A decade and a half of success isn’t enough to secure a steady position here at UMD. Despite having led her team to five NCAA Division I titles and having a career winning percentage of .700 in the last 15 years, Shannon Miller, UMD’s women’s hockey coach, was let go. Her contract will be over after this year’s season. This decision to let her go, reportedly due to budget cuts, has the community in an uproar. But, as unfortunate as it is, is it really that surprising?
Women’s hockey is one team being affected by the budget cuts. The budgeting turmoil that’s rocking women’s hockey hasn’t touched men’s hockey — that team still remains a center of peace. This brings up a larger issue, in my eyes.
Miller was the highest-paid women’s hockey coach, making $215,000 a year. On the other side of the scale is men’s hockey coach Scott Sandelin who makes a base salary of $235,000. We simply cannot argue that equality between men and women exists today when this situation is the perfect example that the notion of equality is tenuous when it comes to the gender pay gap.
Miller is applauded for changing the game of women’s athletics here at UMD. Under her reign, the women’s hockey team is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation. Right before our eyes, though, our very own community let go of one of its most revered female figures because it couldn’t afford to pay her anymore. Now, for fear or digging myself into a hole I can’t get out of (or starting a rant I can’t stop), I’ll quit this discussion before it really starts because, as a matter of fact, there are other issues here that are present.
Obviously, there is lot more behind the scenes than we know, and obviously this is about a lot more than a simple contract not being renewed. This event has stirred up discussion about whether there’s a level of disrespect aimed at the women’s athletic community from the UMD athletic department. The systemic issue aside, I can't help but blame myself as an individual a little. Women’s hockey attendance is trumped ridiculously. On average, about 600 percent more people attend men’s hockey games than women’s hockey games, according to MPR News. This difference is more discouraging than it is shocking.
Social topics and movements such as feminism and equal rights are peaking, more and more people are encouraging this idea of a bolder woman on every level – yet on a small scale we can’t even support our local, female athletes. The women’s hockey team has never brought in the success that men’s hockey has. Why are we only just fighting now? Are we just pretending to care?
BY AISLING DOHENY