ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Drama for the Southern Connecticut softball team in the NCAA

This is from Wednesday's NH Register:

It has been the most successful season in Southern Connecticut State softball history.

But the Owls have been thrown a curve ball, as they gear up for the program’s first trip to a Super Regional.

A source said Wednesday that Southern assistant coach Paul Raccio received a letter from school officials on Monday that the university would not renew his contract after this season. The source said the letter had to be sent out on Monday, but Raccio’s contract runs through June 15.

The source and players said Raccio will coach for the remainder of this season.

It’s a case of bad timing for No. 1 Southern (40-10), who needs two wins on the weekend to earn its first College World Series berth. The Owls will face No. 2 Molloy in the Super Regional on Friday at Yale’s DeWitt Family Field.

Raccio, who is his eighth season under head coach Lisa Barbaro, had no comment on the issue other than to say that it was in the hands of the union. Raccio is also an assistant to Barbaro on the volleyball team.

Barbaro also would not comment. She said she still has a year left on her contract.

The players are backing Raccio.

“It’s devastating to the team,” senior Alyssa Downs said. “He puts so much into this and he’s such a big part of this. He helped build the program to where it is today. It makes us want to do well for him.”

“All I can say is that Paul and Lisa are two of the most impactful people in my life,” Owls senior Jessica Rosa said. “He doesn’t deserve to lose his job. We’d never be where we are without him.”

The Southern team went to meet with school president Mary Papazian on Wednesday, but was told she was out of the office for the remainder of the day. The team then went to meet with athletic director Pat Nicol, but was refused a meeting.

Nicol could not be reached for comment.

Mike Kobylanski, Southern Connecticut State’s Assistant Athletic Director, said the school wouldn’t comment because it does not comment on “personnel” issues. Kobylanski did say that coaches at Southern are treated as if they are faculty.

“They belong to a union and there is a process that the school has to follow,” he said.

There was no word on a timetable for the union’s involvement in the matter.

Both Rosa and Downs said Raccio’s coaching style could have led to the situation. Rosa described his coaching style as aggressive.

“He could rub people the wrong way,” Rosa said. “But I wouldn’t be the player I am today he didn’t get in my face one time or another.”

Downs added that the administration doesn’t like his coaching style and that “they’ve made comments about it” in the past.

Raccio has worked in the educational system for nearly two decades. He is the former athletic director and head baseball coach of the Hyde High School and serves as an instructor and coach at the Batters Box. He coached the Hamden American Legion team and was an assistant football coach at Hyde.

The Owls vow this won’t be a distraction, as they look to make a run to the College World Series.

“This adds more fuel to the fire,” Rosa said. “We’ve worked well under pressure before and this will just make us stronger.”

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