Despite success, UMD fires women’s hockey coach

The next time you wonder what’s the difference between men’s and women’s college sports, look no further than the University of Minnesota Duluth, which has announced it won’t renew the contract of the women’s hockey coach, Shannon Miller, because of “financial considerations.”

“We deeply appreciate and are proud of what Shannon has built and accomplished at UMD,” said Athletic Director Josh Berlo. “She established a winning program, raised it to the highest level of competition and sustained a national championship tradition over the last 15 years. Today’s decision about Shannon’s contract was an immensely difficult and financially driven decision. Unfortunately, UMD Athletics is not in a position to sustain the current salary levels of our women’s hockey coaching staff. However, we remain committed to supporting the Bulldog women’s hockey program.”

When’s the last time you saw a men’s collegiate coach fired after winning five NCAA championships, developing 28 current and former Olympians, and running up a .713 winning percentage?

Miller makes $215,000. The Duluth News Tribune says she was willing to take a salary cut.

“We’re coming out of a recession,” she told the paper. “They are making cuts at the university. Of course I would have taken a pay cut and possibly my staff would have taken one.”

“Shannon has made a lot of sacrifices for UMD,” the UMD athletic director said. To ask her to take a significant pay cut, we did have discussions but I would say that we determined it was best that, we determined that the contract couldn’t be extended.”

Scott Sandelin, the men’s hockey coach, makes a base salary of $235,000.

The women’s game attracts only a fraction of the fans that the men’s hockey program attracts, however. The men have an average attendance of about 6,000. A little over 1,000 people attend a women’s UMD hockey game.

(h/t: Ann Arbor Miller)

  • Robert Moffitt

    We have some top-notch women’s sports teams in this town, yet they still can’t draw fans. We tell our daughters that sports are not just for boys. Are we lying to them?

  • Gary F

    There is probably more to the story.

    It will be interesting to see what the new coach will be paid and how many assistant coaches they hire and at what cost.

    U of MN Gophers Woman’s Hockey coach Brad Frost 2014-2015 Salary $155,000.00 Bigger program, better attendance, bigger overall school athletic budget.

  • The DNT’s interview with the athletic director is really interesting, especially the part about why it didn’t take her up on her offer to work for less.

  • Jill Schedel

    UMD is absolutely stealing from her …. Shame. This is her program, her work. She built it from nothing .. And they are taking it. I know the men bring in more income, I get that, but when’s the last time you saw a men’s collegiate coach fired after winning 5 championships ..making dozens of Olympians and a .700 win avg?

    • Robert Ries

      What part of the Women’s program losing money don’t you get?
      It’s not about her record, titles, Women’s entitlement, it’s about the bottom line. If you aren’t in the position to finance her career, then you should be able to understand why these things happen.
      Stealing from her? I’ll try to remember that the next time an overpaid coach finds unfounded angst.

      • Mark

        I haven’t seen anywhere what the men’s is at financially so it’s pretty hard to make that comparison.

  • KTFoley

    In the interview with the Duluth News Tribune, the AD says that UMD will not be comparing themselves to Big Ten teams for competitive salaries but rather to other recent hires in the WCHA — ostensibly, Bemidji or St. Cloud.

    Let’s check the NCAA women’s hockey national championship winners in the 14 years that it has existed so far.
    Minnesota Duluth: 5
    Minnesota Twin Cities: 4
    Wisconsin: 4
    Non-WCHA teams (Clarkson): 1
    Other WCHA teams such as Bemidji or St. Cloud: 0

    Shannon Miller is the highest paid coach of collegiate women’s hockey in the country because she’s the best. Duluth believes it should not afford the best, at least not for a female coach in a female sport.

    The list of runners-up has quite a bit more range … as an ECAC alumna and college hockey fan, I can tell you which part of the country is gleeful right now.

    • BJ

      The question is where will she go, and will her pay be in the same range.

      • KTFoley

        That’s one question.

        The glee-inducing questions are how far out of the running will UMD have taken itself by this move, and what other teams are poised to fill the vacuum.

        The groan-inducing questions are whether UMD would do this for a men’s sport with 5 national championships in 13 years, or for a male coach of any sport with a .713 win percentage. Before you roll your eyes, UMD is also letting go assistant coaches Laura Schuler and Gina Kingsbury and part-time director of operations Jen Banford. From UMD’s team page at, the only assistant coach that hasn’t yet been let go is also the only male, Brandt Nicklin.

        • DH

          Brant is a volunteer assistant with the men’s program now.. he worked with the women’s goaltenders the last 4 years prior

          • KTFoley

            Ahhh, that explains it.

          • Robert Ries

            You must be able to find a thread of neglect concerning this outrage, the only Man still has a job. Maybe they should fire Sandlin’ and his staff and replace them with the Women’s staff?
            Bizzarro World

        • Robert Ries

          More knashing of teeth I see by comparing Men’s and Women’s programs, but not understanding the BOTTOM line. Why should the Men’s program pay for the Women’s? This has NOTHING to do with her coaching track record and everything to do with paying for a losing program.
          Why not write out a couple million dollar check to help out instead of insisting someone else do it.

          • KTFoley

            Robert Ries, every news link provided in these articles refers to UMD having a budget shortfall, but not one word of the balance sheet for the team itself. If you have a citation that specifies that the women’s hockey team was losing money, please provide a link.

            And if you have any evidence from any of the comments here that any of these posts have made the argument that the men’s team should fund the women’s, please provide it.

            And if you’re under the impression that my reply to DH’s additional information, accepting his explanation for who stayed and who did not, conveys anything besides just that, please come back once you’ve gotten over your misconceptions of how this whole discussion is going.

          • Bob Ries

            Thank you for your report, and the reason why I’m writing this. The Men’s program has around six times as many spectators. The men’s program makes money. The woman’s program loses money. Now I’d like to look all this information up for you, but it’s public information and you can look it up yourself.
            If you can

          • Doug

            Does the UMD athletic budget pull money from the university? At the D-I level, the athletic budget is typically funded entirely or nearly entirely by donors and total revenues. If that is the case at UMD, then the school’s budget deficit is not part of the equation here.

            As for athletic budgets themselves, it is not unusual for departments to lump it all together so that those programs that do have positive revenue through ticket sales/merch (typically football and men’s BB, though not exclusively) float the boat for teams that operate at a deficit (wrestling, track, golf, etc.).

            Always … ALWAYS follow the money. That is were the truth lies.

  • Stacy Scott

    It’s a pipe dream, but wouldn’t it be AWESOME if she started at the bottom again with the new ASU sundevils mens team, and coached them to success!

    • FresnoDick

      It would indeed be awesome but that team already has a coach who’s led their club team to national championships and is considered qualified for D1. Hope that Miller lands on her feet somewhere.

  • Robert Ries

    So does the author condone the Men’s hockey team paying for the money losing Women’s program and their coaching staff?