University of Minnesota-Duluth softball coach Jen Banford has received notice that her contract will not be renewed at the end of this season.
The successful coach, who is entering her 10th season, received a notice of non-renewal from athletic director Josh Berlo on Dec. 11, and Banford said that multiple administrators within the UMD athletic department also confirmed last week that this season would be her last with the program.
Despite this, Berlo told espnW that Banford is mistaken, and that he is working to keep her as the softball coach at UMD, where she has compiled an overall record of 273-169.
Berlo said that the school is in the process of "redefining Banford's appointment" -- she also serves as the director of operations for the women's hockey program -- and that he expects Banford to continue with the school even after the upcoming season.
"She is our softball coach," Berlo said. "She was only notified relative to the position of women's hockey."
Yet contrary to Berlo's statement, espnW received a copy of the letter, included in the link below, which indicates the termination encompasses both roles.
This confusion with Banford comes just weeks after Minnesota-Duluth announced that it would not be renewing the contract of women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, who has won five NCAA titles in 15 seasons with the Bulldogs.
At first, UMD said the Miller decision was strictly financial (the school faces a $6 million budget deficit), but then later a spokesman for the school said that other factors came into play, including concern for "the direction of the program."
Banford said she believes she is being retaliated against for supporting Miller and the women's hockey program. The 33-year-old Banford has retained legal counsel to combat the discrimination she alleges against UMD.
"Until I was pulled into Shannon's media storm and my continued support of Shannon and women's hockey, I was told that my renewal was merely a paperwork technicality," Banford said. "My record speaks for itself. I have received great performance evaluations for the past nine years and all of a sudden, I was told I was no longer going to be the softball coach."
The official notice of non-renewal for Banford is dated Dec. 11, and states that "Your appointment as the Director of Hockey Operations/Head Softball Coach, 12 month, Annual Renewal Appointment, 100% will end on June 14, 2015."
Berlo contended that this is merely a paperwork issue, and that the department is simply restructuring Banford's position. He said that she was terminated only from the women's hockey position, not from her position as softball coach.
"All I can tell you is were are busy working to keep her as our softball coach," Berlo said.
"Josh has not spoken with me in six weeks," Banford said. "To me, it's obvious why he's saying he's in the process of writing a renewal, but if he wanted to give me a renewal, he would have given me that on Dec. 11."
Banford said that she met last week with Linda Kinnear, the school's director of human resources. Kinnear confirmed that according to the paperwork, Banford would no longer be with the school, in either capacity, after June 14. Kinnear also told Banford that Berlo has not filed any additional paperwork -- such as a renewal offer as softball coach -- regarding Banford.
On Saturday night, Banford informed her team that she would no longer be their coach after the upcoming season.
Banford was hired in 2005. She has guided the Bulldogs to the Division II tournament four times [2007, 2010, 2011, 2012] and she was named the 2013 NSIC Softball Coach of the Year in 2013.