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UMD women's hockey coach says her firing is a 'slap in the face' to women

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The ousted coach of the University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team is going down swinging, accusing UMD of undervaluing women's sports as she prepares to leave her $207,000-a-year role.

Shannon Miller, who won five NCAA Division 1 titles for the Bulldogs during her 16-year tenure, was given her marching orders by the university in December, in an apparent cost-cutting move. Miller was the nation's highest-paid women's hockey coach.

But the Star Tribune reports Miller is considering legal action, suggesting the university's decision may violate gender-based discrimination rules for schools that receive federal funding, known as Title IX.

According to the Boston Globe, Miller has taken on two attorneys with legal expertise of fighting Title IX cases, but the newspaper believes UMD's decision is "less about 'financial considerations' and more about a low valuation of women's sports."

"This move was incredibly disrespectful to all women, not just to coaches and to female athletes," Miller told the Globe. "It is a slap in the face to our gender. I will not tolerate it and I will continue to speak out and fight it."

Miller had previously said she would have taken a pay cut to retain her position.

Miller's case

Under Title IX, coaches cannot be paid less for a gender-based reason, and it also requires that coaches of men's and women's teams be of similar quality.

As UMD men's coach Scott Sandelin earns $265,000-a-year, cutting Miller for a cheaper alternative could end up being a violation, as the new coach may not be considered as being of similar quality to Sandelin.

UMD announced in a news release on Dec. 15 it would not be giving Miller or her coaching staff a contract extension, saying, "UMD Athletics is not in a position to sustain the current salary levels of our women's hockey coaching staff."

According to the Business Journal, the university says there are reasons other than financial ones for letting Miller – who boasts a .713 winning percentage at UMD – leave the program, but will not detail what they are.

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