County high school football coaches say the pay they receive for the long hours of work is forcing them to consider leaving the area - or the profession


PUBLIC SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACHING SUPPLEMENTS

PALM BEACH COUNTY

Head coach: $4,110

Assistants: $3,015

BROWARD COUNTY

Head coach: $3,038

Assistants: $2,169

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Head coach: $4,749

Assistant: $2,164

JV: $1,751

MARTIN COUNTY

Head coach: 15.95 percent of salary. A teacher making $37,000 would be paid $5,901.50 to be a head coach, $4,095.90 to be an assistant head coach (11.07 percent); $3,433,60 to be an assistant coach (9.28 percent) and $2,486.40 to be a freshman coach (6.72 percent).

A Martin County head football coach making the median teachers’ salary ($47,518.50) would be paid a $7,127.78 supplement.

COLLIER COUNTY

Percentage-based system; a first-year teacher and head football coach makes a $38,198 salary with a $4,965.74 supplement. Along with salary increases, the supplement jumps to $6,137.66 after four years, $7,764.37 after 10, $9,563 after 15 and $12,075.96 after 20.

Playoff bonus: 1 percent from calendar day after districts to end of competition.

ORANGE COUNTY

Head coach: $3,684 (years 0-3) 4,126 (years 4-6) 4,605 (years 7-14), 5,158 (years 15+).

Assistant: 2,456 (years 0-3) 2,751 (years 4-6) 3,070 (years 7-14) 3,438 (years 15+).

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

Head football coach: $3,736

Assistant varsity: $1,892

Assistant JV: $1,670

Playoff supplement: 10 percent of supplement for each level of FHSAA competition.

PINELLAS COUNTY

Head football coach: $2,758

Assistant varsity: $1,439

Assistant JV: $1,199

Plus: Supplement increases of up to 10 percent every three years over a maximum of 10 years.

According to state rules, the Florida high school football season is 18 to 22 weeks long. It begins with four weeks of spring ball in May, restarts with fall practice in August and lasts until mid-November. A lucky few finish their seasons under December’s state championship spotlight.

But no program ever truly goes dark, especially in Palm Beach County. And while the demands on football coaches’ time increases every year, the pay they receive for a commitment that can exceed 40 hours a week beyond their teaching duties has not changed in almost a decade.

The result, both locally and statewide, is an exodus of coaches, some of whom leave for states that can pay more and some who simply leave coaching.

“I would say most coaches lose money coaching football,” said Jack Daniels, heading into his 18th season at Dwyer. “There’s a ridiculous amount of time involved and you don’t get paid anything. I’m starting to get to the point where I’m wondering if it’s worth it.”

A head football coach in Palm Beach County is paid a $4,110 stipend. An assistant makes $3,015. Those figures that are comparable to other counties around the state but pale in comparison to what two successful coaches who left the area in the past two years — Seminole Ridge’s Matt Dickmann and Palm Beach Gardens’ Chris Davis — make in Georgia.

Dickmann now coaches at Harrison High in Cobb County. Davis is at Cedar Shoals High in Clarke County. Dickmann said stipends in Cobb are higher — $3,929 for a first-year assistant, $7,926 for a head coach — and can more than double through other supplements and booster-club incentives, which are not allowed in Palm Beach County public schools, but are not banned by the FHSAA. A coach with Dickmann’s experience — 26 years in Palm Beach County — could make $20,000 to $30,000 in addition to his teacher’s salary. Davis estimated that head coaches in his county could make 35-45 percent more than their counterparts here, with his assistant coaches earning nearly as much as Palm Beach County’s head coaches.

Given the stretched-thin stipends, there is little wonder there is so much turnover locally and statewide.

Of the 47 football programs in Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast, 28 this fall will have head coaches with fewer than three years on the job. Twelve are in their first year.

Van Ludy, director of labor relations for the Palm Beach County School District, said athletic supplements were last analyzed “seven or eight years ago.” In bargaining, he said, teachers must be selective, and sports stipends aren’t at the top of the list. Plus, no football job ever goes fallow.

“Although it may be out there, we haven’t heard a cry from administrators who are unable to fill those positions,” Van Ludy said.

That theory is being put to the test.

According to LRS Sports recruiting analyst Dwight Thomas, who tracks high school and college football coaching changes in the South, a state-record 143 coaching changes were made in Florida heading into this fall, breaking the high of 139 set last year. According to Thomas, 158 coaches left Florida for Georgia over the past decade.

“It’s getting hard to find coaches,” Benjamin athletic director Ryan Smith said. “The joy is being sucked out of coaching.”

Justin Hilliker, who decided not to return for an eighth season as a Seminole Ridge assistant, estimated he earned about a dollar per hour for his coaching. That’s 40 to 50 hours spent on football per week, all year. Six hours Monday though Thursday, perhaps eight on a Friday game day. Ten hours each on Saturday and Sunday. A light summer day is three to five hours of football-related work.

At 40 hours a week, Hilliker earned approximately $1.35 per hour. Supplement payments are taxed by 25 percent — per federal guidelines — meaning Hilliker took home $1.01 an hour.

“It’s a love and a passion,” Hilliker said. “But money and support, we don’t get a lot of that. That’s why the best coaches leave.”

Though teams can’t hold official team practices out-of-season, diligent coaches oversee weight-room sessions as soon as the games end. They are always in contact with players. They host college recruiters throughout the year as schools begin the pursuit of players earlier and earlier. Spring football eats up the month of May. They chaperon 7-on-7 tournaments and recruiting camps in the summer.

“If you’re not running a program that’s practicing as soon as Christmas break’s over, you’re probably not competitive,” Daniels said.

And in an era of dwindling resources, every coach, from the head of the program on down, must wear several hats.

“The Xs and Os are almost the easy part of coaching now,” King’s Academy athletic director Adam Winters said. “It wears on you. Coaches get burned out quick.”

In 2010, Davis and his Palm Beach Gardens players and parents worked all summer to help ready their county-built stadium for opening night. On the first day of fall practice, he spent much of the morning corralling players’ paperwork. Like his Palm Beach County peers, he was a secretary, fundraiser and maintenance man, and taught a full load of classes.

It’s much different now at Cedar Shoals. This spring, Davis wanted a giant paw painted on the Jaguars’ home field. The county’s field maintenance staff added it to its weekly painting duties.

“Up here,” he said, “the coaches coach.”

No state in the country produces high school football talent like Florida. One in every 124 players last year signed with top-division colleges. Georgia was next with one per 178. Palm Beach County, which has 1.3 million residents, had more players in the last Super Bowl – seven – than every state but California, Texas and Georgia.

With that success comes the heightened expectations of new players, many of them having given up other sports to concentrate on football, and their parents who are chasing the dream of a college scholarship.

“With all the money in pro sports, people have some illusions they’re going to get some of it,” Palm Beach Gardens coach Rob Freeman said. “Things are going to get out of whack. I have kids in ninth grade coming up to me and asking, ‘Who’s recruiting me?’ You’re in ninth grade. ‘Do I need to get a recruiting service? Where’s my Rivals page?’ You’re in ninth grade.”

Freeman’s father, Tom Freeman, coached high school football in Indiana and Iowa from 1963 to 2000. He shakes his head when he hears about his son putting his 17-month-old son to bed, then picking up the phone for a 45-minute phone call with a college recruiter.

“He’d say, ‘We’ve created a monster,’ ” Freeman said. In his father’s day, “football ran from August to November, and then they didn’t see him until next August. It wasn’t this year-round thing. They went on to basketball. They went on to track.”