BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | Sports Editor | The Statesman
There were numerous claims of Title IX violations against the UMD Athletic Department in a lawsuit filed last week by former coaches Jennifer Banford, Shannon Miller and Annette Wiles.
In their lawsuit, filed last Monday against the University Of Minnesota Board of Regents, all three coaches claim that their programs were under-supported in terms of staff, equipment and funding compared to UMD’s men’s programs. They also claim to have been harassed and ignored after voicing these concerns.
In one of the more explicit comparisons the lawsuit argues that the UMD Athletic Department violated Title IX laws by not providing equal resources for the men’s and women’s hockey programs. The examples of inequality provided in the lawsuit include the head coach’s salary, a large difference in recruiting budgets and less support staff for the women’s program, among other discrepancies.
“The previous administration supported women’s sports and the rights of lesbian coaches and students. Changes in the campus leadership and hiring of the new athletic director led to the purge of the women you see before you today,” former head coach of UMD’s women’s hockey team Shannon Miller said in the press conference as reported by the Duluth News Tribune.
The lawsuit also notes that the men’s program had a full-time director of hockey operations while the women’s director of hockey operations was only a part-time position. Another issue was the fact that the men’s program had a full-time equipment manager and a full-time strength coach and the women’s program had only one coach to cover both of these positions.
According to budget data acquired from Josh Berlo, the athletic director at UMD, the men’s hockey budget in the past two seasons (2013-2014 and 2014-2015) was a combined 22.7 percent larger than the women’s program over that same span. This year the projected budget for the men’s and women’s hockey programs are $2,027,875 and $1,594,982, respectively.
But while there are differences in expenses, the larger disparities are with revenue. This budget data also notes that the revenue for the men’s hockey team in 2014-2015 season was $1,704,786, and the revenue for the women’s hockey team in that same year was $108,016. The two numbers grow even further apart when factoring in the athletic department’s sponsorship revenue, an overwhelming portion of which is attributed to the attendance at men’s hockey games.
According to Brian Nystrom, the director of marketing and corporate relations for Bulldog athletics, approximately 75 percent of sponsorship revenue is attributed to men’s hockey annually based on the “impressions derived” from the attendance of men’s and women’s hockey as well as football--the three UMD programs that draw the largest attendance figures.
Last year the men’s hockey team accounted for 70.2 percent of the combined attendance figures for those three sports; 108,020 of 153,895 total attendees. Nystrom noted that the percentage varies slightly from year-to-year depending on the number of home games played.
Even before the sponsorship revenue generated by men’s hockey team is accounted for, they brought in over 15 times more revenue than the women’s team did last year.
Using projected budgets released by the Athletic Office and last year’s combined attendance figures to calculate the portion of the sponsorship revenue earned, the men’s hockey team is estimated to make a profit of $537,718 this season--the only program at UMD projected to make a profit.
“It was made clear to me by Josh Berlo that (Scott) Sandelin has more pressure and more responsibility than (Shannon) Miller did to bring in teams that would bring in money,” UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said.
While Chancellor Black agrees that the revenue the men’s hockey team generates plays a factor in the funding they receive he prefers to refrain from comparing the two programs directly.
“In part it would be, but I think it would also be useful to look at our funding of those sports compared to our peers and look at our finding for men’s hockey compared to other men’s hockey programs at the same level… and compare women’s hockey to women’s hockey programs at the same level,” Black said.
“To me that’s a more accurate comparison instead of just looking at comparisons between men’s and women’s (hockey).”
According to a Star Tribune report released last February that compares the 2013-2014 budgets of women’s hockey programs in the region the UMD women’s hockey program’s total expenses exceed that of the women’s hockey programs at the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin and the University of North Dakota.
With statistics compiled from data received from each of the schools the Star Tribune also explained in a graph that, among those four schools, UMD had the highest head coaching salary for the 2014-2015 season.
Chancellor Black reiterated that despite the differences in funding both teams are well supported and administration closely follows Title IX protocol, which does not compare individual programs in an athletic department. Instead, it compares the combined offerings of all the men’s and women’s programs of an institution.
“There is a lot of misinformation,” Karen Stromme, the associate athletic director--internal operations & senior women administrator at UMD, said.
“One thing that people may not realize is that comparing one sport to another, so men’s basketball to women’s basketball, doesn’t always have to be exactly equal. Obviously we want to try to make them comparable (but) there are subtle differences.
“We have to balance it across the board with all of our men’s programs and all of our women’s programs.”
According to statistics compiled for the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis the amount of money spent on athletic scholarships, recruiting and operating expenses at UMD matches the 54.9 percent male to 45 percent female ratio of the student athlete population.
Chancellor Black opposed not only the claims of Title IX violations in Miller, Banford and Wiles’ lawsuit but all of the other claims of discrimination they have made.
“I just want to reiterate that I do refute any allegations of discrimination involved with this (lawsuit),” Black said. “I have great confidence in Josh Berlo as an athletic director. I also have confidence in the direction of our athletic program.”