Sports equity discussions reach Board of Regents Legislators, emergency planners seek oil plan

Administrators examined Title IX compliance across the University. system following alleged gender inequality.

Norwood Teague, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, speaks about Title lX at Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday, July 8. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating the University's compliance with Title lX.

Christopher Wakefield

Norwood Teague, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, speaks about Title lX at Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday, July 8. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating the University's compliance with Title lX.

Christopher Aadland

As the University of Minnesota continues to grapple with gender equity concerns in athletic departments across multiple campuses, the Board of Regents waded into the conversation at its meeting last week. Regents received updates on the schoolâÄôs Title IX compliance procedures and the progress of federal and internal investigations into alleged gender inequity in its sports programs. Board members took no action, and the University wonâÄôt move forward until the U.S. Department of EducationâÄôs Office for Civil Rights completes a review of the athletic departments. Issues like female athletesâÄô lack of access to track facilities and an exodus of women coaches at the Duluth campus in recent months have sparked complaints, investigations, outside consultation and threatened lawsuits. âÄúIn just about all we do, there are improvements to be made,âÄù University President Eric Kaler said at the meeting, adding that an external investigationâÄôs findings were mostly positive, though he couldnâÄôt elaborate. âÄúIf we find things we can do better in regard to Title IX and [University Athletics], we will.âÄù The Office for Civil Rights began an investigation after receiving anonymous complaints that the University wasnâÄôt treating women athletes fairly, said Tracy Smith, the schoolâÄôs deputy general counsel. Deputy Athletics Director Beth Goetz said at the meeting that the University met Title IX guidelines. She also said the schoolâÄôs greatest weakness with Title IX compliance is a lack of track facilities for women. Meanwhile, the departure of three womenâÄôs athletics coaches at the Duluth campus has raised concerns over unfair treatment of women within that department. Some threatened lawsuits against the University after it announced in December that head womenâÄôs hockey coach Shannon Miller âÄî who led Duluth to five national championships and identifies as lesbian âÄî would not receive a contract extension, furthering complaints of unfair treatment of women in the schoolâÄôs athletic department. In a letter from DuluthâÄôs athletic director dated Dec. 11, 2014, head softball coach and director of hockey operations Jen Banford learned her appointment would end June 14. Also in June, womenâÄôs basketball head coach Annette Wiles resigned her position. Both women also identify as lesbian. âÄúThere seems to be an actual campaign to eliminate coaches that identify as lesbians,âÄù said Dan Siegel, an Oakland, California-based attorney who represents the three women. âÄúIf you look at the facts âĦ you have to ask yourself, âÄòWhatâÄôs going on here?âÄôâÄù MillerâÄôs contract was not renewed for âÄúfinancial considerations,âÄù according to a December press release. The Duluth campus is in the midst of erasing a $12 million budget deficit from two years ago. Siegel said complaints have been filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Lawsuits will be filed on behalf of the three former coaches once âÄúright to sueâÄù letters arrive from the commission, Siegel said.