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UMD gives athletic director 5-year contract extension

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The University of Minnesota Duluth has signed athletic director Josh Berlo to a five-year contract extension that would keep him at the helm of Bulldog sports until 2021.

The move reinforces UMD's commitment to an administrator who has been at the center of gender discrimination allegations in the athletic department.

The U of M is being sued by three former coaches who say they were victims of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

Ex-coaches Shannon Miller, Jen Banford, and Annette Wiles – who coached women's hockey, softball, and women's basketball, respectively – also asked the U.S. Department of Education this week to investigate UMD. Their grievance alleged 54 instances of discrimination against women and women's teams.

Chancellor cites Berlo's leadership, fundraising

In announcing Berlo's contract extension Friday, UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said: "Josh has provided tremendous leadership, including making some difficult decisions that have strengthened UMD athletics."

The university says Berlo brought more than $1 million in corporate sponsorships to the department in 2014-15 and annual fundraising has increased 300 percent since he was named athletic director in 2013.

UMD says the cumulative grade point average of its athletes has reached a new high (3.18) under Berlo and attendance records have been broken at football and men's hockey games.

"Unhealthy work environment"

Berlo cited "financial considerations" when he announced a year ago that Miller's contract would not be renewed. Miller coached the Bulldogs to five national championships during her 16 years behind the bench but the team's success had faded in recent years.

Banford's contract was also not renewed. Wiles later resigned, saying " is no longer healthy for me to continue to work in the current UMD athletic department environment.”

The three former coaches, who are openly gay, say in their lawsuit they were subjected to retaliation after they raised complaints about discrimination. (Read a copy of the lawsuit here.)

Current coaches support Berlo

When the lawsuit was filed in September, UMD's Chancellor Black said “We continue to refute the allegations and claims of discrimination and will aggressively defend ourselves in the lawsuit. I continue to stand behind the athletics department under the leadership of Josh Berlo, and the direction of UMD athletics.”

In October the head coaches of all 16 UMD sports teams sent a letter to the Duluth News Tribune expressing their support for Berlo and the athletic department.

The News Tribune says Berlo's new contract starts with a base salary of $156,829 and includes retention bonuses that would increase it by $5,000 in 2018 and again in 2020.

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