May 26, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Softball Players Detail Years of Mistreatment by Coach, Neglect by Cornell Athletics’

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To the Editor:

I am writing in response to a May 11 letter to the editor in The Sun signed by several alumni and former coaches of Cornell Softball. While I respect their loyalty for supporting a former teammate, coach or colleague, I note the following. First, only four of the 52 players who signed the letter actually played for head coach Julie Farlow ’97 during her tenure as head coach; second, each of those four players was in her senior season when she played for Farlow as head coach (I understand the player in the Class of 2017 who signed the letter was abroad her entire junior year); and third, none of them played for Farlow as head coach for more than one year. Accordingly, the perspective offered by the alumni players is based on their experiences with Farlow as a teammate or an assistant coach under the direction and supervision of the beloved and highly successful Coach Dick Blood and not as a head coach. While Farlow may have been adequate as a teammate or an assistant coach following the guidance of Coach Blood, as a head coach she has been an absolute failure and is single-handedly destroying the culture, goodwill and reputation of a program Coach Blood and each of the alumni players worked so hard over the years to build and maintain. More importantly, she is a significant risk to the health and safety of Cornell’s student-athletes.

In addition to the team’s horrendous record (last place or tied for last place in the Ivy League in three of her four seasons as head coach), her failure as a head coach is illustrated by the noticeable absence of all of the five players from the Class of 2018 from the list of supporters signing the letter. Since the Class of 2018 alumni players had three years to evaluate Farlow’s head coaching qualities in comparison to their single year under Coach Blood, their silence speaks volumes. Also, an abnormally high player attrition rate during Farlow’s tenure as head coach suggests an environment far removed from the rewarding, safe and supportive atmosphere described by the alumni players signing the letter. A review of historical Cornell Softball rosters reveals that only one of the four players from the Class of 2019 who were freshmen during Farlow’s inaugural season as head coach (2016) remained on the team through the 2019 season and that one remaining player was one of the courageous athletes to speak out about Farlow’s abuse and maltreatment in the article published in The Sun on May 6. As the only person on the planet with four years of experience with Farlow as head coach, surely her commentary should be given credibility. Attrition rates of players from the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 are not much better. Of 11 players from the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021, only five remain on the team. Clearly, something is horribly wrong with Cornell Softball, but the athletic department, school administration and those alumni players and former coaches signing the letter refuse to recognize that the cause is Farlow.

In their letter to the editor, the alumni players and former coaches appear to imply that the student-athletes brave enough to speak out somehow confused mistreatment with zealous coaching. If this was the intent, I strongly disagree. By the time each player arrives on campus for her freshman year, she has played softball for over 10 years, competed at the highest levels all around the country and experienced all forms of coaching. As intelligent young women with the qualifications to meet the high academic standards of the Ivy League, surely they can discern the difference between a tough coach and an abusive one. To dismiss the cause of their suffering as some more palatable version of the truth is disrespectful to those brave athletes who spoke out and perpetuates the hostile environment that currently exists. If we have learned anything from the USA Gymnastics-Larry Nassar debacle, it is that that we all need to listen to victims and actually hear what they are saying.

To the Cornell Softball alumni and former coaches, instead of blindly supporting a perception of someone you knew from the past, I implore you to recognize what is happening in the present and do something about it. Talk to the players. Read the articles. Pressure the administration to finally take some action with respect to four years of year-end player evaluations of Farlow. Clearly, you all love Cornell Softball. Unfortunately, for the present-day members of the team and those players who resigned or were dismissed from the team as a direct result of the toxic culture created by Farlow, they will never share this love because they were not lucky enough to play under Coach Blood. Instead, they were stuck with someone who learned nothing from him.

Christopher J. Dole, parent of former player