DePaul accused of ignoring allegations of abuse by Eugene Lenti


Jonathan Aguilar

Former softball coach Eugene Lenti pictured at the 2018 Big East Championship.

Former DePaul softball coach Eugene Lenti is the subject of a lawsuit filed Thursday alleging verbal and physical abuse of players and assistant coaches, according to the Associated Press.  

The lawsuit accuses DePaul of ignoring the allegations and violating Title IX rules to report claims made against the former coach. Lenti, who served for almost 40 years as coach with DePaul’s softball program, is the brother of long-time Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto. He now serves as an assistant coach at Auburn University. 

“We have not yet seen a copy of this complaint, but as a general matter the university does not comment on pending litigation,” a university representative told The DePaulia.

Lenti is married to former DePaul softball player Kandance Lenti, who is an executive with Wintrust Bank. She is credited with helping DePaul secure a naming rights contract for Wintrust Arena, which is estimated to be worth more than $22 million.

Lenti’s time at DePaul ended abruptly in June of 2018, when he unexpectedly retired. Players The DePaulia spoke with at the time said they had no expectation that he would leave his post as head coach. Assistant coaches Lindsay Platt and Lynsey Ciezki left the program at the same time as Lenti.

At the time, Lenti Ponsetto made no mention of the exit of her brother, who was also the longest-serving coach in the athletic department. 

“I still have time on my contract at the University,” Lenti Ponsetto told The DePaulia on Thursday, after the news about the lawsuit broke. “I think I’ve had a long and prosperous tenure at DePaul. I’m probably one of the administrators around the country who’s spent the most time on NCAA committees that is still active, and I think it’s because of the expertise I have. So, I think DePaul recognizes that.”

Lenti Ponsetto said that she hasn’t decided when her career at DePaul will end, and for now, she plans to stay at the university.

“When it’s appropriate for President Esteban and I to talk about that, we will,” she said. 

The suit was filed in Cook County Circuit court by sports psychologist Jenny Conviser, who said her contract to counsel DePaul athletes was terminated two years ago after she raised concerns to athletic department officials regarding Lenti’s behavior. Conviser had worked at DePaul since 2005 and said the contract was renewed for four years in 2017.

Conviser is suing DePaul for wrongful retaliation and defaming her reputation. She is seeking unspecified damages.

She said the contract was terminated in April 2018, a few weeks after a softball player informed one of Conviser’s therapists she saw Lenti punch his associate head coach in the face. Conviser said the player reported what happened to the school’s Title IX office, which opened an investigation.

The results of the investigation are unknown. The lawsuit said the investigator improperly disclosed the player’s identity to her teammates, who blamed her for “getting Lenti in trouble.”

Lenti retired in June after leading the Blue Demons to their fourth Big East title and an NCAA Tournament berth. In 37 years at DePaul, Lenti won a school-record 1,327 games and qualified for 20 NCAA Tournaments while also making four Women’s College World Series appearances, the latest in 2007.

The lawsuit alleges DePaul covered up the allegations by firing both assistant coaches — including the woman Lenti allegedly hit — following his retirement.

The 62-year-old Lenti was hired last year as an assistant coach at Auburn University. A message was left seeking comment from Auburn athletic director Allen Greene.

Conviser said she first became aware of concerns regarding Lenti in 2016, including the coach using profane language to verbally abuse his players on a regular basis. Conviser said she reported the allegations, but the school “took no steps to independently investigate” the coach — a violation of Title IX protocols.

Conviser said the school also violated Title IX rules by retaliating against her and her company by terminating the contract three years early. She also alleges DePaul libeled her by “revealing that it has told third parties that Dr. Conviser is incompetent and frequently gets her facts wrong and thus cannot be trusted in a professional capacity.”

DePaul’s Title IX office has come under fire recently for other potential breaches of protocol. The DePaulia reported last year that a student who sought help with the office was blamed for sexual assaults after using illicit substances.

In the past two years, DePaul has had three Title IX coordinators, two leaving within less than a year. The current coordinator, Kathryn Statz, was formerly DePaul’s associate athletic director.

The lawsuit alleges the “knowingly false statements” were made to athletes, trainers, coaches and others.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.