Sept. 21, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU News Bureau) - East Carolina University has begun the process to dismiss its head coach and associate head coach for softball after an internal inquiry into program complaints.
In addition, the university will proactively review operational processes, policies and procedures across athletics, Chancellor Steve Ballard said today.
Effective immediately, head softball coach Tracey Kee and associate head coach Natalie Kozlowski are no longer affiliated with ECU softball, Ballard said. The two were suspended Aug. 31 pending the outcome of the inquiry.
The initial investigation found an emotionally hostile environment in the program, identified potential NCAA violations and noted shortcomings related to oversight of property and fiscal matters, according to Ballard.
"The ECU coaching staff is in a central role to create the most positive possible culture that follows the rules and operates with integrity," 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."
On May 15, Ballard 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 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 investigative 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 investigative team also recommended stronger internal controls within athletics to oversee and monitor athletic programs. That includes strengthening the exit interview process for all players who leave and increasing oversight on the distribution of per diem awards to student-athletes.
In addition to providing new leadership for the program, Ballard said the university will take the following steps in response to the report:
Submit a full self-report of the five potential secondary NCAA violations to the NCAA in October.
Conduct a full review of the athletic department across all 19 sports to ensure that student-athletes can express concerns and grievances without fear of negative consequences.
Proactively review internal controls, cash management and asset management in athletics.
Better educate coaches and athletes on all applicable governing rules and proactively monitor whether each team has a culture of compliance.
"I expect the inquiry to remain open until such time that the auditor and the university attorney determine that we have addressed all relevant issues," Ballard said.
Meanwhile, ECU Athletics Director Terry Holland said the search for a head softball coach is under way. He expects to have a leader in place by the end of October.
"The young women who represent ECU softball are champions on and off the field," Holland said. "Our athletic staff is dedicated to finding the best coaches possible to work with these players who have been training diligently and remain focused during these uncertain times. It is time for everyone to join together in order to help the players and program to continue moving."
In the interim, Holland said volunteer assistant coach Courtney Crews has been working closely with the administration throughout this process and will continue to direct the team's daily activities until a new head coach is appointed.
Kee became head coach in 1997. Kozlowski came to ECU in 2000 and has served as associate head coach since 2007.