Miller pursues new business venture in California

Original Article by Duluth News Tribune

Former University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller is pursuing a new business venture.

Miller, along with former UMD softball coach Jen Banford, has begun a pedal pub operation in Palm Springs, Calif. Miller, who in her 16 seasons led the women Bulldogs to five NCAA championships, was dismissed — along with the other openly gay female hockey coaching staff — from UMD following the end of her contract in 2015. That dismissal led to a lawsuit brought by her and other former female coaches — including Banford — against the University of Minnesota, and a federal Title IX complaint against UMD filed by former female coaches and student-athletes.

The lawsuit is based on claims of gender, sexual orientation and age discrimination, and the Title IX complaint on a claim of gender discrimination.

“When what happened to me happened to me, you gotta go somewhere. You can’t just sit in your house in Duluth and feel sorry for yourself,” Miller said Wednesday. “I wanted to work.”

The business, called Sunny Cycle, caters to the tourist crowd of Palm Springs and involves booking tours that take customers to bars and restaurants within the city while they pedal a large motorized bike that was made in Minneapolis by a UMD graduate, Miller said. The idea came from Banford, who had been on a pedal pub in the Twin Cities. Because Miller had a condo in Palm Springs, it was decided to start the operation there. Banford was also hired as head softball coach and kinesiology instructor for the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif.

The 15-passenger bike is outfitted with a TV, stereo system and LED lights — but it isn’t serving alcohol, yet. The business is pursuing that option with the city.

The business is temporary, Miller said, while she weighs what to do next. Coaching hockey, which she “misses immensely,” hasn’t been ruled out. But Miller has spent time with leaders within LGBT and women’s communities, she said, and she is interested in exploring work that deals with gender equity and equal pay issues.

“I am really living in a different world right now getting connected with leaders in all of those areas,” Miller said. “I believe something really good will come up.”

A pretrial conference for the lawsuit filed by Miller, Banford and former UMD women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles against the University of Minnesota is scheduled to be held in Duluth on Jan. 25.

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