Rally opposes dismissal of UMD women's hockey coach
DULUTH, Minn. - Several dozen University of Minnesota-Duluth students, staff members and other women's hockey fans rallied on campus Thursday against the school administration's decision to not renew the contract of longtime coach Shannon Miller.
DULUTH, Minn. – Several dozen University of Minnesota-Duluth students, staff members and other women’s hockey fans rallied on campus Thursday against the school administration’s decision to not renew the contract of longtime coach Shannon Miller.
UMD announced Monday night that Miller, who led the Bulldogs to five national titles as the only coach in the program’s 16-year history, would not be brought back after this season because of its inability to maintain her current salary. The university is facing a $5.5 million budget deficit.
But that reasoning didn’t sit well with the fans gathered outside Kirby Student Center on Thursday morning. They questioned both the decision to part ways with an iconic local sports figure, and the timing of the announcement – at midseason, during final exams.
“I hope that UMD … realizes what they’ve had in her this whole time and takes her back,” student Maxwell Helmberger said. “Or if not, I hope that she is able to find work somewhere that will truly appreciate her.
“I think we would all love to see Shannon Miller and her staff reinstated and see the university issue an apology, but I don’t think that the university is going to have the accountability to follow through with either of those,” said student Criss Ririe, who helped organize the rally. “I think ideals are out of the picture until they can step up and admit that they’ve done something that’s really wrong.”
After Thursday’s rally, UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo said “we appreciate and respect the campus community and respect their views on this difficult situation.”
Those at the rally questioned why the university did not pursue a compromise with Miller for a possible reduction in salary. Miller said on Monday night that she “wasn’t given the opportunity to help find a compromise after being here 16 years and being such a successful coach. I think it’s a very wrong move on their part and I’m embarrassed for them. I’m saddened and disappointed in what’s happening without open conversations and trying to solve a problem together as adults.”
Berlo had said Monday that those conversations never happened because the university administration believed a significant pay cut would not be appropriate for Miller. That explanation didn’t satisfy Thursday’s crowd.
“I absolutely feel that there could have been more conversation in general,” Joanne Coffin-Langdon, an instructor at UMD, said at the rally. “It seems like Shannon and her staff were willing to take a pay cut and that wasn’t discussed at all with her. The excuse has been said that they wouldn’t ask her to take a pay cut because she’s worthy of so much more. I’m surprised. I’m shocked actually that UMD would just single out, it seems, women’s hockey. Why wouldn’t pay cuts go across the department of athletics, across every sport?”