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CityWatch: Equal pay for USC’s Dawn Staley? Screw that, she deserves more

Dawn Staley Championship parade

University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley at the team’s national championship victory parade in 2017

“Dawn Staley should be receiving just as much to coach basketball at USC as Frank Martin is getting to do so at the university.” — Roger Brown, The State, Mar. 12

Mr. Brown, opinion editor at The State since last fall, is quite concerned about University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley’s salary. Or more specifically, how it compares to USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin’s salary.

Brown has written two columns on that subject in recent weeks, both calling for Staley to receive equal pay to that received by Martin.

To which I say: Screw that — Staley should be paid more.

That’s not a shot at Brown. I agree with his premise, I just don't’ think he went far enough. But I’ll pick up the ball and whip it down court (the court of public opinion, that is, as my playing days are long since over).

It’s really not complicated. With Staley, you have consistent excellence, including one national championship, two Final Four appearances, five SEC titles, and the list goes on.

Indeed, during this past season Staley even checked off the one blank box on her record at USC, sending UConn and Geno Auriemma home with a loss after a trip to Columbia. And a bad loss at that.

With Martin, you have that one surprising but glorious run to the Final Four in 2017. And not much else.

That’s not to say Martin doesn’t work as hard, recruit as hard or coach as hard as Staley. It’s just to say that coaching salaries should be results-based.

Major college coaches make big money, and with that comes big expectations. And big results should be expected to keep getting that big check. The fact is Staley has been able to achieve those big results, while Martin has not.

Further, Staley is not only a nationally prominent coach, she is one with buzz. Her history as a great college player, great WNBA player, great Olympic player and now a great college coach is unmatched, even unprecedented.

Add to that both an inspiring personal story and a vivid personality on and off the court and you’ve got a coach who in her sport is on par with a former USC coach in another sport: Steve Spurrier.

Yes, I think we’ve got the Steve Spurrier of women’s basketball as the coach at USC. And yes, I think that demands not just equal pay but higher pay than that of her counterpart on the men’s side (unless he begins to have a similar level of success, in which case we’ll all be delirious and money will be no object).

Nor is this an issue of ticket sales. In case you didn’t know it, Staley’s team actually outdrew Martin’s in attendance this season.

And that’s not because the men’s team was terrible (they weren’t) or support for them was lacking (it wasn’t). It was a result of the intense fan enthusiasm for Staley’s team and its dominance of women’s college basketball.

If you were at that UConn game, or many others, you know what I mean. And you also know that Staley’s persona, along with the top high school players she successfully recruits and develops, combine to create basketball excitement at USC not seen since the glory days of Frank McGuire and John Roche.

And that was a long time ago, folks.

Conversely, Dawn Staley is here and now. She is at the top of her profession, and has taken USC to the top of women’s college basketball.

We want her to stay, to win, to bring more national championships (and we all feel we were robbed of one this year, not by UConn but by the coronavirus).

So let's make some news. Let’s pay USC's women’s basketball coach more than its men’s basketball coach.

As they like to say in the sports world, just do it.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.

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