WKU athletics under investigation for uneven spending

Illustration by Ellie Allen

Matt Stahl

Editor’s note: this story has been updated to include comments from WKU‘s general counsel Deborah Wilkins, which we’re published in a story from the Bowling Green Daily News following the publication of this story

WKU Athletics is currently under a Title IX investigation that began in 2016, following a complaint filed to the Department of Education that claims the university was not spending equally on like sports. 

The complaint alleges that WKU favored baseball over softball in facilities, staff compensation and practice scheduling priority. 

“The distribution of both state and institutional funds combined with private donations is not equitable among ‘like sports’ in this situation with both baseball and softball,” the complaint reads, which was obtained by the Herald from the DOE via a public records request. “Baseball has recently had a $1.2 million renovation to their facilities while softball has not had anything more than 10-20 thousand dollars in the same period.”

The complaint was originally filed on Aug. 1, 2016.

The name of the person who filed the complaint was not disclosed. The complaint alleged that WKU was spending a significant amount more on baseball coach salaries than on softball coach salaries.

“Salaries for the baseball staff have increased, and are now more than 200% higher than the equivalent softball positions,” the complaint stated.

WKU’s response, which was obtained by the Herald via a public records request, discloses the salaries of coaches during 2016. The spending on baseball coaches came out to 231.7 percent higher than what was spent on softball coaches at the time.

According to the documents, baseball head coach John Pawlowski made $161,616 for the year. Baseball assistants for the season, Ty Megahee, Rob Reinstetle and Gaston Glasscock, made $75,756, $65,664 and $28,788 respectively. The total spent on baseball coaches on the year came out to $331,824.

Softball head coach Amy Tudor made $63,264 according to the document. Kayla Bixel made $35,004 and Matt Wilhite made $45,000 as assistants. The total spending on softball coaches was $143,268. 

The DOE requested documents from the university for the purposes of its investigation in December 2016, a request that WKU complied with in March 2017. According to WKU General Counsel Deborah Wilkins, more than 400 documents were sent to the DOE.

The investigation does not focus solely on the softball and baseball programs, as the DOE is required to use an overall approach, investigating related areas even if the original complaint is narrowly focused.

Among the other issues mentioned is the fact that the baseball team’s locker rooms and offices are right next to its field, while softball’s are about half a mile from its field, which is located on Creason Street. Documents sent to the DOE and obtained by the Herald confirm that while Nick Denes Field does have locker rooms used exclusively by the baseball team, the softball complex contains no locker rooms on site.

The documents also say the softball locker rooms are located in Diddle Arena, along with the locker rooms for men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, volleyball and tennis.

The complaint maintains that the university broke the law with regards to their handling of the sports. It also outlines a desired outcome for the situation.

“I am seeking additional funds allocated to the softball program,” the complaint said. “To be equivalent to the baseball program for field renovations, coaches salaries, on site locker rooms and coaches offices, and equality in scheduling for a ‘shared’ indoor hitting facility and dollars spent per athlete.”

WKU Athletics redirected a request for comment to the office of General Counsel Deborah Wilkins, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Wilkins did later make comments to the Bowling Green Daily News.

“Universities are not required to create ‘mirror image’ programs,” Wilkins said in an email, according to Aaron Mudd of the Daily News.

Wilkins also commented on WKU’s response to the DOE.

“WKU has provided OCR with all of the information it requested and we’re confident WKU is providing equivalent treatment, services and benefits to male student-athletes and female student-athletes. If disparities are identified, I expect these will be negligible and due to non-discriminatory factors,” she said, according to the Daily News.

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97.