3 ex-UMD women's coaches expected to announce lawsuit Monday

Three former University of Minnesota Duluth coaches are expected to announce a lawsuit connected to discrimination claims against the school at a news conference in Eden Prairie on Monday.

Shannon Miller, Jen Banford and Annette Wiles each received right-to-sue letters from the U.S. Department of Justice, according to representing attorney Dan Siegel of Siegel & Lee in Oakland, Calif. The news conference will be held at the law firm of Fafinski Mark & Johnson in Eden Prairie. The coaches are being represented by Seigel, Anne Butterfield Weills of Siegel & Lee, and Donald Chance Mark, Jr. of Fafinski Mark & Johnson, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

In an email, UMD’s director of marketing and public relations released a statement from Chancellor Lendley Black:

"We are committed to fostering a campus climate that is welcoming to all individuals. I support the leadership, direction, and positive momentum of UMD Bulldog athletics."

The email also contained the following statement:

“We are aware that there is a press conference on Monday and are not in a position to comment about what the individuals or their lawyers will discuss there. We have fully cooperated with an internal review of the complaints raised, and dispute the broad claims of discrimination.”

Miller served as head coach of the Bulldog women’s hockey team for 16 years, and helped lead them to five NCAA national championships. In December, she was told her contract wouldn’t be renewed, citing a $4.5 million budget deficit. Her $215,000 salary made her the highest-paid coach in women's hockey. She has accused the university of Title IX violations and discrimination based on her gender and because she’s gay.

Banford, the head women’s softball coach, was told at the same time as the rest of Miller’s hockey staff that she wouldn’t be brought back as the team’s director of hockey operations. She was offered a one-year contract from the university to remain head softball coach, but she declined.

Head women’s basketball coach Wiles resigned in June after seven seasons, citing an unhealthy work environment.

Siegel has won two of the largest Title IX judgments ever handed down involving coaches who were fired in part for advocating for equal treatment of female coaches and athletes.