For those of you who have been following the Shannon Miller case over the last couple of years, you will not be surprised by the following letter we are publishing. The letter below is the resignation of the last of the female coaches who were once employed at the University of Minnesota Duluth; Joanna Warmington.
For those of you unaware of the Shannon Miller case – PLEASE CLICK HERE
Joanna was, until recently, the Head Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field Coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth… the University currently being sued and investigated for discrimination, mis-treatment and major noncompliance of Title IX. Before the appointment of Athletic Director Josh Berlo, there were 4 female coaches at the University, as of the 20th August 2018, there are none. All 4 coaches were either fired, or mistreated so poorly they were run out.
Joanna was the last female coach to have stayed behind and became their PUPPET to survive – being forced to sign her name to newspaper articles and state how great Berlo is to women.
Below, is the resignation letter written by Joanna as she explains the situation UMD has put her in:
Head Coach – UMD Cross Country and Track and Field
“I am announcing today my resignation as Head Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field coach at UMD. I am in contact with nationally recognized law firms regarding a variety of NCAA violations at UMD, violations of state statute by the University regarding defamation and the handling of my personnel files, and the operation and conduct of the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams at UMD with respect to noncompliance with Title IX.
I was placed on a leave of absence on March 28 of this year, under the pretext that there were complaints by student athletes regarding my coaching behavior. I became the subject of an internal investigation run by the University’s EOAA office. However, the decision to place me on leave was UMD’s. Despite repeated requests for a copy of the complaint(s) made against me so that I could defend myself, I was not provided the specific allegations against me until June 20, which is after I was interviewed three times by the University investigator and after 32 witnesses in total were interviewed. Through the investigation process, it became clear that UMD was coordinating an effort through my supervisor, the Men’s Head Coach for Cross Country and Track and Field, and our shared assistant coaches (all males) to remove me from my position as Head Coach.
Most distressing was that the male coaches as well as the student athletes accessed personal information on my electronic devices in order to bolster their allegation that I had violated the University’s misconduct policy. It is now clear that these steps were taken in the event the allegations regarding my training and nutrition advice to student athletes did not violate University policy. In a meeting the week following my being placed on leave, UMD Athletic Administration encouraged the student athletes to come forward if they had any complaints against me, and by claiming that I voluntarily took a leave of absence, all but fomented anger and abandonment by the student athletes that I had previously been so close to.
Because the investigation was made public by a UMD employee, my future coaching prospects were forever damaged, the student athletes and the male coaches were allowed to coordinate their allegations against me. The investigation failed to follow any due process standard, and took hearsay as fact. It was astonishing that of the 32 witnesses interviewed, 15 did not even sign their witness statements verifying that the information they provided was true and correct! When the investigation report was issued, the majority of “findings” of violations cited the fact that because more than 1 person said something was true, then it was accepted by the University – no further independent analyses or validation was necessary. Most importantly, the investigation never followed up with individuals who were positive regarding my coaching style. Most importantly, the former 7-year assistant coach who witnessed my interactions with student athletes and had thorough knowledge of the culture that I coached in never had a follow up interview because his information did not fit the University’s narrative.
I firmly believe UMD has extended this process and run out the clock in order to capitalize on the highly-rated recruiting class that has arrived on campus. Had these new and returning athletes been made aware of this decision by UMD earlier, there would have been time for these young women to attend other, more-fitting schools for them athletically and academically. These athletes are now trapped and have to either redshirt or transfer after the first semester. They were led to believe all along that I would be returning – and none of the UMD communications even identified that my return was merely a possibility. In retrospect, there are two incidences that validate the University’s predetermined outcome in this matter. The first relates to the athletic administration undercutting the decision that I had made with my supervisor and the training staff regarding the spring outdoor track season for a particular student athlete who had been injured during the year. This athlete had obtained her own personal coach and was following her own personal training plan, yet wanted to compete as a UMD athlete through the spring season. This is a clear violation of NCAA rules.
However, I firmly believe because the athletic administration had already preselected the student athlete as the female senior athlete of the year, they wanted to cite her career-long success as part of its marketing and publicity campaign. As a result, after a joint decision amongst training staff and my supervisor to allow the athlete to compete independently was delivered by me, UMD athletic administration reversed course and required me to revoke the joint decision. This athlete and other senior athletes were then used as student coaches during the spring season after I was placed on leave, which again is in violation of NCAA policy.
The second incident that validates the predetermined outcome comes in the settlement agreement that Josh Berlo provided to me this past Saturday indicating that the University would be terminating my employment but that it would keep the contents of the investigation secret if I agreed to release the University from all claims. It is clear now that the University gathered information during the investigation to coerce my cooperation with them in order to make me choose between potential personal embarrassment in return for my assisting them in, among other things, covering up a variety of NCAA violations that I identified during the course of the investigation.
These violations include allowing student athletes to drive personal vehicles to track meets, requiring me to drive my personal vehicle instead of university drivers to NCAA and Conference events, personal funding of the transportation and competition cost of student athletes to participate in elite track meets because neither the University nor their families would or could pay for these athletes to compete. (It is ironic that the University will do everything in its power to claim the success of these athletes as national champions or All Americans yet not acknowledge the fact that some of those achievements were obtained only because I personally funded their participation and training throughout the year.)
Even more appalling was the University’s proposed settlement agreement that included a provision requiring not only that I not apply for or ever be employed by the University system as a whole, but that I would agree to not ever work for any vendor, contractor or supplier to any company that provided services to the University throughout the state. Such an overreaching requirement has made it clear that this investigation has moved from the professional to the personal. I will not quietly go away when the University is strong-arming me into silence.
As a result, I was faced with the choice of the University buying my silence and allowing it’s continued apparent violations of Title IX and a variety of NCAA and NSIC violations to be swept under the rug, or allow them to expose the private information that they obtained or alleged they have in their possession to damage me if I went public with my statements. After much reflection, I’ve determined that it is better to stand and fight then it is to accept continued Title IX violations for the program that I love and have worked so hard on behalf of.
To the University Board of Regents and the Minnesota state legislature, I urge you to pay attention and understand that where there is smoke there is fire. My story is one of numerous ones at UMD that continue unreported because of the coercive nature of the University administration at this campus. We have had wonderful national success with our Division I programs. However, the treatment of our Division II programs, especially on the women’s side, shows the inequity in treatment that UMD continues to struggle with. In addition, the Legislature should again review the conduct and operation of the University’s EOAA office.
The Legislative Auditor found numerous problems with the investigation process that resulted in updating variety of the University’s policies. However, the investigation process itself will continue to lead to litigation because it is neither independent nor conducted on a professional basis. There is a complete absence of due process. With no independent oversight, the EOAA is a body established to find violations of University policy, rather than to independently to review whether policies have been violated. The most glaring weakness is that there is no opportunity for a student or University employee accused of violation to be able to properly defend herself or himself until the conclusion of the process, and even then, there is no right of appeal if the decision is factually or procedurally wrong. I would make the same criticisms of the process and policy no matter the outcome of my investigation. The taxpayers of the State of Minnesota deserve much better, as do the students and employees of the University system who are subject to the unfettered power vested in this arm of the University.
To Shannon Miller, Annette Wiles, and Jen Banford: I hope you and your supporters now understand why I wrote a letter in the Duluth News Tribune in the aftermath of the Shannon Miller verdict. We (UMD coaches and staff) were encouraged to support Josh Berlo and UMD administration in the aftermath of that verdict. I was intimidated while standing in front of other employees and felt I must comply. I was gravely concerned that my student athletes would lose their ability to compete if my program would have to be cut in order to fund the cost of the jury verdict, and I would also lose the job that I love. Perhaps you now understand why I never defended myself in the aftermath of that letter when your supporters were angry with me. I was surprised there was not a recognition that I was a pawn – taking steps to further UMD’s agenda and that I was caught in the exact trap you identified that female coaches must operate and navigate. I was hoping that you would have recognized that the emails I had sent out the spring before that you cited as my contradictory message was a call for help that went unheeded. I apologize to you if my words caused you personal pain, and I hope that you can further your objectives through some of the information that will come to light through my situation. I admire your strength and courage, and I’m now also all-too-familiar with the personal pain and vulnerability that comes with standing up to the system. I will use your strength as an example.
To my teams (past and present): This is the hardest message I have ever had to deliver. I have loved being your coach, mentor, friend, advocate, motivator, ally, and champion for 11 years. No job I have ever performed in my life will provide me the joy I found in your growth, your struggles and perseverance. I have watched you come to campus as young girls with star struck eyes of what this world would bring to you. I took your passion and helped you cultivate a dream that could become reality. I have taught you life lessons of how to be a strong young woman in this culture. Memories of sweat, hard work, tears and laughter will forever be ingrained in my heart. For those of you who believed in my spirit and gave me your dreams to mold, I will hold you closely with me. You have shown me your courage and strength to walk a difficult path. You are the reason I fought for equality for our program, you are the reason I fought for better facilities, you were the reason we had national success. Together we put UMD cross country and track and field on the map. A program cannot be run successfully without the bond and relationship that a coach has to an athlete. You are Champions, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to grow with you.
I was proud to be a Bulldog.