Judy Gabriel says many players will end up playing Division II or III. She believes many people don’t consider it because they just don’t have enough information about those schools. She made the comments at a combined camp with Harvard University and Macalester College at Aurora Sports Park during the TCS Colorado Sparkler College Camp Sunday.
Watch this video for what she has to say about playing and being a student at Macalester College.
Freshman Lou Allan tells us how she handled her first year at Michigan
Michigan Freshman Alexis “Lou” Allan has had a bit of a roller coaster year. She was sidelined for an injury but when she came back, was able to contribute to her team. We caught up with her shortly after she was named Freshman of the Week in April 2018 when she:
• Batted .429 with a .556 on-base percentage and a 1.429 slugging percentage, including two home runs and four RBI last weekend in No. 17/16 Michigan’s three-game sweep at Big Ten foe Penn State
• Hit her first collegiate home run in the series opener
• Followed that up with a two-run home run in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game, breaking a scoreless tie
• Earned her first career Freshman of the Week honor
• Last Michigan Freshman of the Week: Meghan Beaubien (April 2, 2018)
Here’s what she had to say about her first year in college.
“The burden has been lifted off parents and how much they need to travel…”
From what we’ve heard through several different grapevines, changes to NCAA rules for recruiting in most sports will change in April. The Division I council meets April 16 and 17 to vote on whether to ban recruiting contact and unofficial visits before a student-athlete’s junior year of high school. By most predictions this is going to pass easily and will be effective immediately.
How that affects recruiting in softball or any other sport is unknown but we can look to rule changes for lacrosse and how the landscape evolved. The changes experienced in the sport could be a guide for many others.
One of the most interesting developments after the rule changes was the increase in switched commitments. This is where students had originally committed to a school and then switched to a different school. “Because it was less worth while to watch the younger recruits, coaches refocused on 2018’s and started poaching committed players”, said Terry Foy, Publisher at Inside Lacrosse. Foy said with 71 D1 men’s lacrosse programs and roughly 700 players, 55 prospective student athletes switched their commitments.
NCAA rules were changed in April of 2017 and the full effects with data may not be felt until the next few years. But in conversations with families, Foy said parents were relieved. “The burden was lifted off parents on how much they needed to travel going into their freshman year… especially for families with multiple kids,” he said. Foy pointed out that 9th grade lacrosse players stopped attending the large club team tournaments because they started associating with the younger age groups.
Foy believes this was a good process for college coaches and administrators to come together in an organized way and do what many believed was best for the sport. “Being able execute the process was great for lacrosse,” said Fox.
Softball Nation called numerous Lacrosse Coaches and organizations on the East Coast, Midwest and Southern California but calls were not returned.
Lakeshore Lacrosse based in the Chicago Metropolitan Area said the changes made things easier on kids and parents. “There is more time and less pressure because they have 1-2 years of grades and classes to help guide their college search which is much more than earlier,” said Michelle Sebastian, Director of Coaching.
Sebastion said her club didn’t see any switching of commitments in players. The new rules also afforded recruiters time to better assess players after competing in high school and club.
And she said there’s not drop-off in interest in the sport. “Their summers aren’t as full at such an early age trying to visit schools every weekend,” said Sebastion.
On a more personal level, Alex Walling, a 2019 women’s lacrosse player said she feels it’s a race to get recruited since the beginning of her junior year. “I feel rushed because before the rule change, college coaches tried to recruit as many girls in my grade as possible,” said Alex. “And now it’s a rush to find colleges that haven’t closed their 2019 recruiting class.”
Her father, Steve said they received an offer from school before the recruiting rules took effect last year, but it wasn’t the right school for his daughter. “I wonder how much money I would have saved traveling around the country going to all these tournaments if we committed then,” he said.
The NCAA will vote on a proposal to end early recruiting in softball and most other sports. Adopting the new rules would mean an end to the verbal commitment of seventh, eighth and ninth graders. It’s a subject many college coaches have publicly and privately criticized but felt helpless to change because of intense competition.
NCAA’s Division 1 Council submitted three separate proposed legislation in early October. Here’s a quick summary of the rules and the reason for the changes:
Coaches would be prohibited from recruiting conversations with a prospect at a camp or clinic until Sept. 1 of their sophomore year (Proposal 2017-113). — Rationale: Eliminates early recruiting opportunities
Colleges would be prohibited from providing game tickets to prospects before Sept. 1 of their sophomore year . (Proposal 2017-112) — Rationale: Slows the recruiting process and allows students to focus on academic and athletic success
Official visits would move up to Sept. 1 of the prospect’s junior year, instead of opening day of the senior year. This change would align with the first day for recruiting phone calls and written correspondence. (Proposal 2017-111) —Rationale: Better aligns the decision-timeline of for student-athletes and college decision-making.
The proposed rules would put an end to the controversy of colleges verbally committing seventh, eighth and ninth graders, the most recent being the Florida Gators verbally committing 7th grader Keegan Rothrock from Whiteland Indiana, who was reported to throw a screwball at 66 mph, according to FloSoftball. While many parents might be enthusiastic about early commitments of their daughters, many coaches have strong reservations.
Firecrackers Coach Sean Brashear likes the rule changes and feels that softball players committing at 7th and 8th grade is too young. “This would allow for more player development as teams would be able to practice more and with the recruiting change more competitive game play as teams would not be in Showcase mode so early,” he said.
Brashear said college coaches were under intense pressure, many of them not wanting to recruit extremely young players but forced to commit to stay competitive. He’s also had conversations with college coaches who commented to him about recruits. “In many cases they have to reteach them how to practice once they get to college since they haven’t had enough practice time after having spent all fall and summer playing on the recruiting tour,” said Brashear.
Some college coaches have declined comment on the subject to Softball Nation. But in a recent interview, University of San Diego Pitching Coach and Team USA player Danielle O’Toole expressed her frustration with the early recruiting. “Now that I’m in this coaching position and I see eighth graders, I’m like, how am I supposed to judge this eighth grader and what they’re supposed to look like?” said O’Toole. “It’s definitely way to young and it’s unfortunate. And I know a lot of the coaches think that.”
The proposal is a recommendation from the Division 1 Student-Athlete Experience Committee following a study of more than 15,000 recruited student-athletes Sept 2017. The survey found that 40% of student-athletes in women’s basketball and softball reported their first recruiting contact in the ninth grade or earlier.
The survey also showed that student-athletes in almost every sport reported committing verbally to a school before official visit dates. Most student-athletes also reported taking unofficial visits in their sophomore year or earlier.
These rules would not apply to football or basketball since they have already made changes to their recruiting model.
The Division I Council will vote on the proposals during the 2017-18 legislative cycle, which calls for voting to occur in April 2018, according to Michelle Brutlag Hosick, Associate Director, Public and Media Relations. If adopted, all three proposals would be effective Aug. 1, 2018.