When Iowa women’s basketball team reached the Final Four for the first time in 30 years this past spring, the first voicemail Hawkeyes Head Coach Lisa Bluder received after an Elite Eight victory in Seattle was from Naismith Hall of Fame Coach C. Vivian Stringer.
It was an apt moment as Stringer led Iowa to its first-ever Final Four back in 1993. But the legendary coach isn’t the only one who recognizes the greatness of the Bluder era in Iowa City. Add Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta to that list.
“Lisa has been an incredible leader for Iowa women’s basketball over many years. Her ability to achieve sustained success at such a high level is remarkable.”
Barta has extended Bluder’s contract through 2029, making sure the program’s all-time winningest coach sticks around for several more seasons.
Iowa success aids rise in sports betting interest in women’s athletics
Iowa online sports betting was energized in the spring when the Iowa women’s basketball team made it to the championship game against LSU. Despite the loss, those who wagered on the team throughout the season probably saw most of their bets pay off.
And with Iowa women’s basketball shattering attendance records and reaching new heights over the past two years came a wave of new fans who also enjoy sports betting.
Operators in Iowa included women’s NCAA tournament games in their sports betting offerings. Iowa fans traveled across the country to watch the women play in Seattle during the NCAA regionals and turned right around and headed to Dallas for the Final Four, outnumbering fans for other teams.
Consequently, sportsbooks saw a surge in women’s basketball wagering during March Madness. Expect that trend to continue as Clark, the nation’s leading scorer, enters her junior year, and other dynamic stars such as LSU’s Angel Reese take the court for a highly anticipated 2023-24 season.
In fact, a new study, “Breaking Barriers: Assessing Women’s Sports, Betting and Integrity Challenges”, analyzed the growth of women’s sports betting including basketball. The study found that betting on women’s basketball grew 10% every year from 2017 to 2022.
Bluder’s base salary is now $1 million
Effective July 1, Bluder’s base salary is an even $1 million. This is an increase of $161,494 over her previous base compensation.
Among 2023’s Final Four coaches, Bluder is in third place when it comes to salaries. Ahead of her is the top earner, South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, and LSU’s Kim Mulkey in second. Staley’s base salary is $3 million, the same as UConn’s Geno Auriemma. Mulkey, in her second year at LSU after winning two titles at Baylor, earned $2.52 million this year.
Previously, Bluder signed a contract extension in 2021 that went through 2026. As is standard in college athletics, the Iowa coach earns a percentage bonus when her squad makes the NCAA tournament. The deeper the team advances, the higher the percentage.
The percentages start at 3%, and the maximum is 15% if the team advances to the Elite Eight or better.
With her new deal, the coach will “also receive other guaranteed income (camps, shoe and apparel) of $400,00 per year for the remaining years of this contract.” The contract also adds $30,000 from clinics and camps that she can disperse to her staff.
Bluder’s rise to national prominence
Bluder is an Iowa native entering her 24th season with the Hawkeyes. With an 850-391 (.685) overall record and a 494-249 (.664) record at Iowa, she passed Stringer as the winningest coach in program history in 2014. Her coaching accolades include:
- 21 postseason appearances
- 17 NCAA tournament berths
- 2019 Naismith Coach of the Year
- Three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (2001, 2008, 2010)
- Sixteen 20-win seasons, including 14 of the last 16 years
Despite two decades of success, Bluder rose to spectacular heights in the past few years with players like Caitlin Clark, Megan Gustafson and Monika Czinano helping the team make national headlines regularly. Scoring phenom Clark, who will go down as the most decorated player in Hawkeye women’s basketball history, just added another trophy to her collection this week, winning the ESPY for Best Female College Athlete after sweeping every single National Player of the Year awards this year.
After another successful season, Bluder moved up to 13th of coaches with the most wins in NCAA Division I women’s basketball. She is just two wins behind retired coach Gary Blair of Texas A&M fame. If she coaches to the end of her current contract, she will no doubt crack the top 10.
What will be interesting to see if this continues the push forward for women’s sports betting in Iowa and the wave can get even bigger.