MISSOULA, Montana — In a program with a roster that’s seemed like a revolving door the last few seasons, Shannon Schweyen will be the latest to exit the Lady Griz women’s basketball program.
On Wednesday evening, Skyline Sports confirmed that the University of Montana will part ways with Schweyen, who has served as the head women’s basketball coach the last four seasons. She signed a one-year contract before this season and will not have that contract renewed.
According to sources close to the University of Montana athletic department, Schweyen met with UM athletic director Kent Haslam on Wednesday afternoon. She is expected to meet with UM president Seth Bodnar on Thursday morning to finalize the non-renewal of her contract.
According to a clause in all University of Montana coaching contracts, an athletic department employ must be given one month notice per year of tenure up to six months for six years if their contract will be renewed or not. Schweyen’s current contract will expire on July 31. She was given four months notice for her four years as UM’s head coach.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation confirm that Mike Petrino will serve as the interim head coach for UM until the end of next season.
The website 406mtsports.com confirmed the non-renewal directly with Schweyen on Wednesday evening.
Schweyen, the only All-American player in Montana history during her record-setting playing career, has spent most of the last three decades coaching in some fashion at her alma mater. After nearly 25 years as one of legendary head coach Robin Selvig’s assistants, Schweyen took over for Selvig as head coach when Selvig retired after 38 seasons in 2016.
During her four years guiding her alma mater, Schweyen posted a 52-69 record, including a 34-42 in Big Sky Conference play. Montana went 17-13 overall, including 12-8 in the Big Sky this past season. She went 1-7 against rival Montana State after Montana had been 78-20 before Schweyen’s tenure against their fierce rivals.
UM finished fourth in the regular-season tournament last month and received a first-round bye for the first time since the Big Sky moved the league tournament to a neutral site in 2015. But Montana lost its first game of the tournament in Boise, falling to a fifth-seeded Northern Arizona team that had not won a tournament game in more than a decade.
UM went 1-4 in league tournament games under Schweyen. Robin Selvig led the Lady Griz to 18 Big Sky Tournament titles and 21 overall berths in the NCAA Tournament. He won 865 games in his career.
Schweyen’s teams her first two seasons were decimated by injury, including losing preseason league MVP Kayleigh Valley before Schweyen’s first and second seasons. Since then, Montana has had an array of players leave the program before exhausting their eligibility for varying, and often times, unknown reasons.
Without Valley and a roster made up of eight freshman, Schweyen’s first team finished 7-23, including 4-14 in Big Sky play. The overall record, the conference record and UM’s 10th-place finish were all lows for the program since before Selvig was hired.
The following season, Valley re-injured her knee, effectively ending her career. Senior post Alycia (Sims) Harris, a projected starter, also had her career end before the season because of a knee injury. Both decided to forego seeking a medical hardship waiver and a final season.
That same season, Sophia Stiles’ freshman season, the former two-time Montana Gatorade Player of the Year suffered a season-ending knee injury. Montana finished Schweyen’s second season with a 9-9 league mark and a 14-17 record overall. The consecutive losing seasons marked the first time that had occurred at UM in more than 40 years.
Over the last two weeks, former starter Gabi Harrington along with sophomore Kylie Frolich entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. Montana graduates three seniors — first-team All-Big Sky point guard McKenzie Johnston, stretch forward Emma Stockholm and bench scorer Taylor Goligoski — from its most recent roster. Guard Sammy Fatkin left the program a few weeks into the season while the Lady Griz were still in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
Following last season that included another losing record (14-16 overall, 9-11 in league play) and another first-round tournament exit (an embarrassing 64-56 loss to No. 10 seed Southern Utah), prized recruit Katie Mayhue left the program, eventually transferring to Texas-Arlington. In that tournament game, All-Big Sky post Jace Henderson battled a bum ankle while several other Lady Griz suffered from flu like symptoms.
Hailey Nicholson, like Stiles a Malta native, along with Bozeman product Caitlin Lonergan, Great Falls native Nora Klick and Washington native point guard Sierra Anderson left the program following Schweyen’s second season. Henny Hearn and Jare Mane did not return for their second seasons following Schweyen’s first.
Stiles played through a shoulder injury this season while Johnston played through an ailing knee. Stiles is scheduled to have surgery on that shoulder but the operation has been delayed because of the precautions at hospitals stemming from the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Schweyen’s daughters Jordyn and Shelby took redshirts this season while recovering from injury, as did second-year player Carmen Gfeller. Senior-to-be Madi Schoening has not been healthy in two years because of a variety of ailments, including missing almost all of last. Mayhue missed the stretch run of her only season at UM with a foot injury. Klick’s career was also hindered by injuries.
Montana won its 18th Big Sky Tournament title, including its 16th won on its home court, during Selvig’s second-to-last season in the spring of 2014. The following season, the league tournament moved to a neutral site. Reno, Nevada hosted the first three years of the Big Sky Tournament.
He finished as one of the most successful head coaches in the history of women’s college basketball. Selvig played collegiately at Montana under Jud Heathcote, who went on to lead Michigan State to the 1979 NCAA title. Selvig took over as the head coach of the Lady Griz in 1978.
Selvig was strongly opposed to moving the tournament to a neutral site and he made that opinion known. A few months after UM suffered a 65-62 loss to North Dakota in the quarterfinals of that spring’s tournament, Selvig announced his retirement.
Selvig posted an unbelievable 31 20-win seasons, holding a .752 winning percentage during his nearly four-decade run.
He led the Lady Griz to consecutive Mountain West championships in 1981 and 1982, qualifying for the AIAW Tournament in 1982. The following season, Selvig led Montana to the inaugural women’s NCAA Tournament, the first of 21 trips to the Big Dance.
The Lady Griz won the Mountain West five times in six seasons between 1983 and 1988 before joining the Big Sky before the 1988-89 season. Montana won its first 48 Big Sky games, three straight league titles and won a pair of NCAA Tournament games during its first four years in the league.
After earning three consecutive state tournament MVPs and 1988 Montana Gatorade Player of the Year honors at Billings Central, Shannon Cate joined the Lady Griz. Her career highlighted that peerless, dominant start to UM’s Big Sky era as the 6-foot-3 post carved out a spot as perhaps the most talented and certainly one of the most decorated players the league has ever seen three decades later.
From the fall of 1988 until the spring of 1992, Cate led Montana to four NCAA tournaments, three Big Sky Conference regular-season titles and a record of 103-18.
After earning honorable mention All-America honors as a sophomore and junior, Cate became the Big Sky Conference’s only first-team Kodak All-American as a senior in 1991-92. That honor was recognized in 2014 as No. 3 on the list of “25 Greatest Women’s Moments” in Big Sky history. That same year, she scored 34 points as Montana pulled off an 85-74 upset victory over No. 6 Wisconsin in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
Cate finished her career with 2,172 points, more than any player, man or woman, in league history and a record that would not be touched until Idaho State’s Natalie Doma broke it more than a decade later. She finished as a two-time Big Sky MVP, a three-time Big Sky Tournament MVP, a three-time Lady Griz MVP and a four-time academic All-Big Sky selection.
For all those accomplishments, she was voted as the No. 1 female athlete on the Big Sky’s list of “25 Greatest Female Athletes” following a yearlong countdown to commemorate 25 years of women’s athletics in the Big Sky Conference.
After a brief professional career in Spain that was derailed by a repeated and ultimately career-ending shoulder injury, Cate returned to UM and joined Selvig’s staff as a student assistant in 1993. She earned her degree in business administration that spring and was appointed to a full-time assistant position before the 1993-1994 season.
She also married Brian Schweyen, a former standout track athlete at Montana State who has been the head track and field coach at Montana for 12 seasons.
During her 24 years on Selvig’s staff, Schweyen was a part of 13 more NCAA Tournament berths, 14 Big Sky regular-season titles and 566 wins. She either played for or coached under Selvig during 15 seasons in which he earned Big Sky Coach of the Year.