University of Minnesota Duluth women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles resigned Monday, becoming the third female head coach to leave the school in the past six months.
A university press release said the school has accepted her resignation, effective June 10. Wiles was not available for comment, but she issued a statement through her attorneys stating that it was “no longer healthy” for her to continue working “in the current UMD athletic department environment.”
Wiles went 109-86 in seven seasons with the Bulldogs, including a 12-15 mark last season.
Wiles’ attorneys are Justi Miller and Dan Siegel, who are in the process of filing discrimination lawsuits against UMD on behalf of former women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller and former softball coach Jen Banford. Shannon Miller’s 16-year tenure at the school ended last spring after her contract was not renewed; Banford left UMD at the end of the season after declining a restructured contract. Shannon Miller has alleged that UMD’s decision to let her go — which athletic director Josh Berlo said was “financially driven” — is a violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.
Berlo declined to comment on Wiles’ resignation. Siegel, an Oakland, Calif.-based attorney who won the largest Title IX settlement in history, said Monday that Wiles had been “completely iced out” by Berlo as she sought an extension of her contract, which expires later this month. Siegel said Berlo never discussed an extension with Wiles, though she led the program to the NCAA Division II tournament in 2010 and 2012 and oversaw a team with a 100 percent graduation rate.
“[Berlo] ignored her,” Siegel said. “It’s a brutal kind of shunning she has experienced.”
Wiles received a four-year contract when she was hired in 2008, and former UMD athletic director Bob Nielson gave her a three-year extension after her second NCAA tournament appearance in 2012. She went 40-41 over the past three seasons.
Siegel said he and Justi Miller are laying the groundwork for lawsuits on behalf of Shannon Miller and Banford. Shannon Miller was told in December that her contract, and those of her staff, would not be renewed; after initially saying the school could no longer afford her $207,000 salary, Berlo and UMD Chancellor Lendley C. Black later said there were other factors. The Bulldogs have not made the eight-team NCAA tournament field since 2011 and have three victories in their past 36 games against the Gophers, Wisconsin and North Dakota.
Banford, who compiled a record of 306-196 in 10 seasons as softball coach, also was UMD’s director of women’s hockey operations. Her contract was not renewed, but Berlo later said he wanted her to stay as softball coach and offered her a restructured contract with lower pay. Banford rejected the offer.
Siegel said he has filed complaints on behalf of Miller and Banford with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Before a lawsuit can be filed, the attorneys must obtain a “right to sue” letter — and because the complaints are against a public entity, that letter must be issued by the U.S. Department of Justice. While they await the letter, Siegel said, the women’s legal team is continuing to gather evidence for lawsuits it plans to file under federal and state anti-discrimination laws and Title IX law.