DULUTH, Minn. — Former women’s hockey coach, Saskatchewan- born Shannon Miller was awarded nearly US$3.75 million after suing the University of Minnesota Duluth for discrimination and retaliation.
The federal jury Thursday awarded Miller more than $744,000 for lost wages and benefits and $3 million for emotional distress.
Judge Patrick Schiltz will decide future wage and benefit damages.
The jury found during the eight-day trial that UMD discriminated against Miller on the basis of sex and retaliated against her for making Title IX complaints regarding the disparity between the men’s and women’s hockey programs.
Despite being among the most successful women’s hockey coaches, UMD declined to renew Miller’s contract in late 2014 after 16 seasons. Her teams won five national championships, but failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament during her final four seasons.
UMD’s lawyer emphasized a decline in the team’s performance, while Miller’s legal representative pointed to the school’s shifting explanation for the non-renewal of her contract. The university said it’s considering an appeal.
“It’s a big day, really, for women,” Miller said after the verdict. “For women period, but especially women in college athletics.”
The jury unanimously found UMD liable on both counts.
“It’s a real rebuke to the leadership of UMD and to the athletic department in particular,” said Miller’s lawyer, Dan Siegel. “I hope it’s a new day for this university and this community as women all over the world are saying, ‘Time’s up.’”
Miller is a former head coach of the Canadian women’s national team, leading the team to world championship gold in 1997 and Olympic silver in ’98.
Athletic director Josh Berlo and UMD chancellor Lendley Black attended the trial. Berlo, previously a senior assistant athletic director for guest relations and event marketing at Notre Dame, fired Miller after a year and a half on the job.
“I want to say I’m extremely disappointed in this decision and very surprised by the decision,” Black said during a news conference outside the courthouse. “I still stand behind the actions that I took at UMD.”
Miller, 54, and former UMD softball coach Jen Banford and former women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles also filed suit in state court, contending the university discriminated against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Miller said she’ll look for jobs in men’s and women’s college hockey and would like to become the first female coach in the NHL.