Response for UMD coaches

Last week, the U officially responded to discrimination claims filed by former coaches.

Brian Edwards

The University of Minnesota responded Wednesday to discrimination claims made last fall by three female former University of Minnesota-Duluth coaches. 
The Board of Regents filed court documents in response to the allegations raised by Shannon Miller, Jen Banford and Annette Wiles, which included claims of gender, age, sexual orientation and nationality-based discrimination. Last week, the coaches called for $18 million in damages, according to court documents filed on Monday.
Lawyers for three former UMD coaches suing the school for discrimination met University lawyers in court Monday, laying out the groundwork for an upcoming trial. 
Miller, the former head coach of the UMD women’s hockey team, amassed a .707 winning percentage and won five national titles during her 16-year tenure, but the school claims her team’s most recent performance and Miller’s high pay contributed to a financial decision to not renew her contract at the end of 2014.
The last time the women’s hockey team qualified for the NCAA tournament was in the 2010-11 season, where they were eliminated in the first round.
The University said in the statement that because Miller’s replacement also identified as gay, they did not discriminate against Miller based on her sexual orientation. 
Banford, the former director of hockey operations and head softball coach, also did not receive a contract renewal at the same time as Miller.
The school alleges that she was being removed from her position as director of hockey operations only and not from her position as head softball coach, saying it is common practice to allow the new coach to pick their own staff.
And the University’s documents claim that the school repeatedly offered the opportunity for her to come back as the head softball coach.
Banford incorrectly told the media that her contract for both jobs was not renewed, according to the University’s documents.
Similarly, the school claims they planned to retain Wiles, the former women’s basketball coach. 
The University’s statement alleges Wiles told two coaches at UMD that Miller and Banford’s discrimination claims were untrue and that she “admitted that she did not suffer any discriminatory animus” as an openly gay employee.
The school claims that Wiles’ relationship with the University soured over disputes related to a car leased by the University that Wiles was using.
Dan Siegel, the attorney for the coaches, said the University’s response isn’t surprising.
“I’ve been doing this work close to 40 years, and I’ve never yet been in a case that simply says, ‘You’re right,’ and agrees to solve the problem,” he said.
After the lawyers’ meeting Monday, he said, the case can begin to move forward and lawyers can begin to subpoena documents and hold interviews.
The school’s legal team is prepared to fight all of the charges lodged against the school, said Lynne Williams, a spokesperson for the University.
She said the University was limited in how it could respond when the coaches initially filed suit because of privacy reasons, and said the school has been gathering information since the claims were filed. 
In November, former and current athletes joined the three coaches to lodge a Title IX complaint with U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against UMD.
Williams said the school hasn’t yet been approached by the OCR for any further information. And she said she expects the Title IX complaint to be handled as a separate matter from the legal proceedings. 
Those claims came as the Twin Cities campus continues to be under investigation for Title IX violations.
In 2014, the University paid nearly $360,000 to former Twin Cities campus golf coach Katie Brenny after a judge ruled that she experienced sexual orientation-based