North Platte Community College softball coach Janelle Higgins has been retained as coach and dean of students, prompting a set of disgruntled parents to send an open letter to the Mid Plains Board of Governors. Controversy erupted under Higgins when nine team members left the softball squad shortly before the end of the 2012-13 season. As the Bulletin reported, a group of parents, including the Homans who wrote the following letter, met with administrators to discuss the situation, and the Columbus police department investigated allegations that the North Platte coaches illegally confined four players on the team bus during a tournament in Columbus.
No charges were pressed.
College officials have declined to comment on the situation.
The team was 4-39 during the season.
The letter, sent to the college on June 26:
We are sending you this to express our disappointment at your decision to retain Janelle Higgins as a softball coach and dean of students at Mid Plains and Erica Lieber as assistant softball coach.
I spoke with (college president) Ryan Purdy on May 2 on the phone, since none of the parents were informed of the outcome of your April meeting. He was rude and disrespectful to me.
He stated that the college had conducted an “internal investigation” of the situation and found that Coach Higgins’ actions were justified based on the girls’ “attitudes”.
I later checked with several of the girls. None of them had been interviewed either by college administrative staff or legal counsel of the college. None of the girls even understand exactly what this “attitude” problem is. This seems to be very unfair that the girls never had a chance to tell anyone about their horrific experiences with Coaches Higgins and Lieber throughout the past school year. Why were the girls involved not interviewed as part of the “internal investigation”?
None of these girls will be returning to Mid-Plains. Parents send their young men and women to colleges with the expectation that they will be treated with dignity and respect. Yes, we expect them to work hard, learn and more should be expected of college athletes than those in high school. However, none of the parents of any of these girls expected the horrors that were to come for our daughters this past school year.
By retaining these two coaches, you are sending messages to the public that:
• It is okay to run the girls in sprinklers, in the dark from 10 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. on a school night. (This was not a “practice”, it was after a 20-inning scrimmage.)
• It is okay to have the girls run over 200 sprints in the gym after 9 p.m. on a school night.
• It is okay for the coaches to call the girls “mother f***ers”, “bitches” and “a***oles” on a regular basis, even when asked not to.
• It is acceptable for a coach to make a scene at a tournament by kicking buckets and helmets in the dugout.
• It is okay for a coach to make sexually explicit comments regarding players.
• It is okay for the coaches to lock girls on a bus when they were told to go to the bus because they didn’t agree with her.
• It is okay to threaten the girls “not to tell anyone” or they would lose scholarships.
• It is okay to make threats, play mind games with the girls and pit small groups against other small groups within the team.
We don’t think this is a good way to build up a team or a program, and neither do the coaches, teachers, parents, school administrators, and college coaches we’ve talked to about this. Every single one says the coaches should be fired. You, on the other hand, not only condone this conduct, but you promote her to “dean of students.” What is wrong with you people?
By Paul and Jeannie Homan, Lexington
First printed in the July 10 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.