Oklahoma softball coach Patty Gasso (center) is on the brink of becoming the 14th coach in state history to be paid at least $1 million a year. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

Within the span of a few months in 1999-2000, as the University of Oklahoma football program vaulted from an extended slump to having become the national champion, Bob Stoops’ pay zoomed from $625,000 to $1.4 million.

Stoops was the first coach in state history to command as much as $1 million for a year’s work. Nineteen years after Stoops got rich, the list of the state’s million-dollar coaches remains fairly short.

At OU, the Million Dollar Club also includes Jeff Capel, Lon Kruger, Sherri Coale, Lincoln Riley and Alex Grinch (the Sooners’ new defensive coordinator who, at $1.4 million, is the first assistant coach in Oklahoma to get seven-digit dough).

Oklahoma State’s coaching millionaires include Mike Gundy (who arrived at that level in 2008), Travis Ford (whose 10-year contract became a nightmare for the university), Brad Underwood and Mike Boynton.

At the University of Tulsa, former Golden Hurricane football coach Todd Graham became the school’s first million-dollar coach in 2007. At the time, Graham’s pay was astonishing.

His predecessor, Steve Kragthorpe, is believed to have made no more than $600,000 in 2006. Before Graham, Kragthorpe was the highest-paid coach in TU history, regardless of sport.

Including TU’s Frank Haith and Philip Montgomery, there are 13 coaches in Oklahoma history who have been at or beyond $1 million in annual pay.

Soon — as in the start of the 2019-20 fiscal year in July — there should be a new member of the Million Dollar Club.

In 2018-19, as she drove the OU softball team to 57 victories and another Women’s College World Series appearance, Patty Gasso’s guaranteed compensation was a few dollars shy of $1 million.

For 2019-20 — and only two years after she made $481,499 — she is positioned to crash through the $1 million ceiling.

Gasso is the highest-paid of all college softball coaches, and now she should get the distinction of becoming the first million-dollar coach in her sport.

Some of the coaches on the state’s million-dollar list were or are overpaid, but how could anyone find fault with OU’s compensation of Gasso?

In 25 seasons as the Sooners’ head coach, she built a monster. The softball Sooners emphatically supplanted the basketball Sooners as the most high-profile women’s program at OU. Gasso’s success compelled OU officials to approve a plan for a new softball stadium.

Coale’s basketball women were in the Final Four in 2002, 2009 and 2010, but that program’s star has faded. During the past eight seasons, the OU women’s basketball program hasn’t advanced past the Sweet Sixteen level of the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners’ 2018-19 record was 8-22. It was OU’s lowest win total in 21 years.

With five more years remaining on the contract she signed in 2017, Gasso’s winning percentage is .790. With eight consecutive conference titles, OU owns the Big 12.

Gasso got a national championship in 2000, but neither she nor anyone else could have expected the greatness of 2011-19. During the last nine seasons, there were eight Women’s College World Series appearances and three national titles.

Last week, OU was beaten by UCLA in the best-of-three championship round. As softball television ratings continue to climb, Gasso’s Sooners have been at the center of that movement.

Oklahoma State also had a strong 2019 season, resulting in the possibility that softball coach Kenny Gajewski might get a substantial pay increase. While the Cowgirls made a surprise appearance in the WCWS, his 2018-19 pay amounted to $175,875.

Even if Gajewski gets a significant raise, he and most other softball coaches will remain far below the salary standard set by Gasso, who wins and recruits like Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney and Riley do in football, and like Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari and Geno Auriemma do in basketball.

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Bill Haisten


Twitter: @billhaisten

Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397