University of Minnesota Duluth women’s cross country and track and field coach Joanna Warmington announced her resignation on Monday in a letter published by the Duluth News Tribune. In the letter, Warmington slams UMD for what she says are violations of both Minnesota law and Title IX, while describing what she claims to be a campaign to force her out of her job.
Warmington says she was placed on a leave of absence on March 28 this year, as she was investigated by the school’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office. She says that, despite repeatedly requesting a copy of the complaints, she didn’t know what she was being investigated for until June, after she had already been interviewed multiple times by investigators.
Warmington is vague about what the allegations actually were, only writing that she was accused of violating UMD’s misconduct policy while also making reference to “allegations regarding my training and nutrition advice to student athletes.” She does, however, take aim at the methods of UMD’s investigation, and believes that the investigation was part of a coordinated effort by UMD to get her fired. Part of her criticism includes the claim that coaches and student-athletes obtained personal information from her electronic devices, and that UMD was overly credulous of critical witnesses while ignoring those who supported her.
Warmington also claims that UMD essentially attempted to blackmail her into silence about the investigation and her firing. From the letter:
The second incident that validates the predetermined outcome comes in the settlement agreement that [UMD Athletic Director] Josh Berlo provided to me this past Saturday indicating that the University would be terminating my employment but that it would keep the contents of the investigation secret if I agreed to release the University from all claims. It is clear now that the University gathered information during the investigation to coerce my cooperation with them in order to make me choose between potential personal embarrassment in return for my assisting them in, among other things, covering up a variety of NCAA violations that I identified during the course of the investigation.
Warmington’s letter echoes previous criticisms of UMD made by at least three other female ex-coaches. Annette Wiles, Jen Banford, and Shannon Miller jointly filed a lawsuit in 2015 accusing the school of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination against its female and lesbian coaches. In March of this year, Miller won a separate, solo lawsuit against UMD, in which the school was ordered to pay her $3.74 million.
After Miller’s victory and barely a week before she now says she was put on leave, Warmington wrote an op-ed for the Duluth News Tribune defending UMD against Miller’s claims of discrimination.
“Discrimination can be viewed in many ways; reverse discrimination is just as negative and hurtful, and making claims where none exist is toxic,” Warmington wrote at the time, while also saying that UMD “has always backed our athletic and academic programs and our staff in promoting growth, equality, and inclusiveness.”
Warmington acknowledges that op-ed in her letter, and says she wrote it because she and other UMD coaches were encouraged to support the administration after the verdict came down.
“I was intimidated while standing in front of other employees and felt I must comply,” she writes now. “I was gravely concerned that my student athletes would lose their ability to compete if my program would have to be cut in order to fund the cost of the jury verdict, and I would also lose the job that I love.”
In a statement following the publication of Warmington’s resignation letter, UMD said that the details of their investigation into the former coach were private. “However, we can say that complaints were made to the University, and a thorough investigation was conducted by an outside law firm,” the spokesperson said. “We respect the rights of all concerned in this situation. Therefore, we are not in a position to comment further.”