Both Equal Pay Day and the NCAA women’s and men’s basketball championship games occurred last week. With the popularity of the tournaments, questions have been raised by the media and public about the differences in coach salaries. Within the last six months, the University of Connecticut (“UCONN”) extended the contracts of both of its basketball head coaches — Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma. Ollie, as the men’s team coach has had one national championship during his tenure; while Auriemma, the women’s coach, has won 11 national titles. Despite Auriemma’s impressive record, Ollie received a more lucrative package from UCONN, which is typical in the sports world.
Why is this? As a sports attorney representing athletes and coaches, as well as a fan, I have come across this issue before and the answer boils down to the amount of revenue each program raises. Although both coaches receive basically the same base pay, Ollie gets the benefit of the money the men’s program brings in. Both the men’s and women’s teams share in the television revenues of the conferences to which they belong. However, the television packages for the men’s conferences pay substantially more than those for the women’s conferences. In addition, more tickets are generally sold for the men’s games than for the women’s games, further increasing the revenues generated by the men’s programs.
It seems unlikely that this particular playing field will ever be equal, mainly because women’s teams do not (and likely never will) bring in as much money as the men’s teams. For example, the UCONN Women’s Program, which is the most successful basketball program in NCAA history (men’s or women’s) with 11 national titles, can barely break even each season and during several of their national title winning seasons, spent more money than they took in.
Unfortunately, it appears that the only way for Auriemma to be paid as much as the head coach of a successful men’s program may be for him to leave the women’s game and become the head coach of a men’s team. At least initially, he would warrant a very high salary and then based upon results, he may continue to receive compensation commensurate with that paid to the top men’s coaches (several of which have packages which pay them more than $6 million annually).
Here is the video of my interview on PIX11 on this topic.
This post does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship.