COS cites sanctions for decision to not rehire softball coach

Steve Gerace
Doug Eastman after one of his team's postseason wins this past spring in Weed.

College of the Siskiyous' decision to not bring back head softball coach Doug Eastman came as a shock to many in the community last week.

Fans, current and past players, and others who have long known and/or been associated with Eastman and his family used words such as "disheartening," "tragedy," "heartbreaking," and "baffling" to describe their feelings about the situation.

Many expressed surprise because of the positive way they believe Eastman has led the program for the last 12 years. Among other things, they point to the many players he's helped on and off the field, and the family atmosphere he created for the program, including support provided by his parents and wife.

Trustee Jim Hardy said he's one of the community members who sees this situation as "a tragedy." Hardy said, "I'm interested in looking into ways to relieve some of the sanctions, get beyond this, and look toward the future."

The college announced last week that it based its decision to seek a new softball coach on sanctions that were imposed against Eastman by both the California Community College Athletic Association and Golden Valley Conference.

The sanctions stemmed from a verbal incident involving Eastman and an umpire during the state championship game May 20 in Bakersfield.

The CCCAA placed an indefinite ban (meaning no stated time frame, but not permanent) on Eastman's participation in post-season playoff games.

The GVC, following an appeal by the college, reduced its initial suspension of Eastman to next season's first game and the first 10 conference games.

Both sanctions were imposed only on the coach, not the team.

"Our sanctions had an end time and did not have anything to do with his employment," said GVC commissioner Gary Lewis, former longtime track coach and former athletic director and president at Shasta College in Redding.

Eastman, who built the Eagle softball program into one of the state's best since 2001, said he felt compelled to stand up for his team in the championship game after an umpire made several calls that went against them.

The team was playing in the state tournament for the sixth year in a row, was one win away from winning it for the first time, and trailed Cypress by a run in the fifth inning. They eventually lost, 4-3.

Eastman said he had been warned by another coach prior to the start of the state tournament that this particular umpire hadn't given his team a fair shake in the state tournament a year earlier.

After what he thought was a third wrong call by the umpire, Eastman said he told the umpire what he thought.

Eastman believes he was thrown out of the game by the umpire "for no reason." He said he continued to express his displeasure and claims the umpire then responded with a racially charged statement.

"I reciprocated with an equal response to him, without any profanity," Eastman said. "I regret it. I wish I had the restraint to let him say what he said and walk away, but I know that I'm a human being and things happen. What I said is not what I believe; it's not my convictions. I feel poorly that it happened."

Eastman described his confrontation with the umpire as "a moment between two men. I was fighting for my team. He challenged me at the peak of the state championship game. This should have never left the ball field. It didn't affect the kids in any way."

It was the second time Eastman had been ejected from a game during his tenure as COS coach.

COS president Randy Lawrence said the college felt it had "little choice given the ruling" and decided to not rehire Eastman, who was a part-time adjunct faculty member.

In last week's press release, Lawrence says, "Given the level of play and the commitment of the college to our student-athletes and women's softball, we need to move forward with no holds on our performance. Women come here to play at the highest levels of competition, including state-level tournaments. We cannot provide that support in opposition to our conference and state governing boards."

COS appealed the CCCAA post-conference sanctions to a binding arbitration panel. The appeal was denied.

"From the Association standpoint, we won't condone and put up with it," CCCAA CEO and president Carlyle Carter said. "That's why the action was taken."

He added that the Association felt "heat of the moment" was not an acceptable justification.

Eastman said he went on vacation for two weeks after the state championships, and later got a request from Athletic Director Dennis Roberts to submit his description of what transpired between he and the umpire.

"I didn't know there was an investigation, and I hadn't seen the umpire's report," Eastman said. "I thought it was something I had to do and I was going to face a two game suspension."

He said he didn't mention at that time what the umpire said to him. "I wasn't trying to get that umpire in trouble. We were just two men barking at each other."

Eastman said he was shocked when he first heard about the sanctions. He disputes the umpire's version of events. "He said I used profanities and threatened him. He said the things I said after I got ejected were the reason I got ejected. Anybody that knows me knows I never use profanity."

With the help of a lawyer, Eastman said he put together a sworn affidavit to tell his side of the story for the appeal.

President Lawrence said in a phone interview last week that the college appealed the initial sanctions, in part, because the accusation against Eastman "didn't seem consistent with what we knew of his personality."

He said the college hadn't received much in the way of evidence until after the CCCAA binding arbitration panel was formed. He wondered why they hadn't sent more information sooner.

Eastman said he wasn't invited to the arbitration panel, which denied the appeal.

He said he was working on the field to get it looking good for the beginning of the school year when he was called into the vice president's office and told he was not being rehired.

"I've been honest and forthright about everything," Eastman said. "I figured COS would go to bat for me; what I hoped is they would have talked to me."

GVC commissioner Gary Lewis said he initially based his decision to suspend Eastman for an entire GVC season on statements from Eastman, COS athletic director Dennis Roberts, the umpire involved, and the other umpire. Video was available, although nothing that was said on the field could be heard on it.

Lewis said the more detailed statement Eastman submitted for the appeal, heard by a board of GVC athletic directors, may have been part of the reason the conference sanction was cut in half.

COS assistant coach Jeff Frizzell also contributed a statement for the appeal, according to Lewis.

Lewis said sanctions have been imposed against GVC coaches in the past because of physical altercations. "This is just as bad," he added.

Eastman, who finished his Masters degree in psychology last year "in hopes that the college would put me on full time," said he's frustrated that the school "didn't back me more." At the same time he expressed appreciation "to all the people that supported me and the program," including his parents and wife, fans, and many other community members. "I'm very proud with what I've accomplished. I wanted to make a difference in these kids' lives and I think I have. We accomplished things nobody thought possible. We brought excellent accountable kids to the school." He pointed to all the time he worked without pay, including postseason games. "I was hired part time but I was full time."