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Why Don't we have Salary Caps on Coaches?

Posted by Paul Saluja | Jun 04, 2024

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers' baseball season came to an end on Sunday with a 6-5 loss to the Clemson Tigers in the Clemson Regional of the NCAA Tournament. It also marked the end of a legendary career for head coach Gary Gilmore. He had been at Coastal Carolina since 1996, amassing 1,116 wins with the Chanticleers.

As Gilmore addressed reporters for potentially the final time, he shared his thoughts on the evolving landscape of college sports, particularly the implications of name, image, and likeness (NIL) policies. His remarks raised a critical question: Why don't we have salary caps on coaches?

The NIL Debate

Gilmore's comments highlighted a significant concern about the current state of college sports. He criticized the unregulated nature of NIL deals, comparing it to a hypothetical scenario in professional sports where every player is a free agent every year. Such a system, he argued, would lead to chaos and an uneven playing field, favoring wealthier teams capable of offering substantial financial incentives.

"If you had a system (in professional sports) where everyone was a free agent every year, do you realize what chaos it would be? (The leagues) would go away," Gilmore said. "You wouldn't have those sports. If you did, in baseball it would be the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers, Texas, and the rest of the teams couldn't compete. They could spend however much money they need to do it. That's what's going on right now. It's not a level playing field."

Rising Compensation in College Sports

Last month, the NCAA agreed to allow its Power Five conferences to directly pay athletes, a landmark shift towards revenue sharing. This decision allows each school to distribute up to approximately $20 million per year to athletes, in addition to scholarships, third-party NIL payments, health care, and other benefits. This move is projected to result in over $20 billion in new payments and benefits to college athletes over a 10-year period, making it one of the largest antitrust class-action settlements in history.

However, as college athletes begin to receive direct payments, it begs the question of why similar financial constraints are not imposed on the salaries of college coaches.

The Case for Salary Caps on Coaches

In professional sports, salary caps are often implemented to ensure competitive balance and financial stability. The absence of such caps in college sports has led to an environment where coaching salaries have skyrocketed. The financial disparities among programs can exacerbate competitive imbalances, similar to the concerns raised by Gilmore regarding NIL.

Coaches at top-tier programs command multi-million-dollar salaries, far exceeding the compensation received by their counterparts at smaller schools. This disparity not only influences competitive balance but also raises ethical concerns about the allocation of resources within collegiate athletics. The escalating salaries of coaches divert funds that could potentially be used to support student-athletes, enhance facilities, or fund academic programs.

A Call for a More Equitable System

Implementing salary caps on coaches could address some of the inequities inherent in the current system. By limiting the financial arms race for top coaching talent, college sports could achieve a more level playing field. Additionally, redirecting funds towards supporting student-athletes, as Gilmore suggested, could mitigate some of the negative impacts associated with NIL and ensure that the primary focus remains on the athletes' development and well-being.

Gilmore's critique of the current system underscores the need for a comprehensive review of financial practices in college sports. As the landscape continues to evolve with direct payments to athletes and substantial NIL deals, the time is ripe for considering salary caps on coaches to promote fairness and sustainability.


As college sports navigate the complexities of NIL and direct athlete payments, it is crucial to examine all aspects of financial equity within the system. Gary Gilmore's parting words serve as a reminder that without thoughtful regulation, the pursuit of financial advantage can undermine the very principles of collegiate athletics. Implementing salary caps on coaches is a step towards ensuring a more balanced and equitable future for college sports.

About the Author

Paul Saluja

Paul Saluja is a distinguished legal professional with over two decades of experience serving clients across a spectrum of legal domains. Graduating from West Virginia State University in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, he continued his academic journey at Ohio Northern University, gr...

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