The women’s basketball team finished the 2020-2021 season with an overall record of 13-11. They also reached the semifinals of the Big West Tournament after beating Long Beach State in the quarterfinals, according to gopoly.com.
The men’s basketball team finished last season with an overall record of 4-20.
Despite a recent winning season, women’s basketball head coach Faith Mimnaugh’s salary was over $100,000 less than the salary of men’s basketball head coach John Smith in 2020-2021.
According to the 2020-2021 Cal Poly State Employee Compensation Report, Smith’s salary was $350,004 for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, while Mimnaugh’s salary for the same year was $178,608.
Of the sports available at Cal Poly that have both male and female programs with separate head coaches, there is no head coach of a female team that had a salary equal to or more than the head coach of the male team during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to the Cal Poly State Employee Compensation Report.
The Cal Poly State Employee Compensation Report is a “report of compensation paid for each employee’s state payroll position regardless of funding source (excluding student employees),” according to its website.
Taking a wider look at Cal Poly athletics shows this is a university-wide trend.
Recently retired men’s soccer head coach Steve Sampson’s salary was $135,936 for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Women’s soccer head coach Alex Crozier’s was $97,308.
Baseball’s head coach Larry Lee’s salary was $197,820 last year, and softball’s head coach Jenny Condon’s was $109,476.
Men’s tennis head coach Nick Carless’ 2020-2021 salary was $82,440 compared to women’s tennis head coach Katherina Winterhalter’s $70,032.
Men’s golf head coach Phil Rowe’s salary was $105,000 for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Women’s golf head coach Sofie Aagaard’s salary was $81,996 for the same year.
This difference in salary size reflects a larger question that has been the focus of discourse surrounding sports compensation: how do we compensate and fund male and female athletics.
The United States Women’s National Team has been advocating for equal pay, even suing the U.S. Soccer Federation on the basis of gender descrimination.
More recently, there was controversy over the NCAA tournament setups for the male and female athletes. The NCAA decided to host the tournament in a ‘bubble’ to avoid COVID-19 exposure, inviting the teams to stay, train and play at the same general location.
The female athletes quickly realized that the NCAA had not invested the same time and resources into their facilities that they did for the male athletes.
The men’s bubble featured a variety of workout equipment and plentiful open space. The women’s setup paled in comparison to the men’s facility, as it included far less equipment.
“I have a daughter that played in the NCAA tournament –– the disparity between men’s NCAA tournament and women’s NCAA tournament was disappointing, and it’s sad that women are treated this way,” Smith said.
One aspect of this problem is the history of sports for both male and female athletes. Throughout history, men’s sports were often offered and made accessible far earlier than women’s sports.
“As you look at the history of women’s sports and men’s sports, especially when it comes to the NCAA, you’ve got 40 some years of women’s participation in the NCAA,” Mimnaugh said. “They were part of the [Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women] prior to that. All men’s sports have been in existence much, much longer so you kind of have to have a long view of history to see all the impacts.”
The benefit of a male sports program starting decades before a female program is that they have the chance to build an audience and community around the team.
“It takes a lot of time and a lot of resources to get a sports community up to speed, especially when other sports are not going to diminish their efforts,” Mimnaugh said. “You’re not going to see the NFL stop advertising their games, you’re not going to see, you know, the NBA stop advertising their games so that the others can catch up.”
Mimnaugh started her head-coaching career in 1993 at the University of Evansville in Indiana, a Division I program. She coached the Aces for two and a half seasons. Mimnaugh then became the assistant coach at Cal Poly for the 1996-1997 season and was promoted to head coach the next year, a position she has retained since. Mimnaugh secured her 300th win as Cal Poly women’s basketball head coach in 2019 after a victory against Lamar University.
Smith arrived at Cal Poly for the 2019-2020 season after spending 2013-2019 as associate head coach at Cal State Fullerton, a Division I program. During his time at Fullerton, Smith helped the Titans make back-to-back Big West Championship appearances and a NCAA Tournament appearance. Before coaching at Cal State Fullerton, Smith served as the head coach of Riverside City College and San Bernardino Valley College.
Smith also worked as an assistant coach at the College of Southern Idaho, Chaffey College, J.W. North High School and Valley View High School. Despite his lengthy coaching resume, Cal Poly is Smith’s first job as the sole head coach of a Division I program.
With a salary of $350,004 for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, Smith had one of the highest salaries of coaches at Cal Poly during his second year. Mimnaugh, having coached at Cal Poly for more than two decades, earned over $100,000 less than her male counterpart last year.
“I would love for Faith and everybody else to get paid as much as I do, first and foremost,” Smith said. “I don’t coach basketball for the price tag or the salary.”
Former Cal Poly women’s basketball player Abbey Ellis played under Mimnaugh. Ellis said that Mimnaugh deserves more for the hard work she has put into the women’s basketball program.
“I just feel that’s just almost to the point where it’s just disrespectful, especially to Coach Faith, cause she has put so much into the basketball program, she has literally shaped that program,” Ellis said.
Ellis also said that she felt the women’s basketball team was not viewed in the same light as the men’s team.
“We just got kind of pushed to the side almost, that like, you know we put in the same amount of time and effort, play the same amount of games and, it’s just, no one really cared,” Ellis said.
Certain sports have the benefit of widespread fan bases and increased viewership. If a certain college sports team is able to achieve success, the revenue gained can help all sports at the university.
“I believe, before I got here, the payscale may have been a little bit closer, you know, and what’s the difference?” Smith said. “And the difference could be that they feel that, you know, my coaching staff and where we’re going with this program could, you know, help bring revenue to where we can elevate other salaries.”
The NCAA tournament does generate a lot of revenue for all teams that compete. This gives universities a financial incentive to increase the level of their basketball programs.
“When I talk about bringing this program up to the level of possibly getting to the NCAA tournament, just like we did at Cal State Fullerton, it’s not just for me and my notoriety or this program,” Smith said. “It’s for this university, and the more money that we can get for this university, I would love for us to put it into women’s sports.”
Despite efforts to bring gender equality in the workplace, sports remain a place of contention for many.
Coach Mimnaugh said that it might take some radical actions to force the issue to the forefront.
“I’m, again, one of these crazy people that wonders if it wouldn’t be better if we had some top men say, ‘OK, well let’s make things equitable in every way,’” Mimnaugh said.