Ex-Montana women’s basketball coach sues for discrimination

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Former Montana women’s basketball coach Shannon Schweyen has sued the university in federal court, alleging she was the victim of sexual discrimination during her employment and when her contract was not renewed.

Her lawsuit, filed Friday in Missoula, alleges she received a lesser base salary than the men’s basketball coach who was hired at the same time she was, even though she had more coaching experience.

Schweyen’s lawsuit also alleges she was told her contract wasn’t renewed after the 2019-20 season because two players entered the NCAA transfer portal, which meant they were seeking to play elsewhere. The lawsuit states the men’s basketball and football teams also had players leave via the transfer portal and those coaches weren’t fired.

The lawsuit alleges the university violated federal employment discrimination laws.

“UM disagrees with the allegations in the complaint. UM will defend the allegations in the appropriate forum,” school spokesman Dave Kuntz said in a statement.

In early March 2020, athleticd director Kent Haslam told Schweyen they were going to renew her contract for two more years, but he changed his mind with the only reason given being that two players entered the transfer portal, the lawsuit states.

Haslam “exuded hostility” toward Schweyen from her first conversation about her first coaching contract, the complaint states. Her first three-year contract paid a base salary of $130,000 while the men’s basketball coach, hired two months earlier, had a base salary of $155,000 — nearly 20% more than Schweyen was paid.

Over the four years that Schweyen coached the Montana women, the men’s team had a total of 15 players in the transfer portal, but the men’s coach was not fired, the lawsuit states. Another three men’s basketball players left the team during the 2020-21 season and the coach remains employed at the school, the lawsuit states.

Schweyen’s lawsuit states the men’s basketball team received better practice times and a $2 million locker room upgrade while the women’s basketball team has an outdated facility “that has been off-putting” to some recruits.

The lawsuit asks that Schweyen be returned to her position as head coach, with back pay, lost benefits and compensatory damages, or to award her pay in lieu of returning her to her job.

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