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Softball: Glasco wanted Cajuns to know how appreciated they are + photo gallery

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 25, 2020

When earlier this month coach Gerry Glasco first gathered his nationally ranked UL softball team regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’s impact on his program, it was about suspending the 2020 season.

It didn’t take long to call the second meeting — mere minutes, actually — and this time the news was even more jarring.

“We first met and said that the season had been suspended until March 30,” Glasco said, “and that we would know more (the next day), and that we would meet (then) at the same time.

“But … when I was in the room, talking to the girls, my daughter that coaches up at Eastern Illinois (Tara Archibald, head coach of the Redbirds) sent me a copy of an NCAA tweet that said that all winter spring sports championships had been canceled.”

Glasco’s 18-6 Cajuns were ranked No. 1 in NCAA RPI ratings at the time.

More: 'Tons of emotion' as Cajuns navigate 'uncharted waters'

“I actually was talking to my team, and I read that,” he said. “I said, ‘(Am) I reading this right? I can’t be reading it right.’ Because it didn’t really make sense.

“Because the SEC and the Big Ten and all those conferences — like, 17 conferences that day; we were keeping count of that — had suspended the season either until March 30 or April 6.

“So I really thought I was reading it wrong,” Glasco added. “So I dismissed the team and walked out of the room and read it, and everybody (else) that was reading was like, ‘No, they’re saying they’ve canceled the World Series.’”

The Women’s College World Series had been scheduled to open in mid-May in Omaha, Nebraska, and long before the Cajuns started their season — ever since the 2019 season ended with an NCAA Super Regional loss at Ole Miss, actually — it was their goal to get there.

And they were favored to do just that.

Glasco had intentionally scheduled a brutal slate of non-conference games against nationally ranked opponents to boost UL’s resume, and it paid off — evidenced by their No. 1 RPI — as the Cajuns split with No. 7 LSU, split with No. 8 Oklahoma State, split with No. 3 Texas and took a series at No. 6 Florida 2-1.

Related: UL softball team hits the road to toughen up for later

“So as soon as I realized that (canceling the Women’s CWS) was what they’d done,” Glasco said, “I immediately sent out a text to our team and (said), ‘Go back into the team room; let’s meet again. Right now.’

“And so we did. And I told them, ‘They just sent out a tweet that the season was over and the season had been canceled; there was no World Series.’ And as far as I’m concerned, if the World Series is canceled the season is canceled.’”

'BE SURE THEY FELT LOVED'

The Sun Belt Conference briefly flirted with the idea of continuing league play even if there would be no NCAA Tournament, but — as the number of coronavirus cases nationwide began to mount, and the death toll, now numbering more than 700 in the United States alone, soared — it eventually joined other leagues across the country in canceling the season altogether.

And now there still is no telling if some or all them, perhaps just UL's eight seniors, will get an extra season of eligibility.

Related: Coronavirus prompts eligibility questions for many at UL

What could Glasco possibly have told his devastated club?

“The main thing I wanted my team to know was how much I appreciated them and how much the coaching staff appreciated ’em,” he said. “How special they were.

“And, ‘While we may never be able to show on the field at the end of the year how special of a team we have, we in this room — as your coaches — we know, and I believe you guys as teammates, and each other, realize and know.’

“I wanted to be sure that they knew that we as coaches realized how lucky we were to have them in our locker room and to have been able to spend this shortened season with them. But a great season,” Glasco added. “That type of message was the main thing, just to be sure that they felt loved and appreciated by the coaching staff.”

How did Cajuns players — many of them crying, others simply mad, some of them both — take it?

They were, after all, an already fragile group, some of whom endured a controversial coaching change when Glasco was hired to replace the fired Michael Lotief just a few months before the start of the 2018 season.

“It was really hard. I mean, I don’t know what else to compare it to,” said Glasco, who just more than a year ago — in January 2019 — had lost one of his three daughters, Cajuns volunteer coach Geri Ann Glasco, a former star player at Oregon and Georgia, to an automobile accident on Interstate 10 near Lafayette.

“You know, it was just a really hard moment. We’ve had some really hard panic in our program the last couple years, and this was one of those really hard times. To compare it with anything — it hurt.”

Related: UL volunteer coach, daughter of softball head coach, killed in wreck

More: Scholarship created in memory of Geri Ann Glasco

More: UL softball to honor Geri Ann Glasco with helmet stickers

More: Glasco tragedy makes No. 15 UL softball team tighter

More: UL's Glasco 'selfless' response after loss of daughter an inspiration

Column: Glasco family teaches us lessons far beyond softball

'EVERYONE IS HEARTBROKEN'

UL baseball coach Matt Deggs, whose team’s season was canceled as well, could tell.

“I can’t imagine how Coach Glasco feels,” Deggs said.

“Everything him and his family have been through; his team was ranked No. 1 in the RPI. They were tested. They were battle-tested. And I know everyone is heartbroken.”

On a personal level, truth be told, Glasco took the news as hard as his players.

Maybe even more.

Much more.

“I hate losing,” he said.

More: Cajuns coaches saw the end coming

But there’s something he despises even more than that.

“I hate getting rained out,” Glasco said during a telephone interview four days after he held those fateful meetings with his team.

“You’re talking to a guy that I absolutely hate getting rained out of a game. So you can only imagine how hard it was for me when I realized I lost the season.”

As tough as it was, though, Glasco tried not to show the hurt he readily acknowledged.

The pain.

The agony.

More: Cajuns athletic director's world flipped by coronavirus

Related: Maggard says Sun Belt suspending all sports was 'the correct decision' but 'disappointing'

Initially, that was quite a challenge.

But as minutes turned to hours, and hours turned to days, Glasco came to the realization that he had to be the rock.

His players might be crumbling, but he could not show the same.

At least not on the outside.

So when Cajun coaches met as a group one day after the NCAA’s cancellation decision came down, less than two weeks ago, what they saw was a man fighting to hide his true emotion — and, apparently, doing a darn good job of it.

“I felt for, certainly, Coach Glasco, because he’s got a great club, and chance to, we felt like, compete for the national championship,” UL basketball coach Bob Marlin said.

After the Cajun coaches met, Marlin spoke individually with his colleague.

“I really felt good about where he was with everything,” Marlin said.

Related: The world changed when season ended for Marlin and UL

It’s the front Glasco had hoped he'd be able to be able to present, because showing anything else simply did no one any good.

“I want to be a good example for the kids,” Glasco said.

More coronavirus:

“I want to be an example of ‘resilience’ and ‘tough-minded’ for our players, so that’s what I am trying to do right now, instead of allowing myself to feel bad, or feel sorry for me or my team or my players.

“There’s nothing to be accomplished by that,” he added, “so we’re gonna just push on through and we’ll keep pushing.”

Click here for photo gallery with 77 items. https://www.theadvertiser.com/story/sports/college/ul/2020/03/25/ul-softball-cajuns-coach-glasco-rock-amid-coronavirus-crisis/5078802002/



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