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Equal Pay Day and the challenges to achieve it in the sports world

Posted at 9:59 PM, Apr 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-04 21:59:28-04

NEW YORK — The Battle of the Sexes tennis match put women’s equality front and center. Yet, some 43 years later the topic of fair pay for women in sports continues be a much discussed topic.

In soccer, the women’s national team, which won the World Cup in 2015, has filed a suit against the U.S. Soccer federation for allegedly violating the Equal Pay Act in comparison to the men’s team.

Yet, as this Equal Pay Day falls less than 24 hours following the culmination of the NCAA tournament came to a conclusion, it is interesting to examine the dynamics of the men’s and women’s basketball program at the University of Connecticut.

It was revealed a few weeks ago that the school had locked in both of its coaches — Kevin Ollie and Gino Auriemma to long term deals.

However, what it is interesting to point out, is that while Ollie has guided the men’s program to one national championship since his hire a few years back, Auriemma, who has won 11 national titles, has a pay package that although equal at its base, ultimately will come up short to Ollie’s total pact.

“I think if there was ever a case where at a minimum it should be equal, it certainly would be the UCONN situation,” said Denis O’Leary a Manhattan sports attorney who has represented athletes and coaches. He says the reasoning for this can be broken down in a matter of seconds, “It’s the revenue that each of the programs raise.”

He also adds what makes the situation a bit more comprehendible, is the fact that Auriemma is on board with it, “Is it fair…? He thinks it’s fair.”

Auriemma spoke to this in 2015, telling the USA TODAY at the time, “That’s where the market is. Kevin is probably exactly where he needs to be. Or maybe less than he needs to be, who knows? It’s what the market will bear for those guys, and I’m all for it.”

O’Leary also attributed the popularity to the men’s game in terms of sellouts and television ratings as revenue avenues that programs can utilize to help subsidize a coach’s salary. On the women’s side, programs face a constant struggle to find the equivalent sustained success on television and at the turnstiles.