Penn State

Pay gap widening between coaches for men’s teams, women’s programs

Penn State’s head coaches make a significant amount of money but, as part of a national trend, the gap between the salaries of those in charge of men’s teams and those directing women’s programs has grown dramatically over the past decade.

The 14 head coaches of men’s teams earned an average $549,000, according to Penn State’s Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) report for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Their 13 counterparts on the women’s side made an average $220,000.

In 2003, the year of the first report on the U.S. Department of Education’s disclosure act website, the salary gap was just $16,000.

It grew to $32,000 in 2007, then jumped to $81,500 the next year. By the time of the most recent report it was $329,000.

The numbers may be alarming — but they’re no different when compared to the rest of the Big Ten. The average men’s head coach at Indiana, for example, is making more than five times the salary of the average women’s head coach. In fact, Penn State is on the low end when it comes to the growing pay gap.

Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist and professor at Smith College, noted that the continuing growth of revenue from men’s sports has led to higher salaries. Both trends have coincided with big TV contracts, largely for football and basketball.

In 2006, the Big Ten conference signed a 10-year, $1 billion national rights contract with ABC/ESPN and launched the Big Ten Network. Five years later, the conference teamed with CBS Sports to broadcast its basketball games.

The pay disparity is seen throughout all the Power Five athletic conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac-12), a review of the Equity in Athletics reports from all their schools found.

This trend also is evident in the pay of assistant coaches in the men’s and women’s programs.

At Penn State, for example, assistant coaches of women’s teams have seen their average salaries double — from $30,000 in 2003 to about $67,000 in 2015. But assistant coaches of men’s teams have seen their average salaries triple — from $50,500 to $152,000 in the same period.

There were 35 assistant coaches for men’s teams and 26 for women’s team in 2003. In 2015, there were 41 men’s team assistants and 32 for women’s teams.

Penn State Athletics was contacted for this story and sent a list of questions about the EADA reports and the pay gap. It responded with this written statement:

“We are committed to hiring and retaining coaches who are experienced leaders in their sports; who prepare student-athletes for success in the classroom, competition and community. To attract this type of leadership and coaching talent, we provide competitive salaries for every position within each of our 31 sports.”

Penn State Athletics financial manager Matthew Sarchet was later contacted about the report. He forwarded the email to Jeff Nelson, associate athletic director for strategic communications, who responded: “You have the EADA report, and we do not have any additional comments.”

Only the salaries of Penn State’s top-25 earners are public information under state law. Football coach James Franklin’s 2015 base salary is listed at $1.45 million. Aside from Franklin, the list is mostly made up of high-ranking Penn State officials and physicians at the university’s Hershey Medical Center.

Penn State Athletics confirmed that Franklin’s base salary — not his total, which includes endorsements and bonuses and is around $4.5 million — was used in the EADA report.

But even without Franklin’s base salary in the head coach salary total, the head coaches of men’s programs still make close to $260,000 more than head coaches of women’s programs. All men’s team head coaches are male, as are seven of the 13 women’s teams’ top coaches.

Zimbalist, the sports economist, said he doesn’t think the nationwide gap is justified but offered an explanation for why it’s so commonplace.

“All of the men’s coaches are getting pulled by the football and basketball coaches’ salaries,” he said. “It’s establishing a ratchet that raises everybody up.”

Zimbalist has written 24 books and multiple articles about sports economics and comparative economic systems.

“The men’s game is more established,” he said, “and so, yes, on average, probably the male coaches have more experience and so that might account for some of the differential, but I think it’s a small variable in the larger scheme of things.”

Speaking of the schools in the Power Five conferences, he said, “They are behaving as if they are in a commercial business, and they are not supposed to be behaving that way, and Title IX does not give them permission to behave that way.”

“Title IX says that there should be no discrimination by gender,” Zimbalist added, “and college sports is supposed to be something other than a commercial activity, according to the NCAA.”

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are four criteria that determine the pay of the men’s and women’s team coaches: equality of responsibilities, skills, efforts and working conditions of the jobs.

Legal expert Nancy Hogshead-Makar won three swimming Olympic gold medals in the 1980s and founded Champion Women: Advocacy for Girls and Women in Sports in Jacksonville, Fla. She argues that many coaches of women’s programs won’t speak up about being paid significantly less because of what happened to women’s basketball coach Marianne Stanley in 1993.

Stanley fought the University of Southern California over her new contract, claiming that she deserved the same pay as the men’s coach, George Raveling, because she had more success.

Her Trojans went 71-46 and made three NCAA tournament appearances during her four years from 1989 to 1993. Raveling made the NCAA tournament twice in eight seasons.

Stanley was dismissed from her job over the contract dispute.

“She was a much more winning coach — she had a much higher winning percentage than George Raveling did,” Hogshead-Makar said. “She recruited the best athletes, but she had not written a book as George Raveling had. But by many criteria you could easily make a case that she is a lot more qualified than he is.”

Mark Fischer and Aubree Rader are Penn State journalism students.

Look up financial reports

You can read Penn State Athletics’ two required annual financial reports at its website,

The first, required by the U.S. Department of Education, is the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act report. The second is the annual financial report submitted to the NCAA. Each covers the fiscal year from July 1 to June 30.

Penn State Athletics has the past six years of these reports on its website. Look in the “Athletics” dropdown menu for “Inside Athletics” and “financial reports.”

In addition, the Education Department has a website that lets you download data from the reports submitted by all universities that are required to do so. You can customize data to make comparisons and other analyses.

The website is called Equity in Athletics Data Analysis and is found at The website offers six ways to use the department’s “data analysis cutting tool.”

2015 Big Ten Pay Gap Between Men’s & Women’s Head Coaches


2015 Avg.

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HC Salary/Women’s

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Penn State