Shannon Miller continues testimony against UMD in discrimination - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Shannon Miller continues testimony against UMD in discrimination case

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On the fifth day of Shannon Miller's discrimination case against UMD the former women's hockey coach continued her testimony.

She and her attorneys are trying to prove when the university chose not to renew her contract they were discriminating against her as a woman and retaliating against her for complaining about unfair treatment.

On Friday she began her testimony explaining how she got to UMD and Monday she went on to describe her treatment there and the events leading up to the December 9, 2014  meeting where she learned Athletic Director Josh Berlo and Chancellor Lendley Black would not renew her contract.

Leading up to that meeting, Miller said her team was doing very well and their competitive performance greatly improved from her previous two years as coach. In December 2014, UMD's women's hockey team was ranked 6th in the country, although Berlo testified earlier he had concerns about the team losing to the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin early in the season.

"That greatly offends me because those are my girls," Miller said. "They do exceptionally well with what they are given."

Leading up to Miller's meeting with Berlo and Black, UMD had won 12 of their last 13 games.

"I thought I was going in there to get a new contract because we were doing so well," she said, fighting tears on the witness stand. "Then I felt flat, crushed, sick to my stomach. I felt lied to, deceived and really badly betrayed."

Miller said in that meeting there was no mention of the team's performance and the reasoning behind her non-renewal was discussed as a matter of budget. 

"I loved it," she said. "That's why I never left."

Her attorney, Dan Siegel also asked Miller why she filed the lawsuit in the first place and she said it was all about teaching women to stand up against discrimination and unfair treatment and referenced UMD's associate athletic director and senior women's administrator, Karen Stromme's earlier testimony.

"For women like Karen Stromme to stand up here and say Josh Berlo is great because he treats me like a human being," Miller said. "We deserve better than that."

In her cross examination the university questioned what Miller calls unfair treatment and pointed out while it didn't always go as she wanted the University addressed many of her concerns, when she complained.

The university's attorney Tim Pramas, brought up Miller's claims the university didn't investigate her complaints regarding hate mail. After questioning, Miller said she had discussed the matter with University Police and got a call from the University of Minnesota office of general counsel about her claims and she never had a problem with hate mail after that.

Miller said that part of the investigation happened "against my wishes," as she said she requested an internal investigation to keep the matter in-house and not receive media attention.

Pramas also brought up that Bill Holler, a former UMD compliance coordinator, was removed a year after Miller complained and the university conducted an investigation. Pramas added the university replaced him with a woman.

As for scholarships, Pramas argued some years Miller's program had more money for scholarships than the men, but Miller countered, both teams got 18 scholarships each per NCAA rules but as many of Miller's players were international their tuition cost more than Minnesota players which make up much of the men's team. 

Pramas also brought up Miller's complaints about a smaller travel budget for non-conference games. Pramas said the men's team travels farther for their conference games so they need a bigger budget and often they bus to their non-conference games because rivals like the Gophers are no longer in their conference but are close. He also explained the men's team has fewer conference games so they need to travel more to play non-conference games, but both teams get to travel by air to one non-conference game.

Miller denied that.

They also tackled the issue of the UMD women's hockey team's academic progress rate or APR. Pramas says in Miller’s last year the team's APR was ranked last in the country for women’s hockey. A failing APR means a team is ineligible for NCAA post season play and Miller testified they were never in danger of that.

At the time Miller testifies the team was at .940 and .930 is a failing APR. Miller went on to say the APR was artificially low because it factors in players leaving the team. Before the 2014-2015 season, Miller said six players left. Miller said three were dismissed because they were drinking heavily and "not adapting to the division I lifestyle," two players transferred because they weren't playing as much as they would have liked to and another player quit hockey altogether but stayed to graduate UMD. Another player Miller said left at the beginning of the season because she wasn't playing enough.

Miller said she discussed these students leaving the program in favor of nine new players with Berlo who's only voiced concern was the APR.

"If I have to win more, I have to make changes," she said.

Miller also argued graduation rates are a better measure of academic success and many of her student athletes made it onto the WCHA All-Academic team.

Following Miller's testimony, the plaintiff's have a handful of witnesses left, including former softball coach and Miller's partner Jen Banford, a father of one of Miller's former players and testimony to the calculation of damages.

The trial is expected to last through Wednesday.

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