Women’s Basketball Coaching Market Skyrocketing with Increased Popularity

Last Updated on March 14, 2024

Women’s college basketball is increasingly in the spotlight with its popularity growing. With that growth, however, comes high expectations for players and coaches. Brian Stanchak, founder and president of The BDS Agency, a company that represents women’s collegiate basketball coaches, has a front row seat to the impact it’s having on and off the court.

Stanchak currently represents over 50 Division I head coaches and has assisted in over 140 contract extensions and renegotiations to D-I head coaching clients. He’s been at the forefront, watching women’s college basketball grow through the lens of an agent while fighting for his clients to earn the compensation they deserve.

Now, with NIL in the picture, along with the madness of the transfer portal, Stanchak’s job has experienced several changes alongside the shifting environment for coaches.

Investing in women’s basketball coaches makes sense

Viewership numbers indicate women’s basketball is as popular as it has ever been — last year’s NCAA Championship game pushed 9.9 million viewers, making it the most viewed women’s college basketball game on record and the most viewed college basketball game, men’s or women’s, on ESPN platforms. Both teams in the championship, Iowa and LSU, are examples of schools that invested heavily in their women’s basketball programs, resulting in the successes they both experienced.

Stanchak believes increased investment in programs like LSU invested in Kim Mulkey and Iowa continues to invest in Lisa Bluder, is the key to growing women’s basketball nationwide.

“I think you’re starting to see schools that typically have not invested in women’s basketball coaches that have not had success be willing to do so,” he said.

Stanchak represents Minnesota’s Dawn Plitzuweit and Michigan State’s Robyn Fralick, both of whom were hired ahead of the 2023-24 season. He said that both coaches received salaries far above what previous coaches in their positions had earned, showing how schools that previously put less effort into their women’s basketball programs are beginning to catch on.

How NIL and the transfer portal have impacted women’s basketball coaching

Increased investment, attendance, and television exposure all exist in a cycle with one another, leading to a bump in sponsorship, viewership, and salaries. But, the advent of NIL and the transfer portal have thrown a wrench into traditional coaching practices, with both benefits and disadvantages.

The transfer portal, introduced in 2018, has welcomed thousands of athletes since its inception, many of whom don’t end up finding a home. Now, NIL collectives and potential earnings provide even more of an incentive for players to enter the portal in hopes of finding a school with higher earnings attached.

“It went from so much focus on recruiting new and incoming student-athletes to your focus as a coach has to be equally as focused on retaining your current student-athletes,” Stanchak said. “Now with NIL, players are not just looking at ‘Okay, I’m going to transfer,’ it’s also ‘I’m going to look at what schools I’m going to be able to generate the most income from.'”

Using technology to navigate the transfer portal

Technology in this area, though, has helped coaches manage the beast that is the transfer portal. Companies like Verified Athletics collect player information into a database complete with their transcripts, contact information, statistics, and other aspects to match players perfectly with schools, fresh out of high school and in the transfer space.

Verified Athletic’s co-founder Nate Slutzky coached college football for several years and experienced the difficulties of recruiting up until 2016. Since starting Verified Athletics eight years ago, nearly 30,000 athletes have filled out Verified Athletic’s free recruiting survey, and it has impacted around 1,000 teams across 20 sports, according to Slutzky.

Verified Athletic’s database has allowed coaches to sift through transfer portal talent much quicker than if they were going through the actual portal (where there is little information to go off of), easing the process of recruiting, especially in a time such as now where more college athletes are entering the portal than ever before.

“College teams are having to constantly re-recruit their players and are being forced to recruit twice as many players as they used to have to any given year,” Slutzky said. “[With this technology], teams have found that they’re able to spend a lot less time doing the research, a lot less time doing the monitoring and also being way faster and way more effective and being able to pick up targets that they wouldn’t have been able to find other ways.”

Jan 31, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Dawn Plitzuweit reacts during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Williams Arena. Photo courtesy: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports via Imagn

How NIL has changed the coaching game

Though technology like Verified Athletics makes recruiting easier both in and out of the transfer portal, coaches have far less control over how NIL affects their daily lives. The lack of transparency in NIL dealings due to collectives makes it difficult for coaches to truly understand and affect the experience of their athletes as they did before, therefore allowing less coaching influence on the athlete’s time at the university.

NIL also changes the dynamic between coaches and administrators because good programs are seeing players leave who might have been content with where they were. Expectations from the administration have to adjust to this understanding.

“Let’s just say five years ago, if you had six kids on your roster enter the transfer portal, the administrator’s working with the coach either on changing culture or letting a coach go,” Stanchak said. “Now I think it’s just so important that administrators and their coaches are on the same page because kids are entering the portal even if they’re happy at their university just to see what other options there are. Culture is not just keeping kids these days, it goes beyond that.”

Collectives and NIL, though, can also be a good thing. They can help retain players as much as they affect them leaving certain schools, especially if a school has a strong alumni base willing to donate. The lack of transparency and clarity on the rules governing them provides the most difficulty for coaches and administrators, alongside the volume of transfers.

“I think [NIL] really is great for college basketball, but again, there’s so much inconsistency from school to school in terms of operation, in terms of funding that it’s just hard for some schools to compete when some people have their stuff together, and others don’t,” Stanchak said.

In the future, Stanchak hopes donors will begin to act on return on investment, and money will go to the teams that perform the best instead of money being distributed randomly in the way it is now.

It’s clear there are many kinks needing to be ironed out when it comes to NIL and the transfer portal with women’s college basketball, but its growth will continue. Whether more stability in the industry comes with that is yet to be determined.


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