MISSOULA – The most successful player in Montana basketball history, Lady Griz, is scheduled to face the University of Montana by jury beginning November 13.
Schweyen, a longtime assistant coach for UM and head coach for four seasons, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the university in November 2021 after being told her coaching contract would not be renewed. Now a seven-person jury is being selected to try the case in federal court in Missoula just 10 days before Thanksgiving.
The only defendant named in the lawsuit is the University of Montana. Schweyen asks UM to either reinstate her or to pay her for the missed back payments and advance payments.
In the lawsuit, Schweyen, the all-time top scorer for Lady Griz, claims UM wrongly terminated her in April 2020 after two players opted to leave the program. She was originally hired as head coach by UM athletics director Kent Haslam in 2016 following the retirement of longtime head coach Robin Selvig, for whom she had played and trained for 24 years.
Haslam is named several times in the lawsuit but is not listed as a defendant. Schweyen was given a three-year contract with a base salary of $130,000.
The lawsuit alleges that UM violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, which specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace. It was filed in US District Court.
“UM disagrees with the allegations in the complaint. UM will defend the allegations in the appropriate forum,” UM spokesman Dave Kuntz said back in 2021.
The lawsuit alleges that Travis DeCuire, the current Montana men’s basketball head coach, was hired shortly before Schweyen in the summer of 2016 and received a base salary of $155,000.
“UM’s differential treatment of Coach DeCuire and Coach Schweyen with respect to their respective starting salaries reflects intent and motive to discriminate against Schweyen on the basis of gender,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Haslam initially did not want to hire Schweyen. Schweyen’s record as head coach was 52-69.
A native of Billings and currently working as a real estate agent in Missoula, Schweyen was extremely popular in her playing and coaching days at UM. She remains the only Big Sky Conference player to receive Kodak All-American First Team Honors in 1991-92.
A day after Schweyen was informed her contract would not be renewed because Montana women’s basketball coach CJ Merrill, a former paid administrative aide to the Lady Griz, started the #iamwith21 movement, a Facebook page that is now more than 1,500 members.
“The overwhelming message (in #iamwith21 movement posts) is that they want to see some change at the university because this situation has been handled so poorly,” Merrill told 406mtsports.com in 2020. “I was shocked at how unethical treatment from this beloved coach.”
Merrill’s #iamwith21 Movement website is supported by a large number of former Montana athletes and coaches.