Each year, collegiate athletic departments that utilize federal financial aid are required by the U.S. Department of Education and the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) to submit a report regarding athletic staffing, participation, revenues and expenses for the previous athletic year. The Orient previously reported on Bowdoin’s data from the 2018–2019 academic year that showed a pay gap between the coaches of women’s and men’s athletic teams. The EADA report for the 2021–2022 academic year shows a decrease in this pay gap and provides insight into how Bowdoin receives and distributes its money among its 646 athletes, 31 teams and 69 coaches.
In 2021–2022, like each year before, the athletic department’s expenses were equal to its revenue of $12,613,417.
“We’re not operating in a for-profit world as it relates to the athletic operations at the College…. Traditional forms of revenue don’t necessarily apply for us. Revenue is comprised more of the support that we receive from the College to fund our operations, as well as financial contributions that we may receive from alumni friends of the College,” Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan ’98 said.
Each year, the athletic department puts the donations it receives towards its expenses, and the College covers the rest. Ryan said that most of the donations come through the Polar Bear Athletic Fund, which raises about $150,000 each year. These funds are distributed to all of the College’s athletic programs, but donors can choose to support specific teams as well.
“We partner with the Alumni Relations and Development Office to generate support for the Polar Bear Athletic Fund,” Ryan said. “When people choose to support individual teams, we go through a process with the coaches and our administrative staff to make sure that, as we’re spending those funds, we’re doing so in an equitable way, so we don’t end up primarily spending money for one gender sport or the other.”
The report separates expenses into recruiting expenses, operating (game-day) expenses and salaries. Ryan said most of the athletic department’s expenses are related to team travel, particularly with rising transportation and hotel costs, and paying coaches. While the College provides support for most athletic travel, it has also recently started funding all travel expenses associated with spring break trips for the baseball, softball and men’s and women’s tennis teams. This is largely so those teams are able to play the number of games required for a full season.
The money allocated for each program varies, and the operating expenses per participant in 2021–2022 ranged from $755 for the men’s track and field and cross country teams to $7,554 for the men’s tennis team. The men’s lacrosse team had the highest game-day expenses at $171,137. Overall, men’s teams had a total operating expense of $858,600, and women’s teams had a total operating expense of $878,178.
The report also details the athletic department’s recruiting cost. Bowdoin spent a total of $105,464, split about evenly between men’s and women’s teams, on recruiting in 2021–2022. Comparatively, Bates College spent $95,855, and Colby College spent $172,447.
“Our recruiting expenses are largely travel related, for when coaches go away from campus to observe students playing,” Ryan said.
The disparity in recruiting costs among NESCAC schools is a relatively new trend. Up until six years ago, NESCAC schools were not permitted to spend more than $1,000 per varsity team on recruiting, meaning that Bowdoin was not permitted to spend more than $31,000 per year. Now, NESCAC schools are able to exercise agency with how much money they spend on recruitment.
The largest difference between the 2018–2019 data and the latest report is the salary difference between coaches of men’s and women’s teams.
In 2018–2019, men’s teams head coaches were paid an average of $92,919 as Full Time Equivalents (FTE), which scales the actual salary a coach makes to what it would be if the coach was a full-time worker. Women’s teams head coaches were paid an average of $82,421 as FTEs. This produced a pay gap of about $10,000 between men’s and women’s teams head coaches. Assistant coaches of men’s teams were also paid about $5,000 more a year as FTEs than assistant coaches of women’s teams.
In 2021-2022, this pay gap decreased to about $7,000 for head coaches, with men’s teams coaches making an average of $101,524 as FTEs and women’s teams coaches making an average of $94,247 as FTEs. For assistant coaches, the trend flipped, with assistant coaches of women’s teams being paid $1,600 more than assistant coaches of men’s teams.
The turnover rate of assistant coaches tends to be higher than that of head coaches, which Ryan mentioned could factor into the salary changes.
Ryan said that, while the improvement is a result of the College noticing and addressing the trend, salaries rely on a variety of factors.
“Some of it is also related to the nature of construction of salaries, which speaks to the nature of position that someone is in, their experience level, the performance that they have had in their particular role,” Ryan said.
The College strives to continue its work to provide fair pay and keep track of these trends.
“Some of it is certainly our paying attention to it and making decisions being fully aware of wanting to provide an equitable pay scale for our coaches…. We have a desire to make sure we’re balancing the compensation that we provide to coaches of teams of both genders, ” Ryan said. “Every decision that we make has equity at the forefront of those conversations.”
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