Unequal Pay Between Basketball Coaches Highlights Gender Income Inequality

Tom Hopkins, Copy Editor

Although it closed slightly in recent years, there is still a gap between what men and women earn for their work. At Central Connecticut, it exists between the men’s and women’s basketball coaches. 

According to the state’s open payroll website, CCSU women’s basketball coach Beryl Piper makes $141,752 in yearly salary, while men’s basketball coach Donyell Marshall brings in $187,932, a difference of $46,180. 

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the gender pay gap in 2018 closed by 5 percent, from women making 80 percent of what men earned in 2017 to making 85 percent of what men made. However, the difference between Central’s basketball coaching counterparts lags behind those numbers, with Piper making about 75 percent of Marshall’s salary.

“I would just say, in general, that the history behind females making less in the corporate world, in coaching, in anything has been there for so long. In this generation, it makes no sense,” Piper said. “We put in the time, our education is the same. We’ve done all the same things. So it really doesn’t make any sense that just because you’re a male, you’re going to make more money than a female.”

Although Title IX protects against disparities between men and women in college sports, it was more so designed to help students. Title IX ensures male and female student-athletes receive comparable resources and opportunities, but doesn’t ensure equal pay between male and female coaches.

Experience, education and job performance are some of the reasons cited for the gap between men and women’s pay when talking about pay equity. But it is Piper who comparatively has more coaching experience, success and a higher degree of education. 

Piper has 32 years of coaching experience, including 19 years of head coaching experience at New Britain High School. Piper has also been coaching at the Division I level for 11 seasons. Additionally, she has master’s degree in health education and, in regards to job performance, with 142 wins, she is the winningest women’s basketball coach of the D-I era and has advanced to five conference semifinals.

Marshall, after a 15-year career in the NBA, finished his bachelor’s degree and began coaching in 2010 as an assistant at George Washington University in D.C. After a few more stops as an assistant, he landed the men’s head coaching position in 2016. In his three years at CCSU, Marshall has racked up 31 wins and advanced to one conference quarterfinal. 

CCSU Athletics Director Brian Barrio said market forces play a role in what women’s athletics coaches get paid compared to men’s coaches. According to him, the market for men’s and women’s coaches are not equal and that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the gender of the coaches.

“If we tried to pay a men’s coach what we pay [Piper], we wouldn’t be able to hire one,” Barrio said. “If we paid a women’s coach what we pay a men’s coach, we’d be at 200 percent of what we should be paying for the coach.”

Given that Marshall makes 25 percent more than Piper, paying a women’s coach what CCSU pays a men’s coach would be like paying 125 percent of what the university should be paying for the coach. The numbers do show that CCSU’s coaching pay gap is on par with the rest of the teams in the Northeast Conference.

However, the market is the way it is because, with some exceptions, women usually coach women’s sports. And women, as the gender gap states, typically get paid less than men. Meanwhile, there are no exceptions to men coaching men’s sports, a fact that Barrio thinks will change soon.

“It’s a men’s team, but that’s not a men’s position,” Barrio said. “It’s not reserved for men. I think we’ll look back on this 15 years from now and there will be women coaching men’s teams and you’ll look back like that was an anachronism.”

Piper, for her part, thinks it should not matter which gender is being coached.

“Oh, for sure,” Piper said when asked if she performs her job at the same level as her male counterpart. “I think all coaches come in here and they work because obviously, we want to win games, so I think everybody’s coming in and working really, really hard. So with everything being equal, why should the pay be different?”

President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, which mandates women and men must be paid equal for equal work. The law specifically states that it is not the job title that is important, but the job content. 

The EPA website states: “Specifically, the EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.” 

With the exception of some extra media availability, Barrio said that job responsibilities are essentially the same. 

“I think on the men’s side, there can be more media stuff because men’s basketball gets more coverage nationally,” Barrio said. “But I think, in reality, my goal would be that the two positions are very similar because we’re trying to do the same things externally, we’re trying to run a great program on both sides.”

It’s worth noting that the way the national media covers men’s and women’s sports is itself unequal. A study by the University of Southern California in 2017 found that LA-based networks only devoted 3.2 percent of their airtime to women’s sports, while ESPN’s SportsCenter devoted even less with just 2 percent of their airtime.