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Does UMD's Decision On Shannon Miller Make Financial Sense?

What does "financial considerations" actually mean in UMD's decision not to extend Shannon Miller's contract?

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Perplexed at the mysterious coaching situation at the University of Minnesota Duluth between Shannon Miller and UMD Athletics, I was drawn to do more investigation. Bulldog Athletic Director Josh Berlo and the UMD Athletics Department’s reason was "financial considerations", which is broad, so some research followed. Finding UMD hockey VOX Bruce Ciskie’s blog post was a fantastic resource, so give that a look as well.

Miller’s resume is among the top in college hockey (not just in women's college hockey) with record of 363-162-48 and five national championships over the last 15 seasons as head coach of the Bulldogs. This allowed her to quickly become the highest paid coach in Women’s NCAA Hockey with a base salary of $215,000 this season.

With that being said, her success over the last few years has been marginal at best and terrible against local and rival teams. The following chart illustrates that point very well. To save you some time, UMD has found just one win in their last 29 games against region rivals – Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

Date Opponent Score Outcome
Nov. 2, 2012 Minnesota 1-4 Loss
Nov. 3, 2012 Minnesota 0-4 Loss
Nov. 23, 2012 at North Dakota 3-4 Loss
Nov. 24, 2012 at North Dakota 2-5 Loss
Feb. 1, 2013 at Minnesota 0-5 Loss
Feb. 2, 2013 at Minnesota 2-6 Loss
Feb. 16, 2013 at Wisconsin 1-3 Loss
Feb. 17, 2013 at Wisconsin 2-3 Loss
Feb. 22, 2013 North Dakota 1-4 Loss
Feb. 23, 2013 North Dakota 2-2 Loss
Oct. 12, 2013 at North Dakota 3-4 Loss
Oct. 13, 2013 at North Dakota 3-3 Tie
Oct. 18, 2013 Minnesota 0-4 Loss
Oct. 19, 2013 Minnesota 3-6 Loss
Nov. 29, 2013 Wisconsin 2-2 Tie
Nov. 30, 2013 Wisconsin 0-1 Loss
Jan. 25, 2014 at Wisconsin 1-3 Loss
Jan. 26, 2014 at Wisconsin 0-2 Loss
Feb. 8, 2014 North Dakota 3-4 Loss
Feb. 9, 2014 North Dakota 2-2 Tie
Feb. 21, 2014 at Minnesota 0-6 Loss
Feb. 22, 2014 at Minnesota 0-6 Loss
Mar. 7, 2014 vs Minnesota 1-4 Loss
Oct. 3, 2014 Wisconsin 1-4 Loss
Oct. 4, 2014 Wisconsin 2-6 Loss
Oct. 10, 2014 Minnesota 0-3 Loss
Oct. 11, 2014 Minnesota 3-3 Tie
Oct. 17, 2014 at North Dakota 1-2 Loss
Oct. 18, 2014 at North Dakota 1-0 Win

The Dogs have given up 105 goals (3.62 goals per game) and scored just (1.38 goals per game) over that period of time.  To the Minnesota Gophers alone, they've been outscored 10-51.

Using some common sense and pretty popular business model we can conclude that an individual’s value to that company correlates with their success, right? In other words, if you want to be the highest paid coach in women NCAA hockey, you need to meet those expectations.

So let’s take a look at her salary in the last few years compared to the University of Minnesota’s hockey coach, Brad Frost, along with their given records and earnings per win:

Shannon Miller Brad Frost Difference
'12-'13 Salary / Record $218,760 (14-16-4) $122,300 (41-0-0) $96,460
'12-'13 Cost Per Win $15,625.71 $2,982.93 $12,642.79
'13-'14 Salary / Record $205,800 (15-15-6) $150,000 (38-2-1) $55,800
'13-'14 Cost Per Win $13,720 $3,947.37 $9,772.63

So using the above chart, keeping in mind that our cost per win is the coaches salary divided by the amount of wins they produced that year (like a paid-on-commission deal), the University was paying a coach almost 4 times as much only to produce the same win as Frost.

Let’s also keep in mind that the University isn’t a money tree. Say UMD would have kept Miller, would one expect that not to hurt other departments? Her salary alone is gold mine compared to some of UMD’s division two sports.

What looks better for the school’s reputation – cutting funding for Bulldog baseball and softball or keeping the highest paid NCAA Women’s hockey coach staffed?  Take a look at the salaries of coaches in the region...

Coach School 2014 Salary
Eric Rud St. Cloud State $99,440
Jim Scanlan Bemidji State $91,100
Brad Frost Minnesota $155,000
Mark Johnson Wisconsin $164,000

Simply stated, UMD’s return on their investment wasn’t near the alignment of other coaches in the country. This, in combination with a deficit of $4.5 million haunting the school could have been a solid reason to find a new coach to pay half as much for the same outcome.

So with this in mind, when Berlo  and the department stated "financial considerations" as the reason for not extending Miller’s contract is it possible he did so to protect the Miller’s reputation?

The amount of heat the school has taken could have been much less had UMD used some of the statistics stated above, but that would have obviously damaged the reputation of Miller at a time when she’s searching for the next step in her career.

Along with those statistics, keep in mind the University could have also mentioned her behavior issues like the NCAA sanction and other problems Brad Schlossman noted.

The pay decrease she would need to have taken to support the business model she’s supported in the past where her success determines her salary would have been dramatically lower given her recent statistics. A potential insult in the eyes of some.

On a lasting note, it’s obvious that Miller has some talent when in comes to coaching a hockey team. With that being said, she should have absolutely no problem finding a new job and taking the next step in her career.