For two decades, Marianne Stanley's court was any old ratty gymnasium where basketball was the main attraction. As a two-time All-American guard at Immaculata, and then coach at Old Dominion, Pennsylvania and USC for 16 seasons, Stanley was a fixture in the sport.
Now she is playing on a different court.
Instead of preparing the Trojans for their Dec. 1 season-opening game against Northern Illinois, Stanley is waiting for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco to decide her fate. The decision could come any day.
She is waiting to hear whether the panel will overturn a federal judge's ruling and reinstate her as the USC women's coach until her $8 million sex discrimination suit against the school and Athletic Director Mike Garrett is resolved.
The suit was the result of a bitter contract dispute in which she asked to be paid similarly to men's coach George Raveling. Last season, Stanley made $62,000 plus a $6,000 housing allowance, according to the suit. Raveling is believed to have made about $110,000 although his salary has not been made public.
After she rejected two substantial salary increase offers, USC simply let Stanley's contract expire on June 30 and began looking for a replacement.
Because of the stature of USC and Stanley herself--she has won three national championships and coached some of the greatest players in the United States--her case has been the centerpiece of a national debate. With women's coaches traditionally paid less than men's coaches, the issue of pay equality has become one of the latest in college athletics.
If the appellate court rejects her appeal, Stanley is unsure of her next move. She is pursuing other coaching positions, although few are available this time of year. Her belongings are boxed in her West Hollywood residence, and she is in a state of flux.
"Her whole life has been tied up in the court's ruling," said Robert Bell, her Washington, D.C.-based attorney.
"She is still trying to figure out why she is not coaching. She can't see where she has done anything wrong."
Stanley has not spoken publicly about her case since filing suit in Superior Court in Los Angeles last August. Because it has not been resolved, her attorneys advised her not to talk.
In the past year, Stanley is among a handful of women's coaches who have used federal law to demand equality in salaries.
And because the courts have mostly agreed with the challenges, some prominent women's coaches, notably those at Arkansas, California, Iowa, Virginia and Washington, have received salary increases in the past year roughly equal to those of the men's coaches at those schools.
Last June, about the time Stanley's negotiations turned acrimonious, Coach Sanya Tyler of Howard University was awarded $1.1 million in damages in a sex-discrimination claim against the Washington, D.C. school. Tyler's situation was similar to Stanley's; she wanted a pay increase and better support for her program.
In another case last June, Coach Pam Bowers of Baylor was reinstated by the Dept. of Education's Office of Civil Rights after she was terminated because she asked for a salary increase and more support for her program. In the process of being reinstated, Bower disclosed NCAA rules violations involving the men's program. Four players have been declared ineligible. The school's investigation into the men's team is continuing.
This week, Tommie Jean Dowell, the women's coach at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio filed suit in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati claiming she was demoted because she complained that men's sports were given a higher priority than women's sports.
Stanley had a 71-46 record in four seasons at USC and led the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament three consecutive years. She was expecting to return this season with three senior starters and an outstanding recruiting class. The Trojans think they have a chance to make the Final Four.
Stanley thought she deserved to earn about as much as Raveling when she entered into contract negotiations last spring. Advocates of equal pay say factors such as experience, success, graduation rates and attendance should be considered when comparing salaries.
Stanley's career record is 351-146, and she is arguably more successful than Raveling, who has a 21-year record of 310-280.
"If they came out tomorrow and said they were going to pay her the same as me, it certainly wouldn't bother me," Raveling said last September. "I've felt comfortable about (the comparisons) all along."
Garrett thought he was being generous last April when he offered Stanley a three-year package worth $288,000. He was shocked when she held out for more. Stanley said she was close to accepting it with a slight salary adjustment. The difference was about $14,000 to $18,000 over the three years.
But she was surprised when Garrett countered with a one-year deal for $96,000, including a clause that prevented Stanley from suing the university. She rejected that offer, too.