The University of Minnesota Duluth announced a contract extension for Athletic Director Josh Berlo on Thursday afternoon, one that will keep him with the Bulldogs through June 2026.
In the announcement, UMD Chancellor Lendley Black credited Berlo for his “solid and responsive leadership” during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the AD’s successful fundraising efforts.
“Bulldog athletics continues to excel across the board under Josh's leadership. Our student-athletes are successful in competition while also maintaining impressive academics,” UMD Black said in the announcement. “He has built a strong leadership team and is a steady leader in ensuring the continued success of Bulldog athletics.”
Berlo last signed an extension on Nov. 28, 2017, that was scheduled to expire on May 1, 2023. It was a modest, one-page amendment to an extension he and the university signed in 2015, that gave him two additional years, plus a $5,000 retention bonus to be paid in May 2022.
The new deal — which the News Tribune has requested and is awaiting — adds an additional three years of job security for Berlo, who was hired by the university in April 2013 and given an initial three-year deal with a base salary of $150,000 per year. The extension he signed in 2015 was a five-year deal that began on May 1, 2016. It bumped his base salary to $156,829 per year with $5,000 retention bonuses to be paid in 2018 and 2020.
During a video call with reporters on Thursday, Berlo said he and his wife, Meg, and son, Michael, love being Bulldogs and they’re happy to continue on in Duluth.
“I’m certainly very excited,” Berlo said. “I love what we’ve done here in Bulldog athletics and the opportunity to continue to serve our great student athletes, staff and coaches. To lead them and help them reach their potential is exciting.”
Since Berlo took over the athletic department in 2013, the Bulldogs men’s hockey program has reached four consecutive NCAA Frozen Fours, winning national championships in 2018 and 2019. The women’s hockey program — coached by Maura Crowell, who Berlo hired in 2015 — returned to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2020-21 for the first time in over a decade.
Crowell is one of six head coaches Berlo has hired in his last eight years. Of those six, four have taken their program to the NCAA postseason.
Overall, 14 of UMD’s 16 teams have qualified for an NCAA regional or the national tournament dating back to the 2013-14 season. In 2017-18, he was named the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Division II Director of the Year Award recipient.
“It’s been an incredible run if you look at the competitive success, the academic success,” Berlo said of his coaches. “They make it all happen.”
Financially, the department has flourished under Berlo as well, with seven consecutive years of over $1 million in annual fundraising donations, including $1 million in gifts from 2,000 donors during the 2020 fiscal year, according to the university.
Under Berlo the department has made upgrades to both Malosky Stadium and Ward Wells Fieldhouse, with a $10 million renovation underway at Romano Gymnasium. The department also had the Jamar Athletic Academic Study Center recently renovated.
Berlo said the biggest challenge he faces now and in the future as athletic director is getting the department back to its traditional state in this post-pandemic world while still operating in the safest possible environment. Getting fans back in the stands is a big priority, he said.
“It's filling up our venues, it's renewing our season tickets, it's ramping up our sponsorship and philanthropy again,” Berlo said. “We think we're well positioned to do that. Those are areas that we've been setting records and the staff has done an incredible job.”
Berlo’s athletic department has also found itself at the center of some high-profile lawsuits with former head women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller — whose contract was not renewed following the 2014-15 season after she led the Bulldogs to five national championships in 16 seasons — suing the university in federal court. A jury in March 2018 found UMD liable for sex discrimination and Title IX retaliation. The two sides agreed to a $4.53 million settlement in December 2019.
Softball coach Jen Banford — also the women’s hockey director of operations at the time — and women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles were originally part of Miller’s lawsuit after they both left the university following Miller’s dismissal, however, their claims were initially dismissed by a judge in February 2018. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2019 revived their claims, though those were again dismissed in April of this year. Banford and Wiles filed an appeal to that dismissal on Thursday.
UMD is also being sued by former women’s cross country and track and field coach Joanna Warmington for claims of sex discrimination, reprisal and creation of a hostile work environment. Warmington resigned in 2018 after an investigation by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action found she displayed a pattern of sexual misconduct.
This story was updated at 3:46 p.m. on May 20, 2021, following Josh Berlo's video conference with reporters. It was originally posted at 3:27 p.m. on May 20, 2021.