NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Belmont University is looking for a new women's soccer coach following Lisa Howe's departure this week.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, the university said Howe did not resign from her employment nor was she dismissed.
"Rather, there was a mutual agreement that it would be in the best interests of both Coach Howe and the university for her to conclude her employment as coach," the statement read.
Howe's departure from the Christian based university comes after she told school administrators and the team she and her same-sex partner were having a baby.
Initially, university officials said Howe's decision to leave was her own, implying her sexual orientation had nothing to do with it.
Her former players never believed it.
"They've always acted under a 'don't ask, don't tell policy'," player Erica Carter told News 2.
"She was sick of trying to hide these amazing events in her life from people she felt so strongly with," junior Sari Lin said in defense of her former coach.
"She said she went to the administration to get permission to talk to us about [the pregnancy] so that she could bring us to light on her becoming a mother," Carter told The Tennessean. "She didn't want us to hear it from other sources. She has never talked about her personal life before. We always hear rumors, speculation and things. She wanted this to come directly from her."
It was after returning from Thanksgiving break they learned she was leaving.
"I got a phone call from Lisa saying, 'I just want to let you know I lost my job today,'" Carter recalled. "I could hear in her voice she was choked up, tears in her voice."
"We could just tell from how she was so upset," added Lin. "Everything we know about Lisa… [we know] she was asked to leave."
Lin met with Belmont's athletic director Mike Strickland earlier this week.
"He said you can't hide a baby," Lin said. "He pretty much told me that once the baby was born she was going to get fired anyway, so it's better to do it sooner than later."
Carter added, "She basically explained they told her word for word, because of her morals and values and her decisions, it conflicted with Belmont's morals and values so she could no longer be an employee of Belmont University."
Strickland declined to speak to the media, but expressed his gratefulness to Howe for her work with the women's soccer program in a statement released Friday.
"Belmont is grateful for the work Coach Howe has done and her commitment to women's soccer and Belmont Athletics," the statement read. "The university appreciates her years of service and wishes her all the best."
The women's soccer team's assistant coaches also declined to comment.
Howe coached six seasons at Belmont.
Under her leadership, the women's soccer team recently earned its sixth-consecutive NSCAA College Women's Team Academic Award, posting a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and in 2008, the team won the Atlantic Sun Championship and received its first ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Tennessee Human Rights Act does not offer protection based on sexual orientation.
In the area of employment and public accommodation, the THRA protects against discrimination based on a person's race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, disability and age (older than 40).