bob stitt

Montana head football coach Bob Stitt.

Three out of nine head coaches at the University of Montana are women — up from zero female head coaches a couple of years ago, according to UM athletics and an equity in athletics report.

But the head coaches of women's teams earn just 55 percent on average of the amount earned by the head coaches of men's teams, according to an Equity Disclosure in Athletics Act report released earlier this semester by UM.

It's not an even split, but it generally mirrors the gaps in the Big Sky Conference — and is quite a bit more equitable than, say, pay at the University of Alabama in one of the Power 5 conferences.

There, the head coaches of the women's teams earn on average 11 percent of the $1.89 million in average earnings of the head coaches of the men's teams, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education's equity in athletics site. In May, USA Today reported Alabama football coach Nick Saban will be paid more than $11 million this season.

At UM, the head coaches of the men's teams earned on average $189,439 per full time equivalent, while the coaches of women's teams earned on average $103,581, according to the report. The amounts include salaries and bonuses paid by UM.

"We pay as much as we can pay, but it is market-driven," said Kent Haslam, UM athletics director. "And football and men's and women's basketball, those are our three highest-paid coaches, and those are the ones that certainly generate the bulk of the revenue that comes in for our athletic programs."

The base salaries for the head coaches of football, men's basketball, and women's basketball are respectively $185,000, $160,000, and $140,000, according to the associate athletics director.

Those coaches are not only charged with winning games, they're under pressure to fill seats with sports fans in order to drive revenue.

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The salaries in the equity in athletics report do not include other compensation a coach might earn from UM, such as incentives for athletic and academic performance by players.

The amounts also don't include possible income from third parties for promotions, endorsements, private consulting and public speaking. Those contracts can add significantly to a coach's total compensation.

For instance, head football coach Bob Stitt earned roughly $213,000 in 2015 and $206,000 in 2016.

Associate athletic director Ryan Martin said the head coach of men's basketball would be eligible for income based on scheduling "money games," which are not available in women's basketball.

In addition to the market, Martin said longevity also plays a role in some sports, such as men's tennis. At UM, the coach of the men's team has been on the job for 30 years, so his compensation includes more cost-of-living increases.

At UM and other schools, the gap exists among assistant coaches as well. In Missoula, assistant coaches of women's teams earn 68 percent of counterpart assistants coaching men's teams; according to the report, the assistant coach of a men's team earned on average $79,687 compared to the assistant coach of a women's team at $53,808.

"There is no requirement that coach's salaries be equal," Martin said in an email. "If you aren't paying well, you won't attract a decent coach and will get what you pay for.

"Our biggest goal is to stay competitive with our peers in the Big Sky Conference and our Division I FCS counterparts."

By comparison, at Northern Arizona University, the head coaches of men's teams earn on average $135,449 in base pay, according to equity in athletics data from the U.S. Department of Education. The head coaches of women's teams there earn $82,343, or 61 percent of their counterparts.

At Weber State University, the gap is wider. The coaches of the men's teams earn on average $142,236, but the coaches of women's teams make just 45 percent of that amount, at $64,631 on average for a full time equivalent, according to Department of Education data. 

UM released the report among several others earlier this semester. In an email addressing the required disclosures, Rosi Keller, vice president for finance and administration, explained the reason UM compiles the equity in athletics report.

"The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act is intended to make prospective students aware of a school’s commitment to providing equitable athletic opportunities for its men and women students," she wrote.

"Any coeducational school of higher education that participates in a Federal Student Aid program and has an intercollegiate athletic program must prepare an annual EADA report."

The report details participation rates and financial support for men's and women's athletics. Martin said the data released in the recent report is from 2015; currently, he said, reported average salaries are slightly higher, and UM counts women among its head coaching staff.

Just last week, Melanie Meuchel was hired to replace a male head coach for softball. ​She was previously an assistant in the program. 

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One reason UM went from having no female head coaches to three is likely that coaches such as Meuchel were able to show their work as assistants to search committees, Martin said.

"So I think they were probably a level familiar with the quality of work they do," he said.

UM hasn't had a specific target for gender balance among its coaching staff, but Haslam said it does have a goal to hire the best and also develop excellent coaches itself.

"We owe it to our student athletes and we owe it to the university to hire the very best person we can," Haslam said. "And we certainly want to make sure we've got a diverse pool of candidates."

UM is also fostering high quality among its ranks, he said. For instance, after storied head Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig retired in 2016 after 38 years, UM hired longtime assistant Shannon Schweyen to the post.

"A great way to develop strong leaders is to develop them from within," Haslam said.

In some ways, the makeup of the coaching staff reflects that of society in general, Martin said. For instance, it would be hard to hire a female head coach for the UM Grizzlies football team.

"In a perfect world, if you have the candidates, yeah, I think you're always striving to create more equality in the workplace," Martin said. "But with that being said, in a sport like men's football, maybe someday we will see a women's head coach. There's not a lot of female coaches out there."

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