Idaho State has investigated allegations of bullying in its softball program and says the concern was based on misinterpreted comments, and the Big Sky Conference says it’s conducting a review.
ISU Director of Athletics Jeff Tingey said he had received complaints from two players who said a small group of their teammates had been bullying them during the 2016 season.
“A couple girls stepped up and were vocal leaders, and it came off as bullying,” Tingey told the Idaho State Journal. “We addressed it with them.”
The Big Sky Conference said Friday that its ethical conduct committee is reviewing the team’s behavior at the conference tournament in May. A conference official added by email that the team didn’t commit any NCAA or conference violations and the review is not an official investigation.
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Several ISU softball players told the Idaho State Journal that bullying throughout the past season reached a fever pitch around the Big Sky Conference tournament at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
Junior pitcher Bailey Foster said a teammate punched her in the face after an argument at a fall practice. According to Foster, the teammate was kicked off the team for the incident.
Foster said she was also verbally threatened and intentionally hit by a softball thrown at her the day before ISU’s first game at the conference tournament.
“No one said it was malicious,” Tingey said about the incident. He concluded that there was no evidence of ill-will toward Foster after interviewing players and coaches.
Foster also said she felt physically threatened during a confrontation with a teammate during the tournament. Tingey said the disagreement was just a yelling match with light pushing.
Foster, junior catcher Dara Kolar (Post Falls High) and senior infielder Michaela Taylor decided not to suit up for the team’s two games the next day to protest what they say was an unsafe environment and undisciplined culture within ISU’s softball program.
“I didn’t feel like I could go out and play softball and enjoy it because I was more embarrassed for what we were representing,” Foster said.
Foster, Taylor and Kolar said ISU head softball coach Candi Letts wasn’t responsive to their concerns about the team’s toxic dynamic and bullying issues.
Letts would not respond to the Journal’s attempts to contact her regarding some of her players’ allegations.
Steve Schaack, ISU assistant athletic director for media relations, said, “The administration is working with coach Letts in resolving those issues so they don’t happen again.”
“There was definitely a lot of conflict on this team this year ... as the year went on, it got worse,” said sophomore pitcher Ashlyn Ames. But she added, “I don’t think bullying has happened at all on this team this year.”
Idaho State is currently being sued by a former tennis player who claims he was harassed and discriminated against because of his religion.