On Monday, Miller and two other UMD coaches slapped back: They filed a federal lawsuit against the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, “claiming discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, age, and national origin, as well as retaliation for their advocacy for gender equity in the athletics department at UMD”. Last December, the university decided not to renew her or her coaching staff’s contracts, citing a budget deficit.
Banford alleges that the university discharged her because she’s female, gay and Canadian.
A statement from UMD Chancellor Lendley Black says in part: “We continue to refute the allegations and claims of discrimination and will aggressively defend ourselves in the lawsuit”.
“UMD continues its focus and commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion, and I am personally committed to continuing an environment where diversity is embraced”, he said.
The 45-page complaint alleges that Wiles, the former women’s basketball coach, was “forced” to resign in June “due to the hostile and discriminatory environment created by the University”, according to the Star Tribune.
Miller is a former Calgary police officer who coached the Canadian women to a world championship in 1997 as well as Olympic silver in 1998. She coached for seven seasons at UMD, taking the team to the playoffs twice.
Twenty-six alumni have represented their respective countries at Winter Olympics, including Canada’s Caroline Ouellette and Haley Irwin. Before coming to Duluth, Miller was a player and then coach on the Canadian national team.
They told her the decision was “strictly financial” and that the university simply couldn’t afford her salary, the lawsuit says.
UMD has hired new head coaches for all three sports; with Maura Crowell in women’s hockey, Jen Walter in softball and Mandy Pearson in women’s basketball. It rejects the argument that finances were the cause of Miller’s departure, noting that the men’s hockey coach was not asked to take a pay cut.
She has hired lawyers from both Minnesota and California.
Banford was released as the team’s director of hockey operations, which she held in addition to her softball coaching duties.