Glass ceiling broken!Dawn Staley has become the highest-paid Black head coach for women’s basketball after signing a $22.4 million contract with the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Last Friday, the South Carolina Board of Trustees approved a new seven-year contract extension, making Staley the highest-paid Black coach in women’s basketball and one of the country’s highest-paid women’s basketball coaches.
In May 2008, Staley became the team’s head coach and has proved her greatness each year. Under her leadership, the Gamecocks have reached the NCAA Tournament nine times and went to NCAA Final Fours 2015, 2017, 2021. The team won the 2017 NCAA championship, and South Carolina earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament five times and has spent 25 weeks ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll, which provides weekly rankings of the top 25 NCAA teams.
Her new salary puts her on par with Hall of Fame and University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, the highest-paid coach in women’s basketball. Staley said this could be a sign of changing times where universities invest the same in women’s basketball as they do the men’s sport.
“It’s always been an honor to represent the University of South Carolina, and this contract represents the University’s commitment to supporting me and our women’s basketball program,” Staley said in a prepared statement. “Contract negotiations are challenging, but this one was especially important as I knew it could be a benchmark, an example for other universities to invest in their women’s basketball programs, too. Our game continues to grow, and the time is ripe to make a big step forward, but only if universities foster that growth by committing resources that are equitable to those given to their men’s programs.”
The head coach, who was set to make $2.1 million this season before receiving a new contract, is receiving an $800,000 raise, which Staley described as “staggering.” Her base salary will be $1 million per year, with outside compensation starting at $1.9 million in the first year and escalation by $100,000 per year after that. Her 2021-22 compensation begins at $2.9 million, with the final year topping out at $3.5 million. The contract includes additional performance compensation opportunities up to $680,000 per year.
She is one of the most decorated figures in women’s basket basketball. Staley was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of fame in 2012, and that same year she was a final nominee for induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. The head coach was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 and won the National Coach of the Year honors in 2014 and 2020 with her 2020 unanimous selection making her the first former Naismith Player of the Year to earn the Naismith Coach of the Year award. She has received tremendous support from fans and her colleagues following the announcement.
“Dawn Staley is one of the nation’s top coaches, regardless of the sport,” South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in a statement. “She has built our women’s basketball program from the ground up, and her teams have produced champions, both on and off the floor. The ability to keep Coach Staley at the University of South Carolina is great news for all Gamecocks. I join with our fans in looking forward to seeing the great achievements her program will continue to produce in the future.”
In her 21 years as a head coach, Staley has compiled 11 25-win seasons, with 17 postseason appearances. This summer, in her first stint as head coach of the USA Women’s Basketball Team, Staley led America to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. As a player, the Hall of Famer was a three-time Olympic gold medalist at the 1996, 2000, and 2004 games and won Naismith Trophies in 1991 and 1992 while at Virginia.
“Too often when Black people are in these positions [of leadership], we’re afraid to risk it all,” Staley said. “But I was unafraid to lose. I was principled in my belief that I’ve done enough … money is the thing that pulls people in, it’s the highlighter, but for me, it’s about equity. It’s being able to know your worth, know you’re an asset to something, and getting what you deserve. And it’s not a favor; it is earned.”