Two of the country’s best college basketball players will go head-to-head Friday night in Dallas when Aliyah Boston and No. 1 South Carolina take on Caitlin Clark’s No. 2 Iowa in the second semifinal of the NCAA’s women’s basketball tournament. The matchup is arguably the most highly anticipated of this year’s March Madness, and the winner will advance to Sunday’s national championship and face either No. 1 seed Virginia Tech or No. 3 LSU.
Clark, a junior guard and the 2023 National Player of the Year, averaged 27.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists en route to the Hawkeyes first Final Four appearance in three decades. Her 41-point performance—the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA tournament history, men’s or women’s—lifted Iowa past Louisville in the Elite Eight and landed the team in Friday’s primetime matchup on one of the sport’s biggest stages against the country’s best team.
South Carolina, coached by Dawn Staley, looks to cap off an undefeated season with a second consecutive national championship win this weekend. The squad would be the first back-to-back champ since UConn won four straight from 2013 through 2016. Boston, the Defensive Player of the Year, dropped a team-high 22 points against Maryland on Monday and is the Gamecocks’ leading rebounder, averaging 9.8 boards per game. Senior guard Zia Cooke leads the team in scoring.
Clark’s Hawkeyes present a potent threat to South Carolina’s dominance, which is fueled, at least in part, by the tremendous resources behind the Gamecocks program. With an unmatched budget of more than $9.5 million, South Carolina is the country’s most well-funded women’s basketball program, topping even UConn and its 11 national titles.
One of the few schools to spend more on its women’s teams than its men’s in a handful of categories, here’s how some of the biggest chunks of the program’s budget break down:
Staley is one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. In 2021, the Gamecocks’ leader signed a seven-year, $22.4 million contract that made her the highest-paid Black head coach in women’s basketball and the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in the SEC.
For this season, Staley’s deal includes $1 million in base salary plus $2 million guaranteed in “outside compensation,” bringing her total earnings to $3 million before bonuses. While her base salary remains steady through the duration of the contract, Staley’s outside compensation has escalators that increase by $100,000 annually, bringing her income to $3.5 million before incentives by the end of the agreement in 2028-29.
Given that she’s already hit a number of the performance milestones outlined in her contract—an SEC regular season championship and conference tournament title, NCAA tournament progression bonuses, SEC and Naismith Coach of the Year honors—Staley will take home at least another $430,000 in bonus money. If the Gamecocks take the crown, that number will jump to $680,000.
The payouts put Staley among the likes of UConn’s Geno Auriemma and LSU’s Kim Mulkey. Auriemma, the Huskies’ longtime coach, signed an extension in 2021 that also lands him around $3 million in compensation for this season before bonuses. Mulkey’s eight-year contract has an average annual value of around $2.4 million with its own incentives built in.
Attendance and Ticket Sales
South Carolina led Division I women’s basketball in attendance this season, according to data compiled by the NCAA, and has done so for the last decade. With nearly 13,000 fans per game this season, the Gamecocks were one of just four teams to crack five figures in average attendance. Iowa, Iowa State and UConn were the others.
Last year, South Carolina outdrew the No. 2 ranked team on the attendance list, Iowa State, by nearly 3,000 fans per game. The team generated more than $700,000 in ticketing revenue in FY22 as a result, landing the Gamecocks in the top 10 earners in the category among the public FBS schools in Sportico’s database, but still far behind UConn’s $2.4 million—an outlier among DI women’s basketball teams.
When speaking about her contract on an episode of the Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast last year, Staley cited the team’s attendance and the revenue it drives as her pushback against criticism of the amount of money she asked for—equal to her men’s team counterpart.
"People will say, well you're a non-revenue producing sport—no, we're not," Staley said on the podcast. "We have the highest attendance in the country. We have national attendance records for the past nine years in a row. Somebody is paying for those tickets; the concession stand is open. … that's revenue-producing. And, we’re winning national championships, so you get the marketing campaign free of charge off of our sweat equity.”
Team Travel and Recruiting
South Carolina was the biggest spender among that same segment of schools on travel, dropping $1.8 million on its women’s basketball team. That’s about twice as much as the Gamecocks spent on travel ($896,600) for their men’s team on things like charter flights, buses and hotel rooms.
Recruiting, on the other hand, is an area where the team has historically spent significantly less than many of its top-tier counterparts. South Carolina spent just shy of $150,000 on recruiting during the 2022 fiscal year, a fraction of UConn’s $418,000 spend, which is the most of any school in the database. Texas was the second-biggest spender on recruiting last fiscal year among public FBS schools at $399,197.
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