This story has been updated to include a statement from UM.
A former University of Montana women’s basketball coach filed a complaint against the University of Montana alleging sex-based discrimination on Nov. 11.
Shannon Schweyen, a former Griz basketball player herself, was the head coach for UM’s women’s team from 2016-2020, but was involved with the UM women’s basketball program for 32 years. She still holds multiple UM and Big Sky Conference records from her time as a player on the team in the 1990s.
According to the document, “UM evaluated Coach Schweyen’s performance more harshly than her male counterparts because of her gender, and such act constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, according to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
“UM disagrees with the allegations in the complaint," said Dave Kuntz, UM's director of strategic communications. "UM will defend the allegations in the appropriate forum."
The court document makes numerous claims against UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam. Specifically, the filing alleges Haslam terminated Schweyen’s contract in April 2020 because “two women’s basketball players had entered the transfer portal” and “Schweyen’s team culture was horrible.”
When Haslam brought Schweyen on as the women’s basketball coach in 2016, she was offered a three-year contract for a salary of $130,000, the complaint states. Around the same time, men’s basketball coach Travis DeCuire, who had less coaching experience than Schweyen according to the complaint, was brought on a three-year contract with a salary of $155,000 — nearly a 20% difference.
The suit states that when Schweyen’s original contract was due to expire, Haslam offered a one-year contract to Schweyen, and provided no standards for her to meet to earn a longer contract, allegedly only telling her to “‘do better.’”
When two of Schweyen’s players entered the transfer portal in March of 2020, the suit alleges that Haslam brought up the team’s culture as a reason for this. However, the suit also claims Haslam didn’t bring these issues to Schweyen’s attention.
“During the 2019-2020 season, Haslam did not have a single meeting with Schweyen discussing the women’s basketball team culture or issues,” the suit states.
According to the complaint, both the men’s basketball team and the football team had players in the NCAA transfer portal at the time as well.
The suit claims this double standard was discriminatory against Schweyen.
On April 1, 2020, the complaint alleges Haslam told Schweyen her contract would not be renewed via phone.
Following Schweyen’s termination, there was an outpouring of support for her from players on the team and UM alumni. Some players on the team entered the transfer portal following Schweyen’s termination, including an ESPN Top 100 recruit that Schweyen brought to the team. There was an #iamwith21 movement started on social media, a nod to her number when she played for the team. The #iamwith21 Facebook group, as of Nov. 15, has 1,500 members, and the page’s last post was from May 9.
Schweyen’s gender discrimination suit against the University is the second one filed against it this year. The first, filed in August by four plaintiffs, alleged sex-based discrimination by UM and President Seth Bodnar. 18 additional women joined onto this suit, and it was re-filed as a class action. The August suit is still proceeding through the class certification phase, and UM announced its plan to challenge this suit in court in October.
This story will be updated.