UND President Andrew Armacost announced in a letter to campus Friday morning that he made the decision to remove the freshman hockey player from the team, but said Miller is welcome to remain at UND as a student.
The move comes in the wake of an in-depth report by the Arizona Republic detailing Miller’s admitted assault, bullying and racial abuse of a Black, developmentally disabled classmate in eighth grade in Sylvania, Ohio.
UND initially said Monday it was standing by Miller, but that changed Friday.
“I have been closely monitoring the situation concerning Men’s Hockey student-athlete Mitchell Miller, who was involved in a situation as a youth in 2016,” Armacost wrote. “We expect our students to live by our values in the classroom, in the community and when representing the University on the field of play.
“After much consideration and discussions with Mitchell, the Miller family, our Athletics Director, Bill Chaves, and Coach Brad Berry, I have decided that the best course of action for Mitchell and the University is that he no longer be a member of the UND Men’s Hockey program. Mitchell may remain a student at UND and we will continue to support his future intellectual and interpersonal growth. We wish Mitchell well in whatever path he chooses in his future endeavors.
“Lastly, I want to thank Coach Berry and Athletics Director Chaves for working with me as we navigated this difficult decision together, and for working with Mitchell and his family.”
Armacost said it was his decision and it was made in consultation with others. He declined to name all who were involved in it. Armacost said the call was made Friday morning.
When asked why the decision was ultimately left up to him, Armacost said, “because I’m the President.”
Since arriving on campus in June, Armacost has been attempting to build an inclusive and diverse campus for UND.
“All of my decisions concern what’s respectful of the people on the campus,” he said. “Since my early days of the presidency, diversity, equity, inclusion have been important and so you’ll find that those ideals mattered to me deeply. … A lot that went into this decision.”
Conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion, no matter how difficult, are important to have on campus, Armacost said.
“These discussions need to be informed by careful study, careful consideration and appreciation for different perspectives,” he said. “But ultimately, when we talk about developing critical thinking skills in our students, we expect tough topics like this one — like diversity, equity and inclusion — to be at the center of those conversations. So, it’s quite logical for a university to be a place with rich conversations, rich discussion, rich debate about diversity, equity and inclusion.”
A day earlier, the Arizona Coyotes, who used a fourth-round draft pick on Miller earlier this month, renounced their rights to him.
“The timing of the Coyotes’ decision had nothing to do with our decision,” Armacost said.
As long as Miller remains a full-time student, he will retain his scholarship for this academic year.
“Under NCAA guidelines, during the freshman year, UND must honor scholarship awards, unless there is serious misconduct during the period of the awards,” a UND spokesperson said. “If a student-athlete withdraws from UND or is not enrolled full-time, it is no longer honored.”
Miller admitted to assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act for wiping a candy push pop in a bathroom urinal and tricking a developmentally disabled Black boy, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, into licking it. According to the police report, Miller had a pattern of using racist slurs toward Meyer-Crothers.
In a letter Miller sent to NHL teams before the draft, he admitted to using racist language.
After the in-depth story surfaced in the Arizona Republic, UND said it was aware of the 2016 incident and the program “made a decision that our program could provide him the necessary infrastructure and culture to hone not only his hockey abilities but most importantly, assist him in his continuing growth as a human being which will last him the remainder of his life.”
But Meyer-Crothers said it was not an isolated incident and it was a pattern. His mother wrote a letter to the Coyotes saying that Miller taunted her son just two years ago. That letter was published Wednesday by The Athletic.
Miller released a statement through the Coyotes before they renounced their pick.
“I am extremely sorry about the bullying incident that occurred in 2016 while I was in eighth grade,” he said. “I was young, immature and feel terrible about my actions. At the time, I did not understand the gravity of my actions and how they can affect other people. I have issued an apology to the family for my behavior, completed cultural diversity and sensitivity training and volunteered within my community with organizations such as Little Miracles. Over the past four years, I have had a lot of time to reflect and grow and I am very grateful to the Arizona Coyotes for taking a chance on me. I promise not to let them down. Moving forward, I want to be a leader for this cause and help end bullying and racism.”
Upon renouncing their pick, Arizona’s President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said: “We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately. Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016. We do not condone this type of behavior but embraced this as a teachable moment to work with Mitchell to make him accountable for his actions and provide him with an opportunity to be a leader on anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts.
“We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact it has had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. What we learned does not align with the core values and vision for our organization and leads to our decision to renounce our draft rights. On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes ownership and our entire organization, I would like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. We are building a model franchise on and off the ice and will do the right thing for Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family, our fans and our partners. Mr. Miller is now a free agent and can pursue his dream of becoming an NHL player elsewhere.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the college hockey season has been delayed and will not start until Dec. 1, so Miller had yet to play a game for UND. By Friday afternoon, he was already removed from the team roster on the school’s website.