Support for Shannon; Summary of Part 4 – The use of student- athlete interviews



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.




What is the proper use and construction of student-athlete exit interviews and annual student-athlete coach evaluations, their respective purposes and whether these instruments should be used to identify coach misconduct? Based on an examination of UMD athletic department student-athlete annual evaluation and exit interview instruments and policies, did you form any conclusions about these instruments and whether use of results conformed to model practice? 

Student – athlete exit interview “these should occur at the end of an athletes four years” i.e. graduation or when the student leaves the institution i.e. transferred to another institution.

Student – athlete annual evaluation – this is an interview to find out about the student – athlete experience on the program.  Athletes are asked to offer suggestions of any improvement needed in their experience.


UMD have been accused of using student – athlete exit interviews and evaluations against the three female coaches Shannon, Jennifer and Annette.  It is true however that only the “immediate administrative supervisor” has the responsibility to evaluate a coach’s performance and whilst “student-athlete exist interviews do provide coach and supervisor input, they should never be used for the determination of compensation and employment decisions.”  


To note; coach performance reviews conducted by supervisors came out as “consistently above average” for all accused.

“Based on a review of the performance evaluations of coaches Miller, Banford and Wiles in which they were consistently rated as above average, all of these coaches were consistently rated above average, fully meeting the expectations of their employer.”


The following explanations are given as to why it is important that these student-athlete reviews should not be used when evaluations coach’s coaching or teaching practices:


Susceptibility to gender bias

Literature and research published by Lavoi in 2017 states – “When female coaches ‘coach’ like males (i.e. act like males), they are sanctioned more harshly because they are not conforming to traditional gender norms.”  It appears that athletes give a “negative” “gender bias” to female coaches and the outcome of female student – athlete reviews will “always give male coaches an inherent advantage”.  The report states that one possible way of demonstrating a lack of gender bias when evaluating coaches would be to interview male athletes with female coaches, but as UMD had no female coaches coaching men’s teams, this was not possible.

In this research, Lavoi continues to explain that when female athletes evaluate a female coach’s “strong female coach behaviour”, it often results in “discrimination against female coaches” and therefore, student-athlete exit interviews and reviews should not be used in employment decisions.


Susceptibility to bias based on whether a player starts or participates in games frequency (see question 3 about this in more detail)

Due to the nature of the need for some exit reviews, the content of the interview could be biased towards an athletes “failure to achieve a starting position or similar factors.”  Therefore the athlete may give a negative response to their coaching experience because they have not reached their athletics potential / goal.

It is also important to point out that exit interviews should be “conducted by a disinterested member of the intercollegiate athletics advisory council” to ensure that “student – athletes who may wish to critique aspects of the athletic program aren’t intimidated by speaking with an athletics administrator.”  


Lack of student – athlete expertise and training in evaluation of pedagogy practices 

“Allowing student-athletes to evaluate coaching or teaching practices when they have no training to do so” is “simply irresponsible” states the report.

Any concerns raised by student – athletes such trigger the coach’s supervisor to increase “direct observation of the coach” who would then decide for themselves.

The report raises concerns that whilst the practices of these student – athlete exit reviews and evaluations did not follow model practice, that potentially “selected interviews were sought” by UMD and used against the accused coaches.

These annual evaluations should be “rigidly contracted to provide forced choices” i.e. answers to be: always, almost always, sometimes, seldom etc.  Any answers which requires additional comments should be done so in a constructive way and not be open invitations to complain.  Also, “the purpose of the questions should not focus on discovery of coach misconduct”, because any complaints about this should be raised at the time and dealt with immediately.


Donna A. Lopiano PH.D summarises by stating “I would questions whether UMD practice regarding the administration of student evaluation confirms to industry standards.”  The following incidents were highlighted to confirm this statement:

  • annual student evaluation of the women’s basketball 2013 – 2014 season was not conducted appropriately as rather than getting the whole team together as is the model practice, only part of the team met whilst others were asked to participate in a “closed door one-on-one meeting with athletic director Berlo and telephone interviews were conducted with other team members by other senior staff members”.  This has caused coach Annette Wilse to question whether this is acceptable practice
  • it appears that in 2014, after a player had already left the team an “email was solicited by athletic department administrators for the express purpose of manufacturing a student dissatisfaction case against” Annette


“The use of student evaluations by the UMD athletic department was incredibly dysfunctional.  In the case of Wiles [Annette] it appears that administrators may have purposefully used the administration of student evaluations to find fault with and intimidate Coach Wiles, with the intended purpose of pressuring her to leave.”



For more information about the mention case, please visit the following links:

Shannon Miller Interview – April 2017

Shannon Miller Interview – September 2015

Why the Shannon Miller case is so important for all women in all sports.






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