In the wake of Lotief firing: What is Title IX anyway? View Written Complaints
Kristin Askelson, The Daily Advertiser, Nov. 3, 2017
When the University of Louisiana at Lafayette announced Oct. 18 that its head softball coach was on administrative leave, they cited no reason for the suspension.
Coach Michael Lotief responded by raising the issue of the school's Title IX compliance.
The suspension "arises out of a passionate conversation about gender equity, between Coach Lotief and other University personnel," said his lawyer, Glenn Edwards. "In this conversation, Coach Lotief raised simple issues like getting the grass cut, making sure students have an athletic trainer at practice, making sure the assistant coaches get paid and ensuring female athletes get a functional assessment before doing weight training."
Lotief was ultimately terminated by the school Nov. 1 for "subjecting student-athletes and coworkers to violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault," according to the university.
But he and members of the softball team continue to point to Title IX compliance as a contributing factor in his termination.
Lotief, who coached softball at UL for 14 years, said, he retained a lawyer after his suspension because he felt the need to protect his reputation."I don't think there's ever been a head coach at UL placed on administrative leave," he said. "If they placed me on administrative leave without giving an explanation, a man coaching a women's sport ..."
He said he knew there would be speculation about the reasons behind his suspension. And it would be ugly.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a 1972 amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in all educational programs that receive federal aid. In recent years, Supreme Court decisions and guidance from the Department of Education have given the statute a broad scope covering sexual harassment and sexual violence.
When it comes to athletics,Title IX guarantees gender equity with regard to scholarships and opportunity to play. It also requires female and male student-athletes be treated equally in the the following:
Documents released Wednesday by the university show Lotief frequently complained to university administrators about about what he perceived as unequal treatment of female student-athletes, including:
Although the university has not responded publicly to Lotief's concerns about gender equity, emails from Jessica Leger, an assistant athletic director over softball, indicate she tried to address many of the former coach's concerns.
As recently as Oct. 3, she told him via email that she was working to hire an athletic trainer, solidify a maintenance plan for the softball field and facilitate a meeting to address his concerns about the new physical therapist.
"I truly want to assist you with building a National Championship team," she wrote. "We need to leave you with what you do best — coaching."
It is not unusual for the coach of a women's team to advocate for equal treatment for female student-athletes.
Because of the statute's broad protections, Title IX is often invoked in controversies regarding women's collegiate athletics. For example:
On Oct. 18, after UL announced they had placed Lotief on administrative leave, an undisclosed number of softball players retained attorney Clayton Burgess, who made the following statement:
"The Law Office of L. Clayton Burgess represents some UL softball players concerning possible Title 9 violations committed by The University of Louisiana-Lafayette; these are very serious issues that not only go to the core of gender equity but also involve discrimination because they are female athletes and even unfair treatment and retaliation by present ULL athletic administrators."
In a letter to university officials, UL softball players called Lotief's investigation "unjust and uncorroborated." They say they believe the coach is being targeted for standing up for female athletes.
Players Alyssa Denham and DJ Sanders, in a TV news interview, said they sent the letter because they believe Lotief has been mistreated for standing up for them as female athletes. And now they say they feel betrayed by the university.
Among the documents released this week by the university were text messages purportedly from UL athletics boosters.
"Several UL Softball Student Athletes have retained an attorney and filed a Title IX lawsuit against the University of Lousiana Lafayette," reads a text message from Lou Hebert. "...please tell me we will fire that idiot for yesterday's antics.
"Far more people have contacted me about this softball mess and we're really hot that Lotief did this in public."
Todd Trahan wrote: "I would fire Lotief for putting the bs in the minds of the team."
T-Boy Hebert responded: "Tjoe needs to fire his a--!"
Lotief said the players attempted to talk privately to Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL's president, about their concerns, but he instructed them to speak to someone who handles compliance issues.