South Carolina Hall of Fame women's basketball coach Dawn Staley has received a seven-year, $22.4 million contract extension that will take her though the 2027-28 season, the school announced on Friday, making Staley the highest-paid Black head coach in her sport and one of the highest-paid women's basketball coaches in the country.
Staley's new salary is comparable to Hall of Fame UConn coach Geno Auriemma, an amount Staley said she hopes could be an encouraging sign that universities can invest in women's basketball on a level comparable to the men's sport.
"It's always been an honor to represent the University of South Carolina, and this contract represents the University's commitment to supporting me and our women's basketball program," Staley said in a prepared statement. "Contract negotiations are challenging, but this one was especially important as I knew it could be a benchmark, an example for other universities to invest in their women's basketball programs, too. Our game continues to grow and the time is ripe to make a big step forward, but only if universities foster that growth by committing resources that are equitable to those given to their men's programs."
Under the new contract, Staley's base salary will be $1 million per year with outside compensation starting at $1.9 million in the first year and escalation by $100,000 per year thereafter. Her 2021-22 compensation begins at $2.9 million with the final year topping out at $3.5 million. The contract includes additional performance-compensation opportunities up to $680,000 per year.
"The money is staggering,'' Staley said. "It really wasn't about the money, but it takes the money for this recognition to be eye-opening.'
In May, UConn extended Auriemma's contract through 2025 in a deal worth $15 million, according to an announcement this past spring from the school. It includes an annual base salary of $600,000, and Auriemma also receives $2.2 million for speaking, consulting and media obligations in the first year, an amount that will increase $100,000 annually.
Over the past 13 seasons at South Carolina, Staley has led the Gamecocks to three NCAA Final Fours in the past six tournaments (2015, 2017, 2021), including winning the 2017 national title. Under her leadership, South Carolina has spent 95 consecutive weeks ranked in The Associated Press top five, including 25 weeks at No. 1.
South Carolina has won five SEC regular-season championships and six SEC tournament titles. A big reason for the program's success has been its recruiting, as Staley and her staff have lured in three top-two recruiting classes.
While head coach at South Carolina, Staley has twice won National Coach of the Year honors (2014, 2020), with her 2020 unanimous selection making her the first former Naismith Player of the Year to earn the Naismith Coach of the Year award.
"Dawn Staley is one of the nation's top coaches, regardless of the sport," South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in a prepared statement. "She has built our women's basketball program from the ground up, and her teams have produced champions, both on and off the floor. The ability to keep Coach Staley at the University of South Carolina is great news for all Gamecocks. I join with our fans in looking forward to seeing the great achievements her program will continue to produce in the future."
Staley is widely recognized beyond her years at South Carolina, though, as one of the most decorated figures in women's basketball history. In 2012, she was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and she was one of the final nominees for induction to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame the same year. In 2013, she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Staley was also named the head coach of the U.S. Women's National team from 2017 to 2021, during which she extended the country's U.S. Olympic gold-medal streak to seven straight at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
In 21 years as a head coach, Staley has compiled 11 25-win seasons, with a total of 17 postseason appearances.
The Gamecocks' season opener is set for Nov. 9 at ACC tournament champion NC State, with the home opener coming on Nov. 17 against in-state rival Clemson. The rest of the home schedule includes reigning national champion Stanford, NCAA Final Four participant UConn, Big Ten champion Maryland and SEC champion Texas A&M.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report