Athletics Department Restructures Compensation Model Ahead of New Equal Pay Law

{shortcode-0531e73699a6430e74d43eb1d7e89dedaccc10b0}Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise announced a new model for compensating coaches in an email Wednesday following a year of internal review and restructuring of the Athletics Department’s existing compensation framework.

Scalise’s announcement comes just over two weeks before the Massachusetts Act To Establish Pay Equity goes into effect July 1. MEPA states that no employer shall “pay any person in his employ salary or wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex for work of like or comparable character or work on like or comparable operations.” Variations in pay as a result of seniority are legal under the new law.

The law, introduced July 2016, prompted the Athletics Department—working with the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth in addition to FAS Human Resources, University Institutional Research, and the Office of the General Counsel—to review its framework for compensating the coaches of its 42 varsity men’s and women’s teams. In his email, Scalise wrote that his department spent six months creating “a viable compensation model” that met MEPA standards before reaching out to coaches for their input via a series of focus groups.

In order to be compliant with the new law, the department will adjust salaries of some coaches over the course of the next year, according to Scalise. Scalise noted, however, that the majority of coaching salaries will not change under the new system. He also wrote that the department will not reduce any salaries as a result of the review.

In addition to potential salary increases, Scalise also announced that all coaching staff “with satisfactory job performance” will be eligible for a 2.5 percent increase to their salaries regardless of whether their salaries shift under the new model.


Scalise wrote that the new compensation plan “meets MEPA requirements and attracts and retains strong coaching talent.” He added that compensation will be dependent on a number of factors, including coaching level, program size, revenue generation, and level of experience.

Concern over a lack of gender equity across Harvard’s varsity teams prompted the former head coach and former and current athletes on the women’s rugby team to pen letters to top administrators last spring alleging that the Athletics Department was in violation of Title IX, a federal anti-sex discrimination law.

In their letters to outgoing University President Drew G. Faust, the authors claimed the department insufficiently supported their team in comparison to other varsity programs in terms of both recruiting support and coaching compensation.

“Our coaches are paid significantly less than their female counterparts who coach comparable team field sports,” the four authors wrote. “The disparity is even greater when compared to head coaches of men’s team field sports.”

{shortcode-82fb950e185e814a0d120d3f63f9db2acd44b37e}Head coaches of Harvard’s women’s teams made roughly $34,000 less on average than did head coaches of men’s teams in the 2015-2016 school year, according to data compiled by the Department of Education. This compensation gap falls across team gender lines. The head coach of every men’s team at Harvard is male, and only nine women coach a men’s or coed team in any capacity.

In addition to program size and level of coaching experience, Scalise acknowledged that “alumni giving participation rates” were also factors in developing the new compensation framework. While the NCAA places certain restrictions on how alumni and other individuals can financially support teams and athletes, the Athletics Department relies on its various “Friends” programs to support certain team and department expenses including staff endowments.

These endowments, starting at $2 million, support the Athletics Department as a whole, while also covering the salaries for certain coaching and administrative positions. Sixteen of the 20 men’s varsity teams have endowed coaching positions. By comparison, 10 women’s teams have endowed coaching positions and, of those, six of the coaches also coach the men’s program.

In order to meet the financial demands of adjusting the salaries of unendowed coaching positions, the department will implement its new compensation structure in two parts. Some coaches will receive revised salaries in July, with the remainder of the coaches receiving their adjustments in January 2019.

Scalise wrote the two-part plan is necessary to ensure these salary increases are sustainable for the department.

“While we acknowledge that making these adjustments is important, we continue to operate in a fiscally constrained environment and are not able to fund the full amount in the current budget,” Scalise wrote. “Given this, we need to make these salary adjustments in a two-phased approach, with the goal of providing all salary adjustments by the end of this coming academic year.”

Moving forward, Scalise wrote that departmental reviews of the new compensation model will occur annually.

—Staff writer Madeleine R. Nakada can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @maddynakada.