UMD, coach in sexual misconduct controversy

The University of Minnesota Duluth and a female coach are again involved in a nasty fight playing out in the media today.

Track and cross country coach Joanna Warmington quit on Monday and went out firing against an investigation into her conduct by the university, she said in her resignation letter.

Through the investigation process, it became clear that UMD was coordinating an effort through my supervisor, the Men’s Head Coach for Cross Country and Track and Field, and our shared assistant coaches (all males) to remove me from my position as Head Coach. Most distressing was that the male coaches as well as the student athletes accessed personal information on my electronic devices in order to bolster their allegation that I had violated the University’s misconduct policy. It is now clear that these steps were taken in the event the allegations regarding my training and nutrition advice to student athletes did not violate University policy. In a meeting the week following my being placed on leave, UMD Athletic Administration encouraged the student athletes to come forward if they had any complaints against me, and by claiming that I voluntarily took a leave of absence, all but fomented anger and abandonment by the student athletes that I had previously been so close to. Because the investigation was made public by a UMD employee, my future coaching prospects were forever damaged, the student athletes and the male coaches were allowed to coordinate their allegations against me.

Warmington says her resignation came after she was informed the university was going to fire her. She says half the witnesses against her refused to sign their statements, and that “heresay was accepted as fact.”

She claimed the university promised to keep the investigation secret if she agreed to release it from all claims.

But in her letter, Warmington accused the university of Title IX and a variety of NCAA violations.

The investigation was subsequently leaked to the Duluth News Tribune.

It “found that Ms. Warmington engaged in sexual harassment in violation of University policy,” it said.

Specifically, the EOAA “concluded that Ms. Warmington’s conduct was unwelcome because it was unsolicited, made multiple student-athletes feel uncomfortable, and taken together, created an unwelcome sexualized environment in which some student-athletes felt compelled to tolerate unwanted conduct of a sexual nature in order to maintain a positive relationship with their coach.”

The EOAA also “decided that Ms. Warmington’s pervasive conduct of a sexual nature with student-athletes on her team, made from her position of authority as their coach, had the effect of creating a sexualized, hostile and offensive environment in violation of University policy.”

The report states that five student-athletes brought concerns about Warmington’s conduct to a member of UMD’s athletic department early this year. They detailed their frustrations in an initial document to the department in February, and resubmitted it on March 16.

After the report was leaked, Warmington told the Duluth News Tribune her actions were misinterpreted.

Warmington also said that after a run this summer she sent an inspirational text message to her athletes with a picture of herself in her running attire, including a running bra.

“This picture was cited as an example of a ‘sexual picture’ just because I was wearing my running bra,” Warmington wrote. “My student-athletes always run in their running bras in the summer and there is no difference between me doing so and them — this is normal summer running attire for women.”

After a jury ruled in favor of former UMD hockey coach Shannon Miller in her sexual discrmination lawsuit against the university, Warmington sent a letter to the editor supporting UMD.

Now, she says she was forced to.

“We (UMD coaches and staff) were encouraged to support [UMD athletic director] Josh Berlo and UMD administration in the aftermath of that verdict. I was intimidated while standing in front of other employees and felt I must comply. I was gravely concerned that my student-athletes would lose their ability to compete if my program would have to be cut in order to fund the cost of the jury verdict, and I would also lose the job that I love.”

In a statement, the university said it respects Warmington’s decision to resign.