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How much does a win in women's college basketball cost? - the 2012-13 update

We return to looking at which teams have the highest marginal cost per marginal win in NCAA Division I women's basketball.


A couple of years ago, we decided to use the concept of Marginal Cost per Marginal Win to determine which NCAA Division I basketball teams were the best at spending their budgets. With new numbers - and one year gone by - we look again at how much a win in women's college basketball costs.

To summarize the above link: instead of looking at cost per win, it might be more illustrative to look at Marginal Cost (the cost above the sunk cost of players) divided by Marginal Win (the number of wins beyond expected wins). If the cost of putting together a team of players is fixed for all teams, and if every women's team is expected to get a baseline number of wins, then those fixed costs and expected wins should be removed from the equation.

The only questions left were what were the sunk costs and the expected number of wins. Since college players are only paid in scholarships, we assume that the sunk costs are zero for all teams and that the Marginal Cost is the Total Cost, i. e. the women's basketball expenses of the team.

In order to determine the expected number of wins, we need to know how many games a team full of "replacement players" would win. Replacement level is very hard to determine in college basketball, since teams can't add players to the roster in the event of mid-season. We therefore split Division I teams into 13 groups based on win totals and took the average of the win totals in group #11, under the premise that on a team of 13 players, you should be hitting replacement level with player #11.

Two years ago the expected wins for a team was set at nine wins - a team ought to be able to schedule enough cupcakes and get enough conference wins to total nine wins, a basic level of competency. This year - for the 2012-13 season - we have set the replacement level at 10 wins. If a team can't win 10 games, we consider that team to not even be trying.

Therefore, the formula becomes:

MC/MW = Marginal Cost / Marginal Wins = WBB Expenses / (Total Wins - 10)

This should be how much it costs to win a women's basketball game for any given team.

The first table is a list of the top 10 teams in terms of Marginal Cost per Marginal Win for 2012-13:

Team Marginal Cost Marginal Wins MC/MW
Army (PATRIOT) 537,000 12 45,000
Hampton (MEAC) *** 933,000 18 52,000
Howard (MEAC) 528,000 10 53,000
Princeton (IVY) *** 697,000 12 58,000
Harvard (IVY) 655,000 11 60,000
Nicholls State (SLC) 551,000 9 61,000
Chattanooga (SOCON) 1,184,000 19 62,000
South Dakota State (SUMM) 967,000 15 64,000
Youngstown State (HL) 830,000 13 64,000
Albany (A-EAST) 1,120,000 17 66,000

Note that "***" indicates that this team was also on our list two years ago. Army is the most efficient team, getting 22 wins on a very minimized budget. Hampton (#2) and Princeton (#4) return to the list from two years ago. Coaches David Six (Hampton) and Courtney Banghart (Princeton) ought to be on someone's speed dial right now. Six might be hard to get, since Hampton just gave him a five-year extension. Courtney Banghart was being considered for the position at Southern California this year, so she might not stay at Princeton long.

Up next: the top 10 "power conference" teams in terms of Marginal Cost per Marginal Win:

California (PAC12) 2,974,000 22 135,000
Utah (PAC12) 1,779,000 13 137,000
Stanford (PAC12) *** 3,509,000 23 153,000
UCLA (PAC12) *** 2,466,000 16 154,000
North Carolina (ACC) *** 2,953,000 19 155,000
Louisville (BIGEAST) 3,279,000 19 173,000
Villanova (BIGEAST) 1,976,000 11 180,000
Kentucky (SEC) 3,617,000 20 181,000
Maryland (ACC) 2,906,000 16 182,000
Notre Dame (BIGEAST) *** 4,701,000 25 188,000

We can see some familiar teams showing up again: Stanford (#3), UCLA (#4), North Carolina (#5) and Notre Dame (#10) come back from two years ago. Oddly enough, all of the top four teams on the list are Pac-12 teams, and two years ago Pac-12 teams took the #1 and #2 spots. One can come to several possible conclusions:

1) The WBB expenses are not accurate. This was a contention in the comment thread from the December 2011 post, as there was a question of whether or not the coach's salary is accurately reflected in the expenses.
2) The PAC-12 doesn't pay out a lot of money for women's basketball.
3) Note that Stanford, North Carolina and Notre Dame all have coaches with several decades of experience. Have expenses been swapped in exchange for job security? Or does the school know that it has a great coach and figures that the coach will take care of the wins without the need to spend money for them?

The final list is the list of power conference teams that have the highest Marginal Cost per Marginal Win. Of the ten teams listed, seven teams essentially have a negative marginal cost, all failing to win 10 games. There are six teams that were here two years ago that are back here again.

Texas Christian (BIG12) 3,593,000 -1 --
Virginia Tech (ACC) *** 2,853,000 0 --
Oregon (PAC12) 2,803,000 -6 --
Clemson (ACC) *** 2,620,000 -1 --
Pittsburgh (BIGEAST) 2,463,000 -1 --
Mississippi (SEC) *** 2,200,000 -1 --
Oregon State (PAC12) *** 2,186,000 0 --
Providence (BIGEAST) 2,131,000 -3 --
Indiana (BIG10) *** 2,733,000 1 2,733,000
Seton Hall (BIGEAST) *** 2,615,000 1 2,615,000

The tenures of each of these coaches are listed in the following table:

Team Coach Season
Texas Christian (BIG12) Jeff Mittie 14
Virginia Tech (ACC) *** Dennis Wolff 2
Oregon (PAC12) Paul Westhead 3
Clemson (ACC) *** Itoro Coleman (+) 3
Pittsburgh (BIGEAST) Agnus Berenato (+) 10
Mississippi (SEC) *** Renee Ladner (+) 5
Oregon State (PAC12) *** Scott Rueck 3
Providence (BIGEAST) Susan Robinson Fruchtl 1
Indiana (BIG10) *** Felisha Legette-Jack (+) 6
Seton Hall (BIGEAST) *** Anne Donovan (+) 3

A (+) indicates that the coach is no longer at the school. You have three coaches that were fired (Coleman, Berenato, Legette-Jack), one that basically retired (Ladner), one that went to the WNBA (Donovan), a coach that will be fired sooner or later (Westhead), a coach that found himself in a tougher conference (Mittie), and three coaches working on rebuilds (Wolff, Rueck, Fruchtl).

Life is tough at the college coaching level. But one thing that endears a coach to an athletic director is a lot of wins for a (relatively) small amount of money.