An exuberant Shannon Miller emerged from the front doors of the federal courthouse in Duluth on Thursday afternoon, pumping her fists amid cheers and celebratory music from a crowd of supporters.
Minutes earlier, jurors awarded the former University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey coach $3.74 million after an eight-day trial in her lawsuit against her longtime employer.
The jury of eight women and four men took a little over four hours to find that UMD discriminated against Miller on the basis of her sex and retaliated against her for making Title IX complaints when officials decided in December 2014 not to offer her a new contract.
“It’s a big day for women,” Miller proclaimed on the courthouse steps. “Women in general, but especially women in college athletics.”
Standing by her side, Miller’s lead attorney, Dan Siegel, used the word “brave” to describe his client, crediting her for taking on the three-year legal battle to great personal sacrifice.
“It’s a real rebuke to the leadership of UMD, and to the athletic department in particular,” Siegel said of the verdict. “I hope it’s a new day for this university and this community as women all over the world are saying, ‘Time’s up.’ ”
After hearing closing arguments, the jury unanimously completed a seven-question verdict form that found UMD liable on both counts.
Miller held hands with her partner, Jen Banford, and several supporters could be seen shaking with excitement and crying as U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz read the verdict at 4:15 p.m.
Athletic director Josh Berlo sat at the defense table, flanked by attorneys, as he did throughout the trial. Chancellor Lendley Black watched from the front row of the public gallery.
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