LSU Makes Big Investment, Kim Mulkey Becomes Highest Paid Women’s Coach

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Kim Mulkey’s move from Baylor to LSU in 2021 was a game-changer for women’s basketball, earning her the nickname R-O-I, short for “return on investment.” 

Her return to her home state of Louisiana came with a hefty price tag, making her the highest-paid coach in women’s hoops. 

This move was expected to yield dividends, as LSU’s athletics director, Scott Woodward, believed it would be money well spent. However, the extent of Mulkey’s impact has surpassed expectations.

In a recent review by USA TODAY Sports, Mulkey emerged as the highest-paid Division I women’s basketball head coach, raking in $3.26 million this season. 

The ROI of Women’s Basketball

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Kim Mulkey’s move from Baylor to LSU in 2021 was a game-changer for women’s basketball, earning her the nickname R-O-I, short for “return on investment.”

This places her ahead of renowned coaches like Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Geno Auriemma of UConn, both earning $3.1 million. 

Mulkey is among the 18 coaches making $1 million or more this year, indicating a significant increase from the 11 coaches reported in the previous investigation in 2021-22.

The rise of these “million-dollar babies,” as one agent termed them, reflects the growing investment and popularity of women’s sports. 

While there is still room for improvement, the numbers from LSU’s financial report support the notion that investment leads to financial returns. 

Before Mulkey’s arrival, LSU’s women’s basketball program generated an average operating revenue of just over $306,000 per year. 

However, in Mulkey’s first season, revenue soared to nearly $1.8 million, and in the following season, it reached nearly $2.5 million.

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Kim Mulkey’s Winning Strategy for LSU Women’s Basketball

LSU’s revenue from ticket sales also saw a significant increase under Mulkey’s leadership. From 2017-2020, LSU reported $316,213 in ticket sales. 

In 2021-22, this figure rose to $867,166, and last season, it reached $973,880. Additionally, contributions to the women’s basketball program quadrupled under Mulkey. In 2019-20, contributions amounted to $200,021, but in 2022-23, they soared to $836,939.

Mulkey’s impact extended beyond financial gains. Her recruitment strategies, such as picking up Angel Reese from the transfer portal in 2022, paid off when the Tigers won the 2023 national championship. 

This success, dubbed “Mulkey Mania,” has seen a surge in attendance, with the Tigers drawing five-figure crowds consistently.

Debbie Antonelli, an ESPN analyst, credits LSU’s athletic director, Scott Woodward, for Mulkey’s success, citing his investment in Mulkey and the program’s infrastructure. 

This success story underscores the value of investing in women’s sports, showing that the returns can be remarkable.

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