New UMD hockey coach’s deal suggests firing really was about money

If the controversy over the firing of University of Minnesota Duluth hockey coach Shannon Miller scared women away from the job, you couldn’t tell it by the hiring the school made to replace her.

Miller’s firing led to suggestions of gender inequality in the athletic program at UMD, and to allegations that her gender identity also was a factor. The school initially said it was about money and nothing but money, later conceding it was about more than money without specifying exactly what it was about.

Maybe it was really only about money.

Harvard’s Maura Crowell was named the new coach yesterday and she’ll work for a fraction of what Miller did.

She was given a five-year deal that starts at $140,000 for the 2015-16 season and jumps $7,500 each year before hitting $170,000 in 2019-2020, the Duluth News Tribune reports. Both numbers are well below the $215,000 Miller was pulling in at the school that’s bleeding red ink.

“I’m psyched to be in state and recruiting in Minnesota,” Crowell. A lot of the girls want to stay home and I can’t blame them because it’s the state of hockey.”

That’s an important point. Some recruits were having second thoughts about their committment to UMD after Miller’s firing was announced in December.

“We scrutinized three exceptional finalists and it was tough to get to three finalists,” UMD athletic director said. “Ultimately we found the one that was the best fit for our university, our student-athletes and our community.”

Harvard, where Crowell was an assistant coach, made it to the final of the NCAA women’s hockey championship game before losing.

One of the finalists for the job was Mike Sisti, the coach at Mercyhurst for the last 16 years.

He has a 410-108-34 record, 10 NCAA tournament berths, 14 consecutive conference titles and 14 straight 20-win seasons.

Considering his superior experience as a women’s hockey coach (Sisti was the only finalist with head coaching experience), he was a legitimate candidate for the UMD job, but it’s hard to see a man getting the gig, considering the spotlight on gender equity that Miller’s firing generated.