Auburn Softball Program Under Fire
The Auburn softball team celebrates on May 14, 2016 after winning its second consecutive SEC Championship by defeating LSU 7-1
Auburn fans were dealt a double whammy this week following coach Clint Myers’ unexpected retirement when news broke on every major sports site regarding new information that uncovered what many feared but sort of expected: a scandal. ESPNW published an article on the subject that paints a picture of a corrupt softball program. The sports conglomerate cited actions and quotes from a lot of people within and around the program. However, I caution everyone to be objective, especially when it comes to the information within the article, which paints an “us versus them” picture of coaches and players and does its best to trash Auburn’s softball program.
ESPNW broke the news that former player Alexa Nemeth was the plaintiff in a Title IX case alleging sexual harassment from the coaching staff and a cover up by the administration. However, Nemeth wasn’t the only player on record as having complaints against Corey Myers. Former players Blaire Bass, Haley Fagan, Whitney Jordan and Emily Spain have had specific complaints against the coaching staff.
My issue here is that ESPN used a lot of quotes and history out of context to paint this program very negatively and without much basis.
“We said that if she gets on, we’re staying off,” Fagan said. “It was a team decision.”
Here’s another one from from ESPN that appeared on AL.com:
“According to ESPN, five players said during that March 30 meeting Auburn executive associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator Meredith Jenkins told the players they were risking arrest for taking the text messages from their teammate’s phone and ordered them to delete the messages.”
These are important quotes that get glossed over. The articles cast the administration in a bad light over the “quarantine,” yet it was doing the right thing, considering that the player’s privacy had been breached. Corey Myers resigned just prior to a trip to Georgia. His resignation seems to have stemmed from the appearance of texts between himself and the player in quesiton, said to be of an intimate nature. The players, including Fagan and All-American Kasey Cooper, refused to board the bus if “the player” was on it. In other words, it wasn’t Myers with whom they were displeased, but “the player.” So, at some point, there was no “us versus them” stance.
That’s important considering …
Haley Fagan reported that Corey Myers had already been forced to resign (temporarily) in 2016 due to similar problems, yet players were still “going to bat” for him before the trip to Georgia in 2017.
The article also tries to relate Myers’ resignation with Fagan’s outburst towards Florida’s coach, Tim Walton. Yet the bad relationship between Fagan and Walton was well known and had virtually nothing to do with Myers’ resignation, other than timing. ESPNW appeared to use that incident in its story because it fits the narrative.
Former player Whitney Jordan’s quote within the article is completely out of context as she quit the team for academic reasons. She was very vocal about her displeasure with the coaching staff, who told her that she could either miss a class she needed or quit the team. The senior chose the latter, though it was well known that she likely wouldn’t be on the team after she hit .118 in 2017 and was 4th on the team in errors despite not being a starter. After being replaced by Haley Fagan at shortstop, she was overtaken by freshman Alyssa Rivera in right field, who hit a team high .371. Even with Fagan’s graduation and a spot open at shortstop, Jordan had incoming freshman and top recruit Taylon Snow to contend with.
Bass and Nemeth were cut from the team, and Spain is not currently on the roster after a decrease in playing time from 2016 to 2017 as she struggled to an .071 mark at the plate. In other words, none of the players in question are on the roster, and most of them were cut.
The most important part of this all is the word “cover-up.” ESPN and AL.com alluded to a cover up by the administration. Although they have been hesitant to use that word, that’s exactly what they want to say. There are some questionable things to consider, for example, Jay Jacob’s contract extension for Clint Myers, which would have kept him in Auburn until 2023. Of course, that has now been refuted as Cassie Arner, associate athletic director for strategic communications, called the reports “categorically false.” News sources have tried to use the contract extension to discredit the University’s stance that the situation was well known and understood.
The truth is, Corey Myers likely had a problem, and Clint Myers likely knew it. Both were unofficially fired. There are some former players from Auburn who may or may not have legitimate gripes against the coaches, and it’s possible they had a bone to pick with the coaching staff. ESPN and other news agencies clumsily mixed these together to paint Auburn’s rising softball program in a very negative way, especially hinting at a cover up that could cost several more jobs, up to and including Athletic Director Jay Jacobs.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Find me on Twitter @Best5Zach.