Judge Rejects Former Montana Coach’s Sex Discrimination Suit
A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a discrimination lawsuit filed by former Lady Griz Basketball Coach Shannon Schweyen, denying her claim that she was a victim of sex discrimination at the University of Montana.
Schweyen had filed the federal suit following her dismissal as head coach in 2020, ending what had been a celebrated career at the school as a player, then assistant coach before enduring a more troubled time as head coach.
Schweyen had followed legendary coach Robin Selvig into the lead position on the bench after being promoted by the University for the 2016-2017 season.
Anticipation for Schweyen's tenure
Schweyen had started in the head coaching position amid great anticipation of continuing Selvig's legacy. But problems began in the first season when the Lady Griz finished with a 7-23 overall record, and the first complaints were filed over her coaching style.
In the second year, the Lady Griz finished 14-17 overall and played to a .500 record in the Big Sky Conference. However, more complaints surfaced from parents, complaining their daughters had been subject to "verbal abuse, harassment and bullying" among other allegations.
That led to an investigation by UM Athletic Director Kent Harlem, although Schweyen remained through a third season, even renewing a one-year contract for a 4th season when the team won a Big Sky Conference playoff game.
However, complaints continued, including the transfer requests from several key players, and her last contract expired in June 2020.
Pay and other considerations
Schweyen's suit claimed she had been a victim of "discrimination" and that the school had evaluated her performance "more harshly than her male counterparts because of her gender." The case also brought up the pay levels for her work, and that of other male coaches.
In approving UM's request for a summary judgment in the order released Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen found that the school had "legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons to non-renew Schweyen's contract."
Christensen accepted the university's argument that the "poor performance of the women’s basketball team, the numerous and serious complaints regarding the unacceptable environment fostered by Schweyen for the student-athletes on her team."
In a prepared statement, UM spokesman Dave Kuntz responded to the ruling.
“The University is pleased with the Court’s decision. The University’s intent has always been to act in the best interests of its student-athletes and the Lady Griz program. The Court’s judgment validates the University’s decision to allow Ms. Schweyen’s contract to expire in 2020 and confirms that the University acted in compliance with applicable law and its own antidiscrimination policies and practices. We wish Ms. Schweyen well in her new endeavors and thank all supporters of UM Athletics and the Lady Griz.” -Dave Kuntz, UM spokesperson
There's been no immediate response to the ruling from Schweyen or her attorneys.
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