Support for Shannon; Summary of Part 2; How do athletic programs normally deal with financial budget cuts?



The following are excerpts, quotes and summaries from the ‘Expert Report’ created by Donna A. Lopiano PH.D, which has been created to independently look at all of the evidence provided in the case of:  Shannon Miller, Jen Banford and Annette Wiles v The board of Regents of The University of Minnesota

All of the content in our summaries have been pulled directly from the report and are in no way opinions, conclusions or comments of the FCN.  We have simply provided our audience with a concise and shorter version of the report written by Donna A. Lopiano PH.D in the hope of raising awareness of the case.

There are 8 questions in which Donna A. Lopiano PH.D has been asked to present her findings, and over the coming few days, we will be publishing each individually for you to read.  The full 124 page report which is a public document will be available on the FCN website for all to read further.

The FCN would like to offer its full support of Shannon Miller, Jennifer Banford and Annette Wiles.  Discrimination of any coach based on their gender, sexual orientation, race or any other factor is abhorrent and we stand by those that speak out against it.  We have decided to release content from this report with the aim of raising awareness of such discrimination and to inspire other coaches who may be going through similar incidents to speak the truth.




Explain how athletic programs experiencing financial challenges normally respond to financial crisis, specifically addressing management best practices applicable to athletic programs similarly structured to the UMD athletic program which financially tiers its athletic program to provide men’s and women’s ice hockey with NCAA Division I competition opportunities requiring higher funding than other sports that must compete at a lower, less resourced competition level. 


In the second question of this report, Donna A. Lopiano PH.D  was asked to give her report on how institutions normally deal with necessary budget cuts in departments and compare with the evidence as to how Shannon was treated.  In December 2014, Shannon had been told that her contract was not to be renewed due to a need to claw back $6 million dollars in the UMD athletics budget – something which on first glance may seem a ligitamet reason to not renew a contract.  However, after much investigation, it appears that the ‘usual’ budget cutting procedure had not been followed and yet again, Shannon had been treated differently to her peers in the department.  Below is a summary of the findings of the report:


Normal Procedures


  1. once an athletic department / programme has been created and so called ‘priority’ sports have been chosen (i.e. the bigger / more successful sports that the University are known for), “every effort is made to insulate the priority sports from any budget cuts”.

2.  “the last thing an athletic director would do is to reduce the salary of or terminate the      employment of the head coach of a successful top priority sport.”


Shannon Miller was the Head Coach of the very successful priority sport of Ice-Hockey and yet the first thing that took place was to not renew her contract.

To further reiterate this point, Donna A. Lopiana PHD states the following: “In my 22 years as an athletics administrator and 40 years in sports managements, I have never seen the employment of successful priority sport coach terminated because of budget constraints or even such a coach’s salary reduced…”


The report goes on to say that if any budget cuts are needed, then any action taken “must maintain gender equity as required by Title IX”.  It turns out that the Head Coach of the men’s ice-hockey team who was less qualified, successful and experienced as Shannon, did not have his wage or job role touched.  Please see table below for a comparison of the men’s head coach and Shannon as the women’s head coach:






To continue to highlight the point as to how out of the ordinary the termination of Shannon’s contract was to normal non-discriminatory procedures, the report outlines (in order) the areas within the athletic department which should be addressed first with regards to budget:

  1. Salaries – whilst these are the biggest expenses to a programme, voluntary redundancies should be offered to all staff first.
  2. Scholarships – these are usually the second largest expense, so by reducing the number of out-of state scholarships or eliminating them in the lower priority sports should be considered
  3. Travel – travel should be limited to all non priority sports, restrictions on over-night stays and eliminating all nonessential travel for administrative staff
  4. Sports Operating Budget – putting in place small fixed percentage cuts to be implemented across the board


The usual practice for making the above decisions should be made by the appointment of a “special committee” to reassess the structure of the department.  This was not done by UMD in the Shannon Miller case.



Women’s ice-hockey programme v Men’s ice-hockey programme

The report continues to demonstrate the difference between the successes of both Head Ice-Hockey Coaches and the success of the Ice-Hockey programmes to prove that Shannon and the women’s ice-hockey program had not been dealt with fairly and that her non-renewal was intact discrimination:

  • evidence has been provided that a “wealthy supporter” actually offered to fund Shannon’s role after it was announced that her post would be terminated due to budget cuts.  The offer was rejected by the Athletics Director.
  • the men’s ice-hockey program was given permission by UMD to actively fundraise to enhance the salary of the men’s assistant coach – but the women’s program was denied when they asked to raise funding for Shannon’s post
  • when Shannon left her post and was replaced by another coach on a lower salary – rather than UMD making the $69,000 savings from this change, they actually “shifted” the funding to “support the men’s athletics programme”
  • Below, the table demonstrates the difference in salary expenses in men’s and women’s sports at UMD




It turns out, that almost 2 years after terminating Shannon’s contract with the reason of budget cuts, when questioned by the U.S. Office for Civil rights in April 2016, UMD added “two additional highly suspect reasons for the non-renewal” of Shannon’s post:

  1. ‘Slipage” of the teams success
  2. definicienties with regard to academic perfomance of ice hockey players

Both of these reasons are on paper (as discussed in part 1), legitimate reasons for a coach to lose their job, however, the reasons given by UMD “are without credibility”.


Please read pages 21 – 29 of the report for more details on this and note the table below for evidence that in fact Shannon was indeed not falling in her results and there is no proof of her players academic results decreasing.




Donna A. Lopiana’s final findings in this section was that “UMD’s choice of terminating the most successful female head ice-hockey coach in the programmes only Division I high priority sport and increasing the male coaches’ salaries and program support of the less successful men’s hockey programme appears to be targeted against Shannon Miller”.  The decision was not part of any “rational budget reduction strategy.”





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