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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: No ruling on the field

Published: November 17, 2006
Section: Opinions

The recent firing of Brandeis ex-softball coach Mary Sullivan has caused controversy among the Brandeis community and beyond, receiving its share of local press attention. Sullivan has since suggested that she was fired unfairly because of her age rather than because of her performance. While articles in the Boston Globe and the Justice seem to suggest that the firing was unjust, certain aspects of the Mary Sullivan story need further investigation.

According to the Boston Globe (Hardball softball, Nov. 15), Sullivan said that after Sousa panned her last seasons performance, but before her firing, Sousa requested several reports, each of which was rejected. These requests are inexplicable. Sullivan had been coaching the Softball Judges for the past 32 years, and if Sousa had determined that Sullivan was unfit to coach because of her age, it seems ludicrous that a few reports would change her mind on the matter. Why would they make her jump through all these hoops if they were going to fire her anyway?

Even more confusing are the inconsistent statements reported by the media. We have read in two separate stories (The Globes Hardball Softball, and the Justices University hires new softball coach, Oct. 10), that a player felt that the firing will be for the better, while she simultaneously cited the axing of Sullivan as completely inappropriate. The opinion of the team regarding Sullivan is very unclear, and without further disclosure by the Athletics Department of the wake of complaints made against Sullivan before her firing, it is near impossible to properly contextualize the situation. Further speculation only serves to obscure the reasoning for this decision.

Sullivan claimed that she was fired because the university was interested in younger coaches. The new softball coach, Jessica Johnson, is indisputably younger;

however, she has more recent successes on the field than Sullivan. According to the Brandeis University Athletics website, Johnson led the Mustangs [Mount Ida College] to two of their winningest seasons in program history. The Judges as led by Sullivan had a 20-24 record last semester, a vast improvement over the previous years 9-27 record.

We do not desire to pass judgment on the Athletics Departments decision for firing Sullivan;

the facts alone do not provide a clear picture. It would be wrong for the community, or the media, to assume guilt on the part of any party without a full, balanced account of the firing. Good journalism requires not only a survey of what is available, but also an acknowledgment of which facts remain cloaked.