Shannon Miller – Interview


For those of you who have followed the FCN for a while now, you may be familiar with the name Shannon Miller. Shannon is one of the World’s most successful coaches. (not successful female coach, but coach. Period). Born in Canada in 1963, Shannon became one of the most decorated ice-hockey coaches since becoming a player-coach during her own University days. In 1999, she took on the role as Head Coach at the ‘Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs women’s ice hockey’ team and went on to have an incredible 16 years, becoming the only Head Ice-Hockey Coach in the USA to have been honoured at the White House by the President of the United States 5 times!

During her 16 years at UMD, she had a winning percentage of .707, won 4 regular season Conference Titles, 5 Conference Tournament Championships, 10 NCAA National Tournament berths, 7 Frozen Four Appearances and 5 National Championships.

Outside of her collegiate coaching record; she was the first female coach to lead her country to the Winter Olympics coming home with a Silver Medal from the 1998 Nagano Games, she lead her country to a number of World Championship Titles, having been a National Team Coach 7 times, served as a mentor to the Russian National Team at the 2014 Winter Olympics and has a Masters degree to her name.

I think you will agree, Shannon has a coaching CV that most could only dream of!

However, behind the scenes at UMD Shannon battled with discrimination and injustice.  Rather than being celebrated and rewarded?for her success, she experienced a number of sexist and homophobic incidents as well as being treated ?significantly less favourably than her male counterpart at UMD. ?Not only was Shannon paid some what less on her basic wage, have no supplemental retirement contribution and no bonus opportunities, unlike the male Head Coach, Shannon dealt with regular homophobic, racist and xenophobic comments from male colleagues.

Words and phrases such as  ‘dyke’, ‘f***ing bitch’  and ‘go home’ were just a few examples. whilst the lack of respect shown to the women?s ice-hockey programme was highlighted when a particular male colleague said ‘f***ing women suck all the money out of the athletic department, what a waste of money’.

Coming to a head in 2015, Shannon was told by UMD that her contract would no longer be renewed and that she would have to leave her job, due to a department budget cut. However, the men’s Head Coach and the entire men’s ice-hockey programme remained un-touched by the cuts and after some initial investigating, it appeared that Shannon was not the only female coach at the University being discriminated against in this way. Jennifer Banford (softball coach) and Annette Wiles (basketball coach) had also been suffering and agreed to join Shannon in filing a law suit against the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Shannon Miller, Jennifer Banford and Annette Wiles, are about to shake up the USA Collegiate sports system like never before and bring to light the evidence behind the torment, discrimination and injustice?they had been dealing with at UMD. ?They are not only fighting for their own rights of being treated equally as female coaches and gay women, but they are fighting for the rights of future generations of all women in sport, ensuring that whilst Title IX exists, it is being adhered to correctly in colleges across the Country.

As part of this fight,?the FCN have offered their full support?and in the lead up to the Court Case later this year (2017), we will be revealing exclusive evidence, facts and interviews with the female coaches involved.

We can also announce that we have EXCLUSIVELY OBTAINED the Expert Report written for all involved which interprets the law and all the evidence.

The report, written by a former NCAA coach and athletics director Donna Lopiano PH.D outlines point by point, the accusations and questions involved in the law suit. This report will be presented at the trial and Donna will be be cross examined by the opponents lawyers.

This report reveals the disgusting behaviour of UMD in their treatment of all three coaches and lays out facts, figures and evidence of the accusations involved.

Over the coming weeks, we will be releasing a summary of each of the 8 points of evidence made in the document, publishing the full 124 page document for you to read and share with you our exclusive interviews of the women involved.

Our aim?in doing this is to raise awareness of such scandalous behaviour towards female coaches?and to inspire other coaches or athletes out there that have or are dealing with with similar treatment to come forward.

Below is our exclusive interview with Shannon Miller about her experience…

It has been extremely difficult to have something like this happen to you when you are such a successful coach and you believed yourself to be such an integral part of the Division I athletics at UMD. It’s been painful to have to reflect on and discuss all of the discrimination that I had endured  the sexism, the homophobia and the xenophobia. It’s been a tough and emotional two years, but each day I wake up and think about things I am grateful for, and one of the things is that I have the strength and courage to have a good day while fighting back.

Jen has told me that she has never had this much anxiety, stress and sadness in her life. Jen also experienced blatant sexism, homophobia and xenophobia and has had to relive it as we maneuver through the lawsuit and prepare for trial. Jen finds it extremely difficult to accept and deal with but has been putting one foot in front of the other and doing the best she can day by day. Annette has had a tremendous amount of anxiety, stress and pain over how she was treated as a woman, and as a gay woman, and continues struggling to accept what has happened to her. It?s horrible what they did to all of us and that is why it is so important to get the truth out there and for us to fight back.

The Expert Report is a double edge sword for me – it forces me to re-live a lot of the discrimination I faced, the anxiety it caused and the battles I had to fight for fair and equal treatment – but the report also gives me great confidence in the facts, the law and strength of our case.

That Title IX is a Federal law and must be enforced because colleges do not regulate themselves. That it is not ok to treat anyone with such disrespect and discriminatory behavior. And the importance of exposing the people who behave like this and the importance of fighting back.

This is a horrible way to end a very successful coaches career that built a dynasty for a University and remained loyal to that campus and the community. After having many other coaching offers from larger Division I institutions with better resources available, it is beyond painful to be that loyal and then to have them do this to you. I have a uniquely deep and honest passion for coaching and really hope these people have not ended my coaching career forever. They don’t deserve that power. I hope people understand that.

The City of Duluth named one day Shannon Miller Day after we won our 5th Division I NCAA Championship. Most people knew we didn’t have the resources that many of our competitors had, and understood the magnitude of what we had accomplished. Many people including UMD leaders and prominent community members thanked me for putting UMD athletics on the map, bringing so much notoriety to the community and commented on the fact that I could coach at UMD for as long as I want, and they hoped they could keep me.

Also, some UMD people started horrible rumours about me in order to try and gain the support of other people at UMD, and in the community for what they did. This is a horrible thing to do to any human being, let alone your most successful coach ever.

A few reasons I stayed at UMD were because of the strong international program we had built, the talented team we had that season, and the fantastic recruits we had coming in. We knew we would be headed back on top that season, and we were, and for future seasons to come. Having wonderful relationships with your alumni is very important to coaches  it’s mentorship and life relationships. I was so proud of our international alumni, and still am, and those strong relationships still exist. They can’t take that away from any of us. However, not having a role at the World Championships each year, after having a strong role at that event since 1992, has been painful for me. I have alumni on Team Canada, Team USA, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Germany, Czech, Australia.

The support that people gave and continue to give  people you know and people you don’t know stepping up to support all of us, and encouraging us to fight this discrimination.

Truth the truth is out there and more is coming.

Courage. All 3 of us are courageous, doing the right thing and we hope to be role models for many women for years to come.

We hope Title IX will be enforced at all Universities, and that other coaches and athletes are not subject to the discriminatory behavior that we were. We hope this shines a light on the fact that all discriminatory behavior that we experienced will not be tolerated Sexism, Homophobia, Xenophobia, etc..

We hope to inspire other coaches and athletes to stand up, speak out and fight for fair and equal treatment for all.