Jen Banford does a great job coaching softball at UMD, and while she also serves as administrative assistant for the UMD women’s hockey team in her “off-season,” the recent purge of hockey coach Shannon Miller and her staff included Banford — but the report also was that Banford would continue as UMD softball coach.
Now, that is less certain. She apparently has been offered a new contract that represented a significant cut in salary for her softball coaching job, and she decided to turn it down. That allows UMD to “officially” announce that Banford has turned down the contract offer, insinuating that it is her choice to leave.
What is happening at UMD? The turmoil spinning off from the UMD women’s hockey program, with the announcement that coach Miller and her staff would not have their contracts renewed, gained nationwide attention when UMD made a major announcement that the move was “strictly financial.” UMD officials had to backtrack, however, after a University of Minnesota official casually declared, “There’s more to it than just finances.”
That declaration was then affirmed by UMD chancellor Lendley Black. That meant, of course, Black and athletic director Josh Berlo had clearly lied to the Duluth media at every announcement and interview they held for two or three weeks, insisting the move was strictly financial. Nobody checked to see if they had their fingers crossed.
You get the feeling that we haven’t heard the legal end to all this. But more controversy continues.
The UMD softball team left for a season-opening tournament in Arkansas Tuesday afternoon, and coach Jen Banford is enthusiastic about her team’s chances. Now, Banford has rolled up an impressive 273-174 record in nine years, a .611 winning percentage. Her team won the Northern Sun title in 2013 and had a 41-13 record, making her coach of the year in the league.
She also has taken the Bulldogs to four Central Regional tournaments, including 2007 and then a string of three straight in 2010, 2011, and 2012. So impressive has been her handling of the UMD program, that Banford has been invited to work with the Canadian national softball program.
Five years ago, Bob Nielson was athletic director and football coach, and he reassigned Banford so that her contract would call for her to serve 75 percent of her work to softball, and 25 percent to serving as administrative assistant for women’s hockey. That continued, until a few weeks ago.
Reports are that without being informed, Banford’s ratio of her contractual workload had been altered from 75-25 to become 50-50 between softball coaching and hockey administrating. That shouldn’t have mattered, if status quo remained, but status quo was shattered when Banford was dismissed from her hockey duties in the purge.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate that the new contract being offered to Banford would be greatly reduced, because 50 percent of her previous salary had been wiped out.
All Jen Banford would say is: “I’ve rejected their offer.” She is quick to add that she has informed her players of the situation and she is 100 percent immersed into coaching this year’s UMD softball team.