October 17, 2021 

Dawn Staley signs $22.4 million extension at South Carolina

Athletic director Ray Tanner: “‘Build it and they will come’ … Coach Staley built it, they came back and they keep coming back”

On Friday, the University of South Carolina announced an extension for women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley that will pay her $22.4 million through the 2027-28 season.

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According to the contract, Staley’s new base salary is $1 million per year; her outside compensation begins at $1.9 million and increases by $100,000 each year. The contract also allows additional performance-based compensation of up to $680,000 a year.

“I know the very thing that people will look at is the money. I mean, the money is staggering, but it really wasn’t about the money,” Staley said in a press conference on Friday. “But it takes the money for this recognition to be something that is eye-opening and monumental.”

Staley’s new contract is well deserved, based on the absolutely dominant program she has built in Columbia.

Before her 2008 arrival, the team had only graced the Elite Eight once. Since 2012, Staley’s teams have reached the Sweet Sixteen in every year but one. In 2017, the team won its first-ever NCAA championship, led by Staley and her star player and mentee, A’ja Wilson.

Wilson, the 2020 WNBA MVP with the Las Vegas Aces, demonstrates Staley’s recruiting prowess that has been the backbone of the program’s success.

“She’s an outstanding recruiter—I would say the very best in the country,” interim president Harris Pastides said. “She sets the bar high for herself as well as for those around her.”

“‘Build it and they will come.’ I think it’s fair to say Coach Staley built it, they came back and they keep coming back,” Athletic Director Ray Tanner said. “And the recruits are coming. What she’s done in her 13 seasons, it’s been absolutely remarkable: a winning program and more to come.”

Last year, Staley and her team displayed their dominance again with a Final Four appearance that ended in a crushing one-point loss to the eventual champion Stanford Cardinal.

Over her 13 seasons, Staley has won 76 percent of her games, and she has won 89 percent of her SEC games in the last eight seasons. Over these years, Staley has won a variety of Coach of the Year awards.

Staley has undeniably transformed Gamecocks basketball, and it is appropriate that her salary reflects that. The new contract puts her as one of the highest-paid women’s basketball coaches on public record. Meanwhile, South Carolina’s men’s basketball coach Frank Martin will be paid $3.3 million this upcoming year. His team has not reached the Final Four since 2017.

However, Staley is not just a winner in South Carolina. This summer, she led Team USA to its seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal. During her playing career, she was a six-time WNBA All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of Friday’s announcement was seeing what the extension means to Staley and the game of women’s basketball.

Staley opened the press conference with, “I don’t really like shining a spotlight on me, but it’s also a huge day for the game of women’s basketball and gender equity across the nation.”

She emphasized that this was not just a big day for women’s basketball but also a commitment to women in all sports, in the classroom and all areas of life. She recognized what this means to her players, who come to school to learn both basketball and womanhood, and she emphasized her hopes that this can set an example for her players on how to be treated in society.

“As a woman, you make 84 cents on the dollar versus a man. For a Black woman, I think it’s in the 70s. So it’s not about that,” Staley said. “It’s finding that you are an asset to an organization, understanding that asset and understanding that you bring value to it. I just want this to be a valuable lesson to [the team].”

The joy for Staley and the game of women’s basketball was widespread. Both associate athletic director Steve Fink and athletic director Ray Tanner showered Staley and her commitment to the community with love. Twitter sang Staley’s praises and what this means to the game. Her college teammate and roommate Tammi Reiss led the charge.

The contract extension, along with the on-campus statue of Wilson unveiled earlier this year, shows South Carolina’s commitment to the continued fight for equality in women’s basketball. And Staley wants to be right there with them.

“I don’t know when my career will end, but I want this to be my last stop,” Staley said.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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