Gap in Coaches’ Salaries Guides NCAA Tournament Picks

March 18, 2014

The 100-plus schools in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments all pay coaches for men’s sports teams more — often much more — on average than coaches for women’s sports teams. How’s that for March madness?

The millions of Americans filling out NCAA tournament brackets this week will use a variety of methods to choose game winners, including tournament seeds, gut feelings, and expert predictions. But we’re willing to bet almost no one picks based on how equitably a school invests in men’s sports and women’s sports — until now.

AAUW’s salary showdown brackets take you all the way to the men’s and women’s championships by calculating the gap between the average salary for head coaches of men’s teams and head coaches of women’s teams at a school and moving the school with the smaller gap onto the next round.

According to our brackets, we’re breaking out the red and blue in honor of the University of Dayton. In both the men’s and women’s brackets, the University of Dayton, where the salaries of women’s sports coaches are, on average, 96 percent of the salaries of men’s sports coaches, comes out on top.

If our brackets play out, Dayton, a No. 11 seed in the men’s bracket and No. 6 seed in the women’s bracket, would be the first school to claim men’s and women’s championships in the same year since the University of Connecticut did it in 2004. Though Dayton’s the only school to be in the final four for both of the salary showdown brackets, by our count 25 teams — out of the men’s 68 total and the women’s 64 total — are in both brackets.

Statistics have shown that you have virtually no chance of filling out a perfect NCAA tournament bracket. (Guess that $1 billion from Warren Buffett might not be yours after all.) Using AAUW’s brackets to inform your choices supports gender equity at the very least — and maybe even predicts some upsets. After all, we know fair pay policies can be effective for improving workplace productivity. Our money’s on the schools with the smaller gaps.

More on the analysis: Our analysis does not compare individual coach’s salaries but rather uses available data and divides the average salary for all head coaches of women’s teams at a school by the average salary for head coaches of men’s teams at the same school to discover the pay gap. The average salary for coaches of men’s teams and coaches of women’s teams at a school is available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Because the Department of Education data includes all head coaches, football coaches, who often collect the largest salary at an institution, are part of the calculation. Even with that caveat, the comparison still illustrates a school’s relative investment in women’s sports versus men’s sports. (Note: Our winner, Dayton, has a football program.) Bear in mind that most NCAA athletic programs rely on subsidies to balance their budgets, some to the tune of several million dollars. College sports almost always lose money, but some schools do a much better job of paying their coaches equitably.

Men’s bracket breakdown: Our analysis knocked out all the men’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and all but Syracuse of the No. 3 seeds in their first games. Joining Dayton in the final four are Cal Poly (75 percent), Cincinnati (74 percent) and American University (71 percent).

Click to download PDF.

Salary Showdown Mens Bracket


Women’s bracket breakdown: Just one No. 1 seed, Connecticut, the top seed in the Lincoln quadrant of the bracket, advanced to the second round in our bracket. No second seeds and only one No. 3 seed, Penn State, advanced. In the women’s final four, we have Dayton, Wright State (89 percent), the University of Pennsylvania (77 percent), and Winthrop (76 percent).

Click to download PDF.

Salary Showdown Womens Bracket

Interestingly, Wright State is located in Dayton — which means that the two most equitable teams in the women’s bracket and overall hail from the same location. The men’s bracket also has two teams from Ohio in the top four — Dayton and Cincinnati.


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  1. […] Gap in coaches’ salaries guides ncaa tournament picks […]

  2. […] one group – the American Association of University Women – used a unique method. They chose their brackets based on the coaching pay gaps between […]

  3. […] But, it didn’t bust a American Association of University Women’s bracket. […]

  4. […] But, it didn’t bust the American Association of University Women’s bracket. […]

  5. I knew my alma mater, Kansas, would be low on the list. Bill Self’s salary alone probably eclipses the combined salaries of all other coaches — female and male. But to be 64th on the list!?! Go Dayton (and not just for winning on my bracket).

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