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USF head softball coach Ken Eriksen has been suspended from the Bulls' game Thursday in the Big East tournament for his decision to he take his team off the field Sunday in the second inning of a game at DePaul, resulting in a forfeit loss.

USF issued a statement late Tuesday night, saying that "NCAA rules mandate a suspension of the head coach" as a result of Eriksen's actions, which had USF said Sunday were done out of concern for the "safety and welfare" of his players. USF's statement also said the Big East had reviewed the concerns, and that the university's athletic department would have no further comment. It is unknown what if any action has been taken by the Big East.

USF assistant coach Stacey Heintz will step in for Eriksen for Thursday's opening-round game against Louisville. In an interview with the Times late Tuesday afternoon, Eriksen had spoken about preparing for Thursday's game as normal. Should the Bulls win Thursday, Eriksen would presumably return for the semifinals Friday, and potentially the league championship game Saturday.

"Our focus is on preparing for a great Louisville team, and our kids will be ready to go," Eriksen said in a statement released by USF.

Eriksen could have faced a harsher punishment -- the NCAA softball by-law regarding forfeits (see page 82 of this pdf) reads that "the head coach shall be ejected and then suspended from the institution's next two scheduled and played contests." The Big East, which has the authority to mitigate such a penalty, reduced the suspension to a single game. There's a good chance Eriksen was aware of that fine print -- he is the chair of the NCAA's softball rules committee for 2010-11.

Eriksen, who has a 644-352-1 record in 15 seasons as USF's head coach, called his players off the team during Sunday's game at DePaul, and USF said his concerns were not related to officiating or field conditions. DePaul and USF would not meet in Louisville until the championship game, should both teams win their first two games.