The Pay Gap Grows Between Men and Women Coaches


An interesting but often overlooked area that is covered by Title IX legislation entails equitable pay of the coaches of men’s and women’s athletics teams at NCAA colleges and universities. Although the law is well intended, the facts clearly indicate that men’s coaches are paid much more than women’s coaches across the board and that colleges have found ways around the federal law.

Title IX—first passed by Congress in 1972—on its face dictates that the pay for men’s and women’s coaches should meet one of the three-prong tests created by Title IX and subsequent regulations issued in 1996.  Schools usually try to show that the pay for women’s coaches has improved versus pay for men’s coaches and that such pay is equitable based on history and on the fiscal realities of men’s and women’s sports.

The Equal Pay Act of 1983 mandates that employers not discriminate against women in pay or other job conditions.

However, U.S. Department of Education data shows that pay for coaches of all Division I men’s sports increased to $267,007 from 2003 to 2010.  In that same period of time, pay for all women’s team coaches increased to $98,106.  Men’s team coaches enjoyed a 67 percent increase in their pay, while the increase for women’s team coaches was only 16 percent.

For men’s basketball, the median salary for coaches of men’s teams in Division I was $339,300 in 2010, versus a $171,600 median salary for coaches of women’s teams.  In the last four years, men’s coaches have seen their pay increase by 40 percent compared to 28 percent for coaches of women’s teams.

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt is one of the few female coaches to earn a salary close to her male counterparts.

If the salaries of outliers coaching women’s basketball teams such as Pat Summit at Tennessee and Geno Auriemma at Connecticut were removed, the median salary for women’s coaches would be even further behind those of men’s coaches.

At North Carolina, men’s coach Roy Williams earned almost $2 million last year.  Women’s coach, Sylvia Hatchell, earned $514,000 last year.  Williams has won two national championships at North Carolina and Hatchell has won one.

Schools have found a couple of ways to get around federal law when drawing up coaching contracts.  Most schools now pay coaches a base salary that is pretty much equal between their men’s team coaches and women’s team coaches.    Schools then use so-called third party money for the bulk of coaching compensation.  Items are listed as appendices to the base contract and cover such things as supplemental payments, talent fees and appearance fees.  In many contracts these items make up the bulk of a coach’s overall pay.

The money for these supplemental payments can come from contracts between the athletic department and apparel companies, the department and talent agencies, or the department and media companies.  The key is that the money is not paid by the athletic department itself out of direct revenues but comes from a third party.  If a men’s team coach can command more in the open marketplace than a women’s team coach then so be it.  More and more schools are relying on independent athletic associations, which are similar to booster clubs and raise money directly outside of a school’s direct control.

Equal pay under federal law only applies to comparable work.  So a men’s team coach may be required to make more personal appearances in a year than a women’s team coach.  Men’s coaches may have more young people attending summer camps and may schedule more camps than a women’s coach.  Schools use this disparity to justify paying additional money to men’s coaches.

It is true that since the passage of Title IX in 1972 more and more women’s teams are being coached by men.  Over 60 percent of women’s Division I basketball teams have a men’s coach.  At all levels of college basketball, the percentage of teams coached by men has increased from 20.6 percent in 1978 to 43 percent in 2010.  Under federal law, the focus is on gender-based discrimination, so if men coach women’s teams they cannot claim protection under federal law.  Legally the comparison coach is another male.   This year Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari earned a $100,000 bonus for getting his team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.  Matthew Mitchell, the women’s coach, received only $40,000 for the same accomplishment.

Many men’s team coaches have academic performance clauses written into their contracts.  This is fairly rare among coaches of women’s teams.  This is because there is a general assumption that female athletes will do better in their schoolwork than their male counterparts.

If schools can show that they spend an equivalent amount of money on advertising, support staff, and promotional activities, then they can cite market realities as a defense against claims that their coaches are not paid equivalent salaries.

It should be pointed out that the total number of women coaching college basketball at NCAA schools has increased since the passage of Title IX because the number of schools offering women’s basketball programs has increased from 466 in 1978 to 1049 in 2010.

There is no question that Title IX has created more opportunities for women in college sports both as athletes and as coaches.  There is also no question that the law has led to vast increases in resources being allocated to women’s sports.  The reality is, however, that coaches have not seen the same type of increase in pay as the coaches of men’s teams.  Given the current state of Title IX and the Equal Pay Act, there seems little likelihood of that gender gap being narrowed any time soon.

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