The Confusion of Title IX and College Coaches Pay Gap


Dana Drew Shaw

A common misconception of Title IX is that it applies directly to coaching salaries. While the salaries for coaches of women’s teams are increasing, they still lag far behind that of the coaches who lead men’s teams. Generally, a men’s basketball coach may be paid 2 to 3 times more than a women’s basketball coach at the same school.

Title IX is limited in its ability to address these disparities because it was designed to help students. Title IX requires comparable resources and equal opportunities to be provided to both male and female athletes. One element of this requirement is the assignment and compensation of qualified coaches. The heart of the issue is the quality of the coaching: women’s teams must receive equivalent quality level of coaching to the men’s teams. A Title IX violation will thus only occur if the disparate amount of compensation paid to women’s team coaches negatively affects the quality of the coaching. 34 CFR § 106.41 (c)(6). This leaves the women’s coaches arguing that their quality of coaching was negatively impacted due to their lower pay, something no coach would seek to proclaim about their abilities.

There are other federal remedies to address the disparate impact of the salaries paid to coaches of women’s teams. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) are avenues for coaches to bring an equal pay claim against their employer. To bring an EPA claim, the coach of a women’s team would have to show equal work that is receiving unequal pay. To bring a Title VII complaint, the women’s coach must show intentional discrimination. However, a school may offer several defenses for both types of claims accounting for the difference in pay including the additional duties performed by men’s team coaches, greater revenue production by the men’s teams, and the overall market value of the coaching position to the school. These defenses are difficult to surmount.

In addition, schools justify this pay gap by noting that coaches of men’s teams typically have more experience, are under a greater pressure to win because of the greater revenue production, and are generally higher profile than women’s coaches. For these reasons, supplemental pay and incentive bonuses also vary greatly between men and women coaches.

Title IX is student-focused, which limits claims for disparities in coaching salary. Equality under this law requires equal treatment, which is reflected in the quality of the coaches hired, not the salaries they are paid. Recourse for discrepancies in salary will have to be found in other legislation or driven by an increase in the external market value for coaches of women’s teams.

For more information, please contact Dana Drew Shaw at University of Toledo law student and Sports Practice intern, Ellie Reinbrecht, contributed to this article.


%d bloggers like this: