USF: Concern for players' safety led to softball forfeit
USF's athletic department issued a statement Sunday afternoon stating that Bulls softball coach Ken Eriksen's decision to take his players off the field and forfeit a game at DePaul was related to "concerns related to the safety and welfare of ... team members," adding that USF has contacted the Big East's league office to inform them of those concerns.
USF's statement said the Bulls will have no further comment until the Big East office has "reviewed and addressed the matter." A posting to the Twitter.com page for USF softball had indicated that the forfeit was not related to any calls made by officials in Sunday's game, which ended in the bottom of the second inning with DePaul, which was ahead 1-0, given a victory by forfeit.
Such a forfeit is certainly rare, especially on the final day of the regular season -- Eriksen's decision directly impacted his team's seeding in the conference tournament. Had USF won, it would have earned the third seed in the field, but with the loss, the Bulls have the No. 4 seed in the eight-team tournament and will face fifth-seeded Louisville on its home field in Thursday's first round.
The Bulls and Blue Demons split a doubleheader on Saturday, with USF handing DePaul just its second conference loss to end a 16-game winning streak. Notre Dame had already earned the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament before USF's game, but a DePaul win, coupled by a Notre Dame loss, would have given the Blue Demons a share of the regular-season crown; Notre Dame won its game to clinch the crown outright.
USF's issues with the game have nothing to do with field conditions or the officiating in the game -- there had been a rain delay on the same field Saturday, and a cancellation (rather than a loss) would make USF the No. 3 seed, rather than the No. 4. It is clearly an issue between Eriksen and DePaul -- he and Blue Demons coach Eugene Lenti have been conference rivals for 15 years.
DePaul addressed the issue with a two-paragraph posting on its official site, saying nothing more than that game officials had determined that DePaul won by forfeit after USF left the field.