Lindsay Whalen declined special assistant job, took termination fee to leave Gophers

Lindsay Whalen signed the highest ranked recruiting class ever at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday. Four local players, all in the top-100 nationally, signed to make the 2022 class top-10 in the country at No. 7.

Lindsay Whalen declined an offer to be a special assistant to Mark Coyle back in March and no longer works in the University of Minnesota's Athletic Department, school officials confirmed to FOX 9 Wednesday night.

That’s according to a settlement document between Whalen and the Gophers. She received a one-time termination fee of $215,000, and no longer works for the school. Whalen was offered a role to work with Coyle as a special assistant to help the women's basketball team with fundraising and NIL efforts, but declined. She signed the document to take the buyout on April 6.

"While Lindsay previously agreed to remain in Athletics in a special assistant role when she met with myself and Tricia Budke, we respect Lindsay’s decision to no longer serve in that capacity. Lindsay is a Minnesota legend, and we hope that she continues to support the Gophers as a proud alum," Coyle said in a statement.

Whalen stepped down as Gophers’ coach after five seasons following a loss to Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota went 11-19 this past season, including 4-14 in the Big Ten. Whalen went 71-76 in five seasons with the Gophers, including 32-58 in Big Ten play. Coyle took a chance on Whalen in 2018, hiring her to take over a Big Ten program without any previous coaching experience. The Gophers tied for sixth in the Big Ten in her first season. Since? They’ve finished 11th, 10th, 10th and 12th this year. 

Coyle spoke with reporters on March 2 after announcing that Whalen would be stepping down. She was set to join him at the news conference, then decided not to at the last second. Coyle called it a "miscommunication" and said the decision for Whalen to step down was "mutual."

"As we had those conversations, we felt like it was in the best interest for our program and for her as a person that she step down. We just felt like now was the right time," Coyle said back in March.

Whalen hasn’t spoken publicly since, other than appearing at Minnesota Lynx events last weekend to commemorate the franchise and Sylvia Fowles having her jersey retired. Whalen led the Gophers as a player in their only appearance at the NCAA Women’s Final Four, in 2003.

The Gophers have since replaced Whalen with Dawn Plitzuweit, who was introduced on March 20.