Tonight, Baylor and Notre Dame will play for the NCAA championship in women’s basketball, so the New York Times chose today to run an article about salary disparities between coaches of men’s and women’s teams. According to the article, the coaches of women’s college basketball teams earn about one-half or one-third of the amount of the men’s basketball coach. There are a few exceptions, like Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, whose $2.2 million annual salary is actually more than her men’s team counterpart, and Geno Auriemma, who makes two-thirds of UConn men’s team coach Jim Calhoun. But in most cases, men’s basketball coaches (who are almost always men) are paid two- or three- times more than the coaches of women’s teams, whether they are male or female.
The article then examines factors that contribute to this disparity, which defies the general principal under Title IX that men’s and women’s teams receive comparable resources, including coaches of equal caliber, and the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits paying women less for equal work. One source of the disparity is third-party sources of income, like endorsements and speaker fees. Men’s coaches are also able to capitalize on market forces that make their summer camps a profitable endeavor, while women’s team’s summer camps are generally recruiting tools that break even. The article also notes that unlike the coaches on the men’s side, whose teams receive favorable treatment automatically, coaches of women’s teams use their employment contract to secure amenities for their teams. This presumably cuts into their bargaining power to leverage higher salaries.
The article also provides some insight into law’s limited ability to address disparities in head coach salaries. Title IX’s limitation in this regard is that it is student-focused. The law requires equal treatment for men’s and women’s teams, which includes the quality of coaching each program receives. Quality of coaching is of course a function of the compensation available. But the overall market for salaries in women’s sport generally allows universities to purchase a coach of comparable quality to head their women’s teams, just at discount prices.
The Equal Pay Act is also implicated by salary disparities, but limited in its ability to address the problem. For one thing, as the article notes, third-party payments like endorsements are outside the scope of the Equal Pay Act. (I do think, however, that a case could be made for including booster club payments as part of the equal pay equation, by analogizing to Title IX, which requires school districts that accept funds raised by one team’s boosters to still provide equal treatment to boys and girls teams.) Another limit is that the Equal Pay Act provides a remedy to women who are paid less than men for equal work — it doesn’t apply to male coaches of women’s teams who may be paid less than male coaches of men’s teams. And even where the Equal Pay Act does apply, universities can justify disparities in base pay by arguing that the male coach has more job responsibilities — even if such additional job responsibilities are seemingly manufactured for that purpose, such as requiring the men’s team coach to make 20 public appearances and the women’s team coach15 (an example from the article). The Equal Pay Act also allows universities to justify paying male coaches more based when their team brings in more revenue, even though this disparity is due to to external market forces rather than the respective effort that each coach puts into the job.