ATHLETICS: Ball State announces firing of soccer coach Lovett, field hockey coach Payne

Firings come almost a month after the firing of women's tennis coach Kathy Bull

Three of the 10 Ball State University women's athletics teams are now searching for leadership after the athletics department announced on Wednesday it would not be renewing the contracts of soccer coach Michael Lovett and field hockey coach Annette Payne.

Lovett and Payne join former women's tennis coach Kathy Bull as the three Cardinals' coaches fired within the past month. Bull was fired on Oct. 20 amidst six NCAA violations.

The contracts of soccer assistant coach Amber Alexander and field hockey assistant coach Liz Sanders will also not be renewed.

Ball State athletics director Tom Collins said there was no immediate timetable on finding coaching replacements for the soccer and field hockey teams. In the meantime, members of the athletics staff will monitor the teams.

"With the holidays here, this is kind of a time when it winds down for our student-athletes," Collins said. "They're really just doing some training in the weight room and things like that."

Members of the soccer and field hockey teams were not made available to the media on Wednesday, but Collins said he met with the rosters of the two teams on Wednesday to announce the news of the firings.

"I think change for some people is harder than others," Collins said. "What we wanted to stress to them is we're here to help, we want to make sure that they have a good experience academically, athletically, told them all the doors that are open for them in the athletic department."

Lovett and Payne did not return calls to The Ball State Daily News on Wednesday night.

Collins said his job will be to find replacements to return the soccer and field hockey programs to the elite statuses they once held among Mid-American Conference schools.

The soccer team won two straight Mid-American Conference Championships in 2006 and 2007 prior to Lovett's hiring before the 2008 season. Battling inexperience the past two seasons, the Cardinals posted a 9-10-1 (5-5-1 MAC) record in 2008 and lost 1-0 to No. 2 seed Central Michigan University in the first round of the MAC Tournament.

The 2009 team didn't fare any better, posting a 4-13-1 (2-8-1 MAC) record — failing to make the MAC Tournament.

Payne was also unable to bring the field hockey program back to elite status after the Cardinals were dominant in the 1980s and '90s.

Ball State won MAC Championships from 1983-1991 and from 1993-1999, including MAC Tournament Championships from 1983-86 and 1993-97. The team made four NCAA appearances in that same span in 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1997.

Payne was an assistant on the Cardinals staff for two years before being promoted to head coach in July 2003. In her seven seasons as head coach, Payne accumulated a 35-96 (24-46 MAC) record. In the last two seasons, Ball State posted a 6-31 (3-17 MAC) overall record.

Collins said two factors make Ball State an attractive destination for soccer and field hockey coaching replacements.

"I think the two best selling points that we've got, number one, is Ball State University and the other is the Mid-American Conference," he said. "I think that both of those are huge selling points for us."

Sports reporter Mat Mikesell contributed to this report.


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