Case Study: Ethical Dilemmas in College Coaching

The University of Southern California is facing dilemma on whether to base coaching salary entirely on the market considerations or on the experience, skill, and performance of coaches. The dilemma emerged because basketball women’s coach, Marianne Stanley, earned $64,000 a year while men’s coach, George Raveling, earned $135,000 per year. Disparity in salaries occurred because the University of South California attached more value to George Raveling as compared to Marianne for they did not want to lose him into other universities; hence, the university resolved to pay high salary as a way of maintaining him. Moreover, social, and cultural markets prefer men’s basketball than women’s basketball, thus the University of California directed more attention and resources to men’s basketball and coaches. In contrast, Marianne Stanley and Raveling George have relatively equal skills and performance because according to the case study, in the past two years, win-loss records were 23-8 and 22-7 compared to19-10 and 24-6 respectively. The problem arises in that, how can University of California harmonize the salaries of men and women coaches in spite of market consideration, skills, experiences and performance?

To resolve the dilemma, the University can opt to pay the coaches based on the market consideration of the basketball meaning that social and cultural preferences would take precedence in determination of the salary. The coach whose game is going to attract more fans and make more money will receive more salary as compared to the others. In contrast, the University of California can also opt to base salary on the experience, skills and performance. Using this criterion, the coaches will earn proportionately according to experience, skills and performance.

Alternatively, basing coaches’ salaries on market consideration means that only dominant games that have more social and cultural preferences will receive more attention and support from the University, while other minor games will have neither attention nor support. In the case study, Raveling George received more salary as compared to Marianne Stanley due to market consideration of basketball, which favors men’s basketball. Since women’s basketball lacked enough market consideration, Marianne Stanley earned half of Raveling George’s annual salary. The other alternative of determining salary using experience, skills and skills means that coaches will earn their salaries based on their personal achievements, unlike in the case of market consideration. In the case study, Marianne Stanley would have earned more because her experience, skills and performance were quite competitive.

An ideal solution demands that coaches should earn equal amount of salary if they have equal qualifications and experiences. According to Kidder, when faced with ethical dilemma, “…a choice is generally a poor one if it violates the moral code of someone that you care a lot about” (2008, p. 248). Hence, the ideal solution ensures fairness to the coaches as it does not violate any privileges that one would have earned by merit. Ideally, the salaries of the coaches need to encompass all factors such as skills, experiences, performance, and market consideration in order to motivate and encourage both the coaches and athletes.

Since the ethical dilemma concerning coaches’ salary emanates from the need to ensure fairness and commensurate payment, ideal solution portrays a fair ground of justifying decision regarding remuneration. The ideal solution gives a probable decision that is fair as it reflects a situation where all other factors are constant. In response to the case study, Marianne Stanley and George Raveling would be earning relatively equal amount of salary since both had the same skills and performance, even though they had varied experiences. Laaksoharju argues that, “when judging ethical competence it is tempting to compare and relate to an ideal behaviour; a code of conduct or a philosophy of morality” (2009, p. 3). The ideal solution gives a basis of gauging fairness and resolving dilemma in decision-making.

Regarding the dilemma on whether to pay coaches salaries based on market consideration or on experiences, skills, and performance, it is quite fair to use the later. The criterion of paying coaches based on their experiences, skills and performances is a valid decision because it will ensure fairness and equal treatment of coaches at the University of California. The criterion is not only beneficial to the coaches, but also the university as it will improve sustainability of basketball and coaches.

The decision to pay coaches according to their experiences, skills, and performance will ensure fairness and enhance competition. Paying high salary to coaches as presented in the case study is not effective way of maintaining staff for Snell argues that, “.sometimes satisfying the immediate needs of the group by giving a hefty pay rise to employees, for example, can lead to long-term negative consequences that endanger the future of the business” (2003, p. 87). Therefore, it is motivating to the coaches to earn their salaries according to their own efforts and reward to the university because there would be increased competition among coaches. In a recap, the coaches should get what they earn not what they supposedly deserve simply because someone has experience in this or that; if anything, experience without results or returns amounts to nothing.


Kidder, R. (2008). Ethical Decision Making and Behavior. United Kingdom: Sage.

Laaksoharju, M. (2009). Tools for Ethical Decision Making. Journal of Business Ethics, 48(3), 1-19.

Snell, R. (2003). Developing skills of ethical management. London: Chapman & Prentice Hall.

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