Former University of Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine released a public statement to the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which he says he was totally blindsided by his termination. News that Earleywine was let go by Director of Athletics Jim Sterk came across Friday morning. (Read Sterk’s statement).
The timing of the termination is puzzling, given that the softball season begins in Arizona on Feb. 8.
Ehren Earleywine’s full statement:
I’ve been totally blindsided by all that has happened in the past two days and as confused as anyone else as to why this has happened.
First and foremost, I want to make it clear that I was told there was no singular incident that led to my termination. Subsequently, I asked what culminating factors lead to this decision and the response I got from Jim Sterk was, “I’m not required to give you a reason.” I don’t know what’s “required” administratively speaking, but I do know what’s right–looking someone in the eye and telling them specifically why they are being fired after giving 11 years of their life to the university is the RIGHT thing to do.
You would also expect your immediate boss to be in the room while being fired, but mine (Brian Brown) was not present in the meeting at all, nor has he had the decency to reach out to me since. Maybe because for the past several months, he has been telling my staff and I repeatedly what a great job we’ve been doing. On the other hand, known critic and major player in the investigation from two years ago, Sarah Reesman, was in attendance.
I think this all boiled down to a philosophical coaching difference between MU and myself. We’ll never know for sure but here’s what I think: I believe in winning. Winning isn’t always warm and fuzzy. It’s not a love fest, it’s a fight. Being a highly competitive coach means occasionally getting on your players when they aren’t giving their best effort. A tool they will need if they want to be successful in life. That approach is heavily frowned at Mizzou (and is the trend nationwide nowadays) which is evident by the response I received from Brian Brown a couple months ago when I asked, “Do you think Nick Saban and Geno Auriemma with their hard-nosed approach could coach at Mizzou?” He responded, “You know, I don’t know, that’s a good question.” You know there’s great administrative confusion about what a good coach is when those two can’t qualify as “Mizzou Made.”
The University and Athletic department is obviously trying to straighten things out and find itself after a series of bad decisions over the past few years, but somehow keeps stepping in it. Political correctness, allowing kids more power than people in positions of authority, and their love affair with soft-coaching has gotten the University where it is today. I used to care deeply, now it’s someone else’s problem.
Looking back, I’m honored to have been a small part of what we all accomplished in my 11 years as the head coach and the results speak for themselves. Doing it at the university I grew up cheering for as a boy growing up just 30 minutes away in Jefferson City was a dream come true for me. When I looked down at my chest and saw Mizzou on it, it meant something to me … something I wanted to fight for. Now, I’m indifferent.
The plan was always to lead this program to an eventual national championship and I know we would have won one eventually. And in the meantime, continue to be one of the top programs in the country. There were tremendous recruiting classes stacked up all the way back to the 7th grade and a current freshman class ranking 8th in the country. I had a great coaching staff, the team GPA was 3.0 or higher every semester, averaged the highest attendance for Olympic sports, have an extremely loyal fan base which was never more evident than during our investigation. Eleven straight regional tournaments, eight super regionals and three college world series, a thriving booster club, no public incidents regarding off the field behavior by our players, and the highest winning percentage of any coach in the history of the Missouri Athletic Department … in ANY sport. But according to Jim Sterk there is “a lack of confidence in my ability to lead.”
It’s now time for me to close this chapter and move forward. Of course, I am sad to see it go, but excited about what God has in store for me. I know initially, I’m looking forward to being more available for my kids, who are the most important things in my life. Coaching has kept me from being with them more than I would’ve liked, but now I can steal back some of the time I missed. I don’t know what career path I will take at this time, nor do I know if I want to continue to coach again. Like I said, I’m going to try to take His lead and see what’s next.
Thank you to all of the athletes, coaches, staff and fans for your contribution to one of the most successful eras in Missouri Athletics history. We did OK.”