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Oklahoma women's basketball: Sherri Coale is more than a coach, she's an icon for OU

Sherri Coale is guaranteed $1.01 million per season, but bonuses and fringe benefits will lift her annual compensation well beyond that figure. But Coale isn’t paid just for basketball. Coale is a virtual spokesmodel for the university.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 6, 2014

In many ways, Coale is a victim of her own success. OU crowds are down somewhat in recent years. Some of the fans that once were in the Sherri Coale wheelhouse have switched devotions to Kevin Durant, a PR dynamo of another kind. And the Sooners aren’t the national contenders they were when the likes of Stacey Dales and Courtney Paris and Danielle Robinson led the Sooners.

“Yeah, but that’s what our job is to do,” Coale said, “to have people expecting that we’re supposed to win every game and we’re supposed to win championships and we’re supposed to be in the Sweet 16. That’s why you build it.”

But Coale says the program is in great shape, and she eloquently defends her record. An English major with natural charm can be quite the communicator.

“You know what, when I walked into this gym (Lloyd Noble Center) to begin coaching here, there weren’t any of those,” she said, referring to OU’s three Final Four banners. “We play in a gym that is a pretty storied facility with a pretty good men’s basketball tradition, and there weren’t many of those (for the men). So when I look up, and we’ve been to three Final Fours … that’s pretty unbelievable, actually.

“I have to step back and go, ‘we’ve done some pretty neat stuff.’ Maybe spoiled some people along the way. But that’s what we want to do. That’s the bar we’re reaching for. We make no apologies for high expectations.”

Not so long ago, Castiglione was constantly bombarded by concerns over OU being able to keep Coale. That’s one reason why her salary has escalated. Joe C. is a pre-emptive athletic director. He acts rather than reacts.

“Her value to our university and the state of Oklahoma is far more important than the salary that she receives,” Castiglione said. “We are very mindful of how salary decisions are made, and we’ve been very competitive with our salaries we’ve offered for all of our highly successful coaches.

“She’s been and continues to be one of the top head coaches in women’s basketball today. Sherri’s loyalty to the University of Oklahoma in unquestioned. We know she wants to remain an Oklahoman but could have easily been a lot of other places.

“She is still way too young to be considered iconic, but what she has done to transform interest in women’s basketball is incredible.”

Castiglione is wrong. The 49-year-old Coale is not too young to be labeled iconic. That’s exactly what she is. An icon. A women’s basketball icon. An OU icon. A state of Oklahoma icon.

Does she make too much money? Heck yeah. But she’s in good company. In case you haven’t noticed, almost every major college coach is in that club.

Bob Stoops makes almost $5 million a year. Virtually all of that is for winning championships, and he mostly earns his paycheck. Coale makes over $1 million. But only a fraction of that is for winning ballgames. The majority of that money is for winning friends for OU.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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