Ah, Florida Gators head softball coach Tim Walton and the Fagan family. A conflict that goes back half a decade reared its ugly head again Monday night as Auburn topped Florida 1-0.
Going through the handshake line after the game, Haley Fagan of Auburn pulled her hand away from Walton, leading the Gators coach to tag her shoulder instead. Fagan immediately responded by pushing Walton in the back and started yelling from there as teammates pulled her away from the Florida coach.
Things got heated in the postgame handshake line after Auburn's win over Florida pic.twitter.com/pASh5nV5Io
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 28, 2017
So how and why did this all happen? It’s a long story.
Walton had no choice but to suspend and then dismiss three players ahead of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, an event in which the Gators looked poised to dominate and potentially win. Kasey Fagan, Sami Fagan and Cheyenne Coyle were all forced away from the program after an off-field incident was followed by an altercation with other players on the team. UF got knocked out of the Gainesville Regional and won fewer than four games in the tournament for the first time in five seasons.
It also ruined an opportunity for Florida to mow down competition with Hannah Rogers on the mound and was Michelle Moultrie’s last chance at a championship as she played her final game that season.
“I think at the end of the day, it’s all about your team,” Walton said at the time. “And it’s all about the program. It’s all about the University of Florida. It’s all about the Gators. I’m not going to say too many words, but that’s what it’s all about. That’s the most important part of being a leader of this team. It’s all about the Gators.”
He added: “I think it’s a lesson for everybody. It’s a lesson for me as a parent. It’s a lesson for me as a coach. It’s a lesson for our players. It’s a lesson for our staff and our coaches. Again, I think at the end of the day as a coach I try to do the best job that I can do and gathering everything I can do to be a good leader and try to be consistent as possible.”
The split-up was ugly and resulted in tremendous animosity between the coach and family due not only to the players’ actions but the way the situation was initially handled.
Sami Fagan transferred to Missouri and Kasey Fagan went to Arkansas. Kasey Fagan and Coyle then reunited as graduate assistants with the Tigers with Haley Fagan joining them as an incoming recruit at Auburn.
It all came to a head on Monday right at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida,” as the Tigers handed the Gators just their second loss of the season. Florida won the series with 4-3 and 7-0 victories over the weekend and had not dropped a game since Feb. 18.
“I apologize to Haley. I just wanted to congratulate Auburn on the win – it was a good series,” Walton said in a statement released on Twitter. “My intent was to give a high-five to each opposing player as we do after every game. Apparently, her hand wasn’t up as I said ‘good game,’ and I touched her shoulder. I should have paid closer attention and did not intend to upset her.
“I regret that this has taken attention away from the effort and sportsmanship both teams displayed all weekend.”