A topsy-turvy season for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga softball team took a bizarre turn this week following a forfeit of a nonconference game at Alabama-Birmingham on Tuesday.
According to sources close to the program and the university, the Lady Mocs refused to take the field in the second game of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader after players allegedly objected because of an internal dispute about the starting lineup.
Athletic department officials at UTC and UAB refused to comment on the particulars of the incident, but UTC sports information director Jay Blackman confirmed that Lady Mocs head coach Frank Reed has been suspended for the team's next two games by NCAA rules.
"We are aware of a forfeited game Tuesday at UAB, and we are handling it internally," Blackman said. "However, per NCAA rules, coach Frank Reed will be suspended for the next two games.
"Everything else will be handled internally."
NCAA softball rule 13.10 mandates a two-game suspension for a coach when the team "is on site but refuses to begin a game for which it is scheduled or assigned within five minutes after the umpire has called 'Play ball,' unless such delay in appearing or in commencing the game is unavoidable."
A source familiar with the situation said some players have been suspended for two games as well and must write letters of apology to Athletic Director David Blackburn and UTC interim Chancellor Grady Bogue to remain on the team.
UTC media relations coordinator Chuck Cantrell declined to comment, saying Bogue was aware of the situation and was allowing the athletic department to handle the situation.
The Lady Mocs were traveling to Southern Conference foe Elon on Friday for the final three games of the regular season, and the SoCon tournament begins Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C. Should this weekend's games be canceled because of bad weather, Blackman said it isn't clear if Reed's suspension would be served during the tournament or put off until the start of the 2014 season.
After winning five straight SoCon regular-season titles from 2007 to 2011 -- earning NCAA tournament bids in 2008, 2009 and 2011 -- and finishing second in the league last season despite a 20-2 conference record, the Lady Mocs have been inconsistent on the field this season.
They are 26-22 overall and in fourth place in the SoCon standings with a record of 10-8. There are 13 new players on the team this season, including nine true freshmen, following the graduation of several 2012 contributors, including starting shortstop Jessica Traxler, starting catcher Vivian Morimoto and pitcher/designated player and 2012 Southern Conference Female Athlete of the Year Michelle Fuzzard.