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It appears the Ehren Earleywine Title IX investigation is just about over

We're getting pretty clear hints that the Title IX investigation of Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine is just about over.


We heard hints.

We got tips from sources.

We had official comments.

It's beginning to look like Ehren Earleywine will indeed be Missouri's softball coach again next spring.

This wave of hints comes on the heels of yet another softball departure -- it was reported on Monday that pitcher Tori Finucane, the 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, would be transferring to Minnesota. Finucane's role had been significantly reduced in 2016 as she recovered from the physical and mental effects of a nasty line drive to the face in Mizzou's 2015 super regional loss to UCLA.

Finucane was the second Tiger pitcher to transfer this month after Paige Lowary announced her intention to play for Oklahoma. According to the KC Star, Lowary was one of the players behind the complaint that triggered an investigation into Earleywine.

The loss of the two pitchers was preceded by a string of other departures. Back in May, freshman infielder Chase Nelson and sophomore outfielder Morgan Walters decided to leave. At the time, Nelson's mother denied speculation that her decision was related to the investigation, saying via Twitter that Nelson is in "good standing with coaches & loves her teammates" and that "coach E supports her."

Then in June, sophomore infielder Sydney Sprague also declared her intention to transfer, specifically noting that her decision was based on the desire to be closer to her home in Georgia.

The loss of the five transfer players is magnified by the loss of Mizzou's top three hitters -- Emily Crane, Taylor Gadbois, and Sami Fagan -- to graduation. With softball transfer season coming to a close, it remains to be seen if Earleywine might be able to mitigate some of the losses by bringing in a few transfer players of his own. Just last season, Chloe Rathburn was brought in from South Alabama and hit .330 with 15 HR and 60 RBI for the Tigers.

The investigation initially came to light on May 7, when the Tigers announced they were playing in protest of the athletic department's handling of the issue. The investigation centered around complaints that Earleywine has verbally abused players, using profanity and sexist and disrespectful language on numerous occasions. The team's unity council, consisting of five players (including one from each graduating class), went on to release statements outlining the team's discontent with the investigation and feeling that it was taking place with the goal of terminating Earleywine's contract rather than protecting players.

The investigation overshadowed another tournament run by the Tigers. After closing out the regular season the day after the protest with a 2-0 win over South Carolina, Mizzou fell to SC in an extra-innings affair in their SEC tournament opener. Drawing the 15 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Tigers proceeded to dominate their regional competition before falling in the super regional to second-seeded Michigan in two close games.