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Minnesota Duluth extends athletic director's contract

Josh Berlo

DULUTH, Minn.—Minnesota Duluth announced a two-year contract extension for athletic director Josh Berlo on Wednesday that keeps him with the Bulldogs into 2023.

The two-year extension is tacked on to the five-year deal Berlo signed with the university in November 2017 that pays him an annual base salary of $156,829 per year. Per the original contract, Berlo is due a $5,000 "retention base salary increase" in May 2018 and May 2020. The new deal, which expires May 1, 2023, adds another $5,000 increase in May 2022.

"Josh is a tireless advocate for student-athletes," UMD chancellor Lendley Black said in a statement announcing the extension. "I am confident in the direction and leadership Josh has set for UMD athletics as it achieves new heights in community engagement, academic experiences, and competitive success. He is a strong advocate for UMD and is leading the much-needed renovations of the physical spaces in which our athletes compete."

Berlo is currently overseeing a number of projects within the athletic department, most notably the $10 million renovation of Romano Gymnasium — the home of UMD basketball and volleyball. The project is currently in Phase One with the addition of a $300,000 video board and the rebuilding of the men's and women's basketball locker rooms.

Phase Two of the Romano renovation begins in March with the replacement of the floor, installation of new chair-back lower-level seating and an updated heating and air-conditioning system. Phase Three, scheduled for around 2020, includes the addition of a 15-seat club and hospitality room.

The locker rooms and training facilities for the school's other NCAA Division II sports are scheduled to be renovated by 2020 as well. Berlo said in November about another $2 million will be need to be raised to complete the renovations.

"Anytime you are talking about long-term investment, stability is an important thing," Berlo said when asked how his extension could affect the Romano renovations. "I would say there being stability helps us generate support and resources in many different ways."

Berlo, who along with his wife, Megan, are expecting their first child in February, was hired by UMD in the spring of 2013 after spending 13-plus years in the Notre Dame athletic department. In his four-plus years, the UMD athletic department has doubled its endowment and raised more than $6 million for scholarships, facilities and other initiatives while the university as a whole faces a $3.2 million budget shortfall.

But Berlo's successes have not just been financial. On a competitive level, 13 of UMD's 16 programs have competed in NCAA championship events with both the men's and women's hockey teams reaching the NCAA Division I tournament during the 2016-17 season. The men played for a national championship at the Frozen Four in Chicago in April.

On the Division II level, football, baseball, softball, men's and women's cross country and volleyball all have reached the NCAA tournament in recent years. UMD has eight NSIC conference regular-season and postseason titles during Berlo's tenure.

"I'm certainly honored and humbled to continue to lead the department," Berlo said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the performance of our student-athletes, coaches and a lot of the progress we've been able to make behind the scenes to build the infrastructure for their success."

Still looming over Berlo and the university, however, is a federal discrimination lawsuit brought against UMD by three former women's sports coaches that remains unresolved.

Former women's hockey coach Shannon Miller filed the suit in September 2015 with Jen Banford, the former women's softball coach and women's hockey director of operations, and Annette Wiles, the former women's basketball coach. The coaches alleged discrimination on the basis of age, sex, sexual orientation and national origin, though a judge in October indicated he's inclined to toss out parts of the case.

That lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in March 2018.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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