Dayton’s victory over Ohio State was not an upset for fans of gender pay equity

Dayton players celebrate after defeating Ohio State in a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament on Thursday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Dayton players celebrate after defeating Ohio State in a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament on Thursday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The University of Dayton’s stunning 60-59 upset of Ohio State University on Thursday busted millions of brackets in the NCAA’s annual March Madness basketball tournament.

But, it didn’t bust the American Association of University Women’s bracket.

Why not? Because among the 50 million Americans who pick winners among the 68 teams, the AAUW followed a unique way to choose the winning team: Pick the school that pays the head coaches of its women’s sports teams the most equitably.

And, on that basis, the 11th-seeded Flyers were a shoo-in to beat the sixth-seeded Buckeyes.

Although all of the schools in the tournament pay coaches of its women’s teams less than they pay the coaches of its men’s team, Dayton comes the closest to gender pay equity.  It pays the coaches of its women’s teams about 96 percent of what it pays the coaches of its men’s teams.

How do the coaches of women’s teams fare at Ohio State? Not so well. They earn a paltry 32 percent of what coaches of the men’s teams do.

Ohio State won’t be the only team that Dayton sends packing, according to the AAUW’s bracket. The Flyers also will crush Syracuse (51% ratio of men’s teams head coaches’ salaries to women’s teams head coaches’ salaries), Eastern Kentucky (60%), and Saint Mary’s (80%) en route to the Final Four.

There, it will meet Cincinnati (74%) while California Polytechnic University (75%) will face Weber State (67%). (The AAUW had picked American University (71%) to reach the Final Four, but the Eagles fell to the University of Wisconsin (26%) on Thursday.)

With the narrowest salary gap among the 68 teams in the men’s tournament, the AAUW predicts Dayton will bring home the NCAA basketball bacon when it triumphs over Cal Poly in the April 7 championship in Arlington, Tex.

This Final Four has a really, really small likelihood of happening. It would require the 15th seed Weber State to knock off top-seed Arizona in the first round. Teams seeded 15th rarely do that. But, since both teams are nicknamed Wildcats, we’ll definitely see a Wildcat advance.  Unfortunately for Weber State, because many have picked Arizona to take home the NCAA trophy, we’re not likely to see the Utah-based Wildcats playing after their March 21 fight with the Wildcats from Arizona. (Writer’s note: I’ve picked Arizona to win the tournament over Villanova.)

Cal Poly faces an even more daunting task — the 16th seeded Mustangs had a losing season this year (they were 14 and 19) and they must knock off the number-one seed Wichita State Shockers who have a perfect 34-0 record. No other team has entered the NCAA tournament with as many victories as the Shockers have, and 16th seeded teams have a 0-92 record against number one seeds in the men’s tournament.

But, the AAUW isn’t really trying to pick which school has the best three-point shooters or the flashiest fast break. It’s trying to focus attention on the disparity in how these Division I schools compensate their head coaches.

The AAUW calculated the salary gap by dividing the average salary for all head coaches of women’s teams at a school by the average salary for head coaches of men’s teams at the same school. The data are from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Using “pay equity” to choose winners is a way to support gender pay equity, says the AAUW.

“After all, we know fair pay policies can be effective for improving workplace productivity. Our money’s on the schools with the smaller gaps,” the AAUW notes on its Web site.

And, on that score, the AAUW has a winning bracket.

Joann Weiner teaches economics at George Washington University. She has written for Bloomberg, Politics Daily, and Tax Analysts and worked as an economist at the U.S. Treasury Department. Follow her on Twitter @DCEcon.
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