Do men's and women's basketball coaches perform the same duties and are they entitled to the same pay?
Those questions are at the core of a debate that is expected to continue after a federal appeals court yesterday refused to immediately reinstate former Southern California women's coach Marianne Stanley to her post. She was fired last summer while seeking to earn as much as USC men's coach George Raveling.
The ruling comes at a time when athletic administrators, faced with the possibility of gender equity, are raising the base salaries of women's coaches to a level closer to that of men's teams.
"A lot of schools have taken it upon themselves to make decisions to bring their base salaries closer in line to what men's coaches are making," said Jim Foster, Vanderbilt women's coach and president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
Within the past year, coaches of women's teams at Tennessee, Virginia and Stanford have all received raises that bring them essentially even to men's coaches at their institutions in base salary, though they still trail in endorsement deals, shoe contracts, television and radio contracts and camps.
Stanley, who compiled a 351-146 record in 16 years, including a national championship during a previous stint at Old Dominion, was ostensibly fired by USC athletic director Mike Garrett last July when she did not accept the school's final offer of a one-year deal for $96,000. She had been seeking a three-year pact worth $297,000.
Stanley, who made $62,000 in salary and $6,000 in a housing allowance last year in the final year of a four-year contract, sued the school on sexual discrimination grounds, and asked a state judge to stop Garrett from hiring a new coach.
That judge granted Stanley's request, but a federal district court judge overturned that ruling and Garrett hired former USC star Cheryl Miller, who has guided the team to a 7-1 record and a No. 10 ranking.
Yesterday, the appeals court panel, by a 3-0 margin, ruled that Stanley had not demonstrated that she would win a claim for equal work for equal pay, the basis for the preliminary injunction she sought.
In the opinion, written by Judge Arthur Alarcon, the panel did not rule on whether it believed Stanley, who was hired this week as director of marketing for women's basketball at Stanford, would win the case, but cast doubts on the merits of her claim.
Alarcon wrote that Raveling, who has amassed a 327-282 record in 22 seasons, was under "greater pressure" from USC to promote his team and win, because the men's team generated greater attendance, more media interest, larger donations and produced "substantially more revenue" -- as much as 90 times more -- than the women's team.
Raveling's salary was not disclosed, but published reports place it between $130,000 and $150,000, not counting endorsements.
In that regard, Alarcon wrote that Stanley's responsibilities "did not require her to engage in the same intense level of promotional and revenue-raising activities. This quantitative dissimilarity in responsibilities justifies a different level of pay for the head coach of the women's basketball team."
Any differences in the university's promotion of the two teams represented "a business decision to allocate USC resources to the team that generates the most revenue," Alarcon said.
Foster, the first man to head the WBCA, took exception to the characterization that men's coaching jobs carry a greater burden.
"Most athletic programs don't market or promote women's athletics as they do men's," said Foster.
"There are a lot of issues that need to be discussed. I don't think it's as easy as saying there's more pressure. People speak out of bothsides of their mouths. If graduation rates are so important, why aren't women's coaches paid more, since I would say the grad rates for most women are higher than for men."
A closely related issue to salary is job security. Stanley's former four-year contract was the exception in women's basketball, where most coaches work year to year.
Just this week, Ohio State coach Nancy Darsch, who took her team to the national championship game last April, received a multi-year contract, joining Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who has won three national championships.