It was announced Monday that Jen Banford, the University of Minnesota Duluth’s softball head coach, would not be returning for the 2016 season. The university offered her a contract but Banford declined the offer. She will remain as the team’s head coach through the end of the 2015 season, but will be done with her time at UMD at the official end of the softball season on June 15.
"We are sorry Coach Banford has not accepted an appointment to continue coaching UMD softball," UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo said in a press release Monday. "She leaves UMD softball with a strong foundation. We appreciate Coach Banford's contributions to UMD athletics over the past nine years."
As a part of the dismissal of UMD women’s hockey head coach Shannon Miller, Banford had already been released from her duties as director of women’s hockey operations in December. While rumors circled that Banford had been let go from her position as the softball coach at that time, the UMD athletic department says they had always intended on keeping her as softball coach.
“I guess I was given a contract offer through email,” Banford said Tuesday.
With the news of Banford’s contract denial coming so abruptly, her players are confused as to why the events have played out the way they did.
“We saw the paper saying she was let go as director of operations and women’s softball. It didn’t just say director of operations,” UMD junior softball utility player Ashley Lewis said.
The team left Tuesday evening for their trip south to start the season and the timing of news like this could have been better, according to the players.
“It’s really a bummer how everything played out with the timing,” UMD junior infielder Sami Schnyder said. “It’s more disappointing than anything, how things have happened. Coach Banford is the greatest coach I’ve ever had so it blindsided us.”
Banford was named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 when the team set a school record for victories with a 41-13 overall record. She enters the 2015 season with a 273-174 record in her nine seasons behind the Bulldog bench. She had also helped lead the team to four NCAA Division II Regionals and an NSIC regular season championship.
“I love these girls and I had no intentions of not coaching them,” Banford said.
The university’s athletic department said it will begin looking for her replacement this summer.
The Bulldogs will begin conference play in Arkansas on Thursday. They’ll play eight games over a four-day span as a part of the University of Arkansas Monticello 8-State Classic to kick off the season.
BY: BRILYNN JANCKILLA