Stanley the Steamer : After Suing USC, Former Coach Went Through Many Rejections, but Landed on Her Feet at Cal


Day after day, Marianne Stanley peered through the window at something she could not have. A lifeboat of employment landed her in the marketing department at Stanford in early 1994 and in a pretty nice office with a decent view.

Stanley sat at her desk and looked out the window.

“What do I see?” she said. “Maples Pavilion. All I can think is: ‘Geez, what are they doing in there?’ Every day, I was just imagining what was going on. There was a lot of mental strain right out the window. Sometimes, I just closed the blinds and pretended it was not there.”

That season, she never walked over to watch the Stanford women’s basketball team practice or play a game. Talk about leading someone to water and not letting her drink. Stanley could see it, but she couldn’t coach it.


“One of my favorite painters is Van Gogh,” Stanley said. “It’s like saying, ‘OK, there’s nothing physically wrong with you, nothing wrong with your mind. But you can never paint again. Got it. Or you can draw stick figures. You draw your little sketches, don’t do that anymore.’ ”


Equal-opportunity rejection never felt so bad.

One of the country’s most successful basketball coaches could have started a one-woman recycling campaign with the rejection letters she received. Stanley, who has won three NCAA titles, was turned down by men’s programs, women’s programs at all three levels, Divisions I, II and III. All the hundred-plus applications resulted in one face-to-face interview, at the University of Iowa.


Then there was Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey at Camden.

The hapless men’s team, a Division III program, had lost 108 consecutive games and briefly disbanded. When it was reinstated, Stanley sent off a resume and never heard another word.

“It really started sinking in,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can’t do any worse.’ That’s why I say I’m as shocked as anybody to be sitting here talking to you.”

The chain of events leading Stanley back from coaching purgatory to a co-coaching job at Stanford last season to her current position at California is the result of “the stars lining up,” she likes to joke. And yes, her base salary of $110,000 is equal to that of the men’s coach, Ben Braun.

Cal plays host to USC today at Harmon Gym at 2 p.m.

After three-plus years of litigation in an equal-pay dispute against her former employer, USC, Stanley needed something extraordinary to occur.

“I look at Marianne as the Curt Flood of women’s basketball,” Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer said. “She challenged the system and brought attention to the problem.”

Said Stanley: “If what I’m doing ultimately benefits coaches of women’s basketball, whether they are male or female, so they are treated equitably by the universities, that’s all it’s ever been about for me. I never once believed I was a second-class person.”


As soon as Stanley filed an $8-million civil lawsuit against USC and Athletic Director Mike Garrett in the summer of 1993, charging sexual discrimination during contract negotiations, she became a pariah in the collegiate arena.

Stanley filed the suit after USC’s final offer to her was substantially less that that earned by then-men’s coach George Raveling.

Her attorney, Robert Bell, had represented Howard basketball Coach Sanya Tyler, who was awarded $1.1 million in damages in a case against Howard with some similarities to Stanley’s. Originally, Tyler had been awarded $2.386 million, but it was adjusted downward upon appeal in June 1993. Tyler is still at Howard.

It was the first time a jury awarded monetary relief in a Title IX case, but that has been the exception more than the norm. Even a victory in the form of a settlement can be a pyrrhic one.

Volleyball coach Stephanie Schleuder received $300,000 from the University of Minnesota in April 1995 in exchange for dropping litigation. She had complained about the lack of equal opportunity, and a report by the school’s equal opportunity office showed the women’s coaches were underpaid.

Schleuder and a colleague began lobbying state legislators. After three consecutive postseason appearances, Schleuder’s contract was not renewed. She can’t talk about the specifics of the lawsuit, but said she would do it again.

No coaching offers have come her way. She applied for two jobs, locally, but they went to coaches with less experience. Resurfacing seems to be a rare occurrence for female coaches, Stanley and Schleuder noted.

“They [men] get fired and break [NCAA] rules and lose and get snatched up,” Schleuder said. “It’s a different experience for women, I think. I think a lot of schools are not in compliance with Title IX and they don’t want somebody to come in [and make waves].”


Schleuder says she is resigned to never coaching volleyball again. Stanley felt the same way when she kept getting rejections. But she never counted on losing her life savings, her future retirement home in Virginia and being homeless for about a three-week period, depending upon the kindness of friends. And she worried about her daughter, Michelle, who, ironically, attends USC but without the benefit of a break in tuition given to the children of coaches.

“Anybody who takes on fighting the system, if you will, and litigating as a last resort, is looking at their whole life changing in ways they can never imagine,” Stanley said. “I thought my career was over--period. I knew that. I knew if I take this step my career is done.”


So, how did Stanley escape from coaching exile?

The story essentially came full circle when Stanley returned a week ago last Friday to Stanford for the first time with the Golden Bears. A sellout crowd of 7,319 at Maples Pavilion gave Stanley a standing ovation, a recognition of what she did for the Cardinal last season as a co-coach and of the prevailing principle of the lawsuit, Stanley thought.

Then the No. 3-ranked Cardinal beat the Bears by 51 points, tying the worst loss in Cal’s history. Though VanDerveer has been Stanley’s friend for more than 20 years and saved her coaching career, she asked if she felt sorry for Stanley in the blowout: “Not at all. . . . It wouldn’t affect me if my own mother were sitting on the [other] bench.”

Stanley has been on the losing end against VanDerveer more often than not, but likes to tease her friend that she won the only time they played against each other when Stanley played for Immaculata College and VanDerveer for Indiana.

“Tara is the truest of friends; she’s not only with you in good times, she’s there every step of the way,” Stanley said. “She didn’t let me for one second think I was out there alone, not for a minute. I think she took some heat for supporting me.”

VanDerveer recommended Stanley for the Cardinal job last season when VanDerveer left to coach the U.S. national team. Under Stanley and co-coach Amy Tucker, the Cardinal reached the Final Four and at the same time across the Bay, the Bears were struggling through a third consecutive losing season.

Cal had won only 10 times in conference play the last three seasons, and Stanley was practically in front of its face when it came time to make a change. Needless to say, the rebuilding effort will be difficult as the Bears, 6-13 overall, 2-8 in the Pacific 10, have not won a conference game on the road in more than a year.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit against USC still lives. Stanley’s appeal before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was heard in October in Pasadena, and she is hoping the long months of waiting are a good sign. USC has won every previous legal battle and the school has pointed out that she was not fired--which had been reported elsewhere--but that her existing contract expired.

Stanley had been offered a three-year package worth $288,000, and noted that if she had remained on the same pay-scale track at USC, she would be moving further away from what men’s coach Henry Bibby is making, not closer. Which makes her just as determined to press forward should she receive an unsatisfactory response from the bench in Pasadena.

“From the beginning, I said I would take it as far as I needed to,” Stanley said. “The only recourse is to go to the Supreme Court. The manner in which we filed was setting the table for a Supreme Court appeal, if necessary. I just think this is an issue that has not been looked at seriously or thoroughly by the court.”