East Carolina University says it is firing head softball coach Tracey Kee and assistant coach Natalie Kozlowski.
The two had been on paid suspension pending the outcome of an internal inquiry into softball program complaints.
In a news release, the university says the initial investigation found an emotionally hostile environment in the softball program, identified potential NCAA violations and noted shortcomings related to oversight of property and fiscal matters.
“The ECU coaching staff is in a central role to create the most positive possible culture that follows the rules and operates with integrity,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said. “The welfare of student-athletes and promoting a culture of compliance are values central to East Carolina’s athletic programs and will not be compromised.”
In a statement from their attorney, the two coaches said they were asked to resign by the university, but chose not to. "We believe that such actions would be interpreted as admissions of wrongdoing," the two said in the statement.
Kee and Kozlowski said they were never given the chance to formally respond, present evidence or question their accusers. "In the future, we will have opportunities to defend ourselves and to protect our reputations. We look forward to those opportunities," the state read.
The coaches said they established a nationally recognized program at ECU, based on "hard work, discipline, and commitment."
On May 15, Ballard said he received an anonymous letter detailing concerns and on May 16 initiated an inquiry by the Office of Internal Auditing and the University Attorney’s office. The investigative team also included the faculty athletic representative, the university’s athletic compliance officer and the Office of Equity and Diversity.
The university says its investigative team interviewed players, coaches, staff and athletic administrators and reviewed historical information going back 10 years, along with recent travel and expense records for the softball program and correspondence relating to it.
Among the team’s conclusions: Individuals on the softball coaching staff were not forthcoming to investigators; inappropriate comments were made to student-athletes in the softball program; and the coaching staff encouraged the violation of university policy by others.
The team also recommended stronger internal controls within athletics to oversee and monitor athletic programs.
The search is now on for a new softball coach at ECU. In the interim, Athletics Director Terry Holland said volunteer assistant coach Courtney Crews will continue to direct the team's daily activities until a new head coach is appointed.
Kee became head coach in 1997, while Kozlowski came to ECU in 2000 and has served as associate head coach since 2007.
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