POLL: Are high school coaches overpaid?
In paying high school coaches, regardless of sport, Georgia continues to distance itself as a peach of a destination compared with bordering states Tennessee and Alabama. Northwest Georgia counties offer the top five supplements in the Chattanooga area for football coaches and athletic directors and four of the top five in boys' and girls' basketball as well as baseball and softball.
Football is the top revenue-producing prep sport in all three states, and supplements reflect the importance of that sport in Georgia, where Calhoun's Hal Lamb receives a $17,460 stipend to lead one of the state's top programs.
Lamb has built the Yellow Jackets into perennial state-title contenders, claiming the Class AA championship last season after three consecutive runner-up finishes. Calhoun has won 54 of its last 57 games under Lamb, who earns another $7,669 as the school's athletic director. Calhoun's athletic programs annually rank among the state's top 10 in overall performance.
Dade County football coach and athletic director Bradley Warren earns the highest combined stipend in the area, making $14,000 as the AD at his alma mater and another $13,050 as the football coach.
Before his arrival, the Wolverines had just two winning seasons in program history and five head coaches in nine years. He has guided them to winning records in half of his four years, including the program's second playoff appearance in a 10-win 2010 season.
"A few years ago the superintendent [Patty Priest] noticed that there was a revolving door in the football program, and you can't build a good program with coaches always coming and going," Warren said. "So, because they do not offer extended-month contracts in the county, she led an effort to make our supplements the highest in the area to recruit good coaches.
"It's also a remote area of the state, and that makes it harder to recruit coaches and keep them."
Dade County's coaching supplements are also tops in the area for boys' and girls' basketball ($9,000 each), wrestling and soccer ($4,500 each), and its baseball stipend is second-highest.
"No coach got into the business for the money, but like anything else it's nice to feel compensated for the time you spend in your profession," said Glen Hicks, who has coached Dade County's basketball team for nine years. Hicks spent 25 years coaching in Alabama at North Sand Mountain before moving to the Trenton school.
"My last year in Alabama, I coached basketball and baseball and was a football assistant," Hicks said. "My first year at Dade County, my teacher's pay alone was more than my whole salary had been at North Sand Mountain. I had another offer to coach at Marion County about the same time I was offered to come here, and the money wasn't even in the same ballpark. You feel appreciated with the money you make as a teacher and a coach in this state."
Hamilton County pays its prep coaches on a percentage scale, with head football coaches earning an additional 20 percent of their base teacher's pay as compensation and assistants making 15 percent. Basketball head coaches make 15 percent of their base pay, but no other sport offers more than a 10 percent supplement for coaching.
Houston White coached football and track at Hixson for four years before stepping down last spring to become a football assistant and head track coach at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. Despite taking a step back in responsibility, White will earn more base teaching pay and a comparable coaching supplement by going from Hamilton to Catoosa County.
"It's more the base pay than the supplement where Tennessee is lagging behind," said White, who will work as the Warriors' offensive coordinator. "When you add the base pay and the supplement you can make, it can be significantly more money for your family. That's why I was willing to give up being a head coach for a while, because it just made more financial sense for my family right now. Anybody is going to go to a job where they can make more money for their family.
"There are only three high schools in Catoosa County, where Hamilton County has just gotten too big. They have 17 high schools to support, and it's tough to spread the money out with that many."
Among the school systems that offer a flat coaching supplement amount, Sequatchie County is the lowest-paid, with football coach Chad Barger's $4,226 supplement the same as those of the boys' and girls' basketball coaches. Barger has averaged seven wins a season and has taken the Indians to the playoffs in all four years he has coached there.
Polk County coach Derrick Davis, who has been one of the most successful coaches in the area during his 12 years at his alma mater, is also the best bargain of any area coach. Davis has led the Wildcats to a program-best 11 straight winning seasons. In the seven years before he returned to his alma mater, Polk County went a combined 14-56, including 0-10 the year before he took over, but he has averaged eight wins per season and led the school to its only undefeated regular season and three straight district championships.
Polk County's football stipend of $4,500 is also the same as the boys' and girls' basketball coaches and is nearly $1,000 less than Dade County's cheerleader coach's supplement of $5,400. Six school systems in Georgia pay their football coordinators more than $4,500.
"This is where I've chosen to coach," Davis said. "It's my home, and I don't mind trading off on some things like knowing who my kids are around and being close to my family. I've got two young daughters, and I don't want to uproot them. They're proud of their daddy regardless of how much money he makes.
"I knew I wasn't going to get rich coaching anyway. But does it bother me? Yeah, absolutely. You hear about some of the other salaries and you think how nice it would be to have more for your family. I wish our county would go to a percentage program. That way, you get rewarded for staying longer and having more degrees.
"When people see how little I'm paid, maybe they'll understand some of the stupid calls I make. If I were making more money, maybe I'd make better play calls on Friday nights."
Polk County golf (Tennessee Class A/AA)
Polk County Schools
Date of first practice: July 9
Earliest date of first contest: July 23
Last play date: Third week in September
Maximum regular-season dates: 14
State playoffs: Fourth week in September through Oct. 10
2011-12 supplement: $1,200 ($800 if with 5 years experience or less)
Adams coached middle school boys' and girls' basketball in Polk County from 1998 to 2001, and the high school baseball team from 2000 to '03. In 2006 he helped restart Polk's golf program, which had been dormant since the late 1990s.
Adams meets with his team a couple of days per week at home course Chatata Valley in Cleveland once the TSSAA permits practice to begin. The only coaching work done outside the season is at Chatata Valley in May -- a one-day fundraising tournament that enables the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats to cover their expenses for the upcoming season.
"When we get out on the driving range, the chipping green or the putting green, I try to be hands-on with them, if I see something where I think I can help them out," Adams said, noting that three of his 10 players have their own swing coaches. "I watch the Golf Channel like they do. I'm trying to fix my game, too. One of our girls is at Lee and one of our boys is at Tennessee Wesleyan. If we didn't have a team, I don't think that would've happened. That makes me feel good. You don't get into coaching to try to help pay the bills."
Howard wrestling (Tennessee Class A/AA)
Hamilton County Schools
Date of first practice: Oct. 29
Earliest date of first contest: Nov. 19
Last play date: Third week in January
Maximum regular-season dates: 18, four tournaments (individual wrestling)
State playoffs: Duals Jan. 25-Feb. 2; traditional Feb. 9-16
2011-12 supplement: $4,581 (10 percent of base salary); $9,162 as head football coach (20 percent of base salary)
Calloway has been head wrestling coach at Howard the last nine years. He's had as few as three wrestlers in a given season, but last year he had 14 to keep him busier in the winter than usual.
But what really kept the former football assistant busy last school year was his return to that sport as head coach after not being involved with it the previous five years. He said the Hamilton County Department of Education's restrictions on the size of football staffs is among the things that has contributed to coaches' time being spread thin, and not just in season.
"We start at the end of October and go through February," Calloway said of working with the wrestlers. "It's not as time-consuming as football, but football at our school supports 90 percent of the athletic programs. Football and basketball earn money, but every sport spends money. I just took on athletic director right at the end of the school year. Lately I've been doing athletic-director things, doing field maintenance, trying to earn some start-up money. My first four football games are away games, so we need money to travel. For me, it's all day every day."
Gordon Lee volleyball (Georgia Class A)
Chickamauga City Schools
Date of first practice: Aug. 1
Earliest date of first contest: Aug. 10
Last play date: Second week in October
Maximum regular-season dates: 15
State playoffs: Oct. 17-Nov. 3
2011-12 supplement: $1,000 (also makes $3,000 as head boys' basketball coach and $250 as boys' golf coach)
Clendenen has coached everywhere from the North Georgia area to McMinn County and every sport from football and track to basketball and golf, which are the two sports he's coached the last 12 years at Gordon Lee. Seven years ago he added volleyball coach to his resume.
Technically, Clendenen coaches boys' golf, but he said he mainly works with the Trojans' and Lady Trojans' short games while girls' coach Jared Willerson oversees the ball-striking. Although it pays the least among his stipends, he said he often spends more time on the job in a given day with golf than the other sports.
"Sometimes we may not get back until 9 or 10 at night," Clendenen said. "You travel to play, then stop and eat, then travel back. I even thought about trying to keep up with how much I got paid for coaching everything compared to the time I put in, and it got depressing. It's just life. Any coach worth his salt is not doing it for the money. You do it for the relationships and the chance to work with kids, no matter what the supplement was. It would be nice to make more, but our teachers' salaries are very good. That's why we have to do a good job in the classroom, too."
Bradley Central cross country (Tennessee Class AAA)
Bradley County Schools
Date of first practice: July 30
Earliest first date contest: Aug. 20
Last play date: Third week of October
Maximum dates: 11
State playoffs: Oct. 27 and Nov. 3
2011-12 supplement: $7,000 (track and cross country combined)
The fact that Cotton was prepared for being a head coach comes from the tutelage he received in his prep days as well as his years at Middle Tennessee State University. In addition to coaching the cross country and track programs at Bradley, Cotton also runs the Cleveland Express Track Club, a nonprofit AAU program.
He gets up at 4:30 every morning during the school year to get to school by 6 to train with his athletes.
"The money isn't why Larry Cotton does it," he said. "I love the aspirations of running, and I love kids and want them to do well. My coaches always told me that I couldn't repay them back for what they've done, but what I could do was have kids of my own or help someone else's.
"A lot of coaches take this job for the supplement and don't realize the time it takes. If I were to look at it from the money standpoint, I would have quit years ago, but I love the thought of seeing a kid grow from nothing to something, and I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it."
Southeast Whitfield boys' soccer (Georgia Class AAA)
Whitfield County Schools
Date of first practice: Jan. 23
Earliest date of first contest: Feb. 13
Last play date: April 25
Maximum dates: 18
State playoffs: May 1-19
2011-12 supplement: $1,800
Dealing with a primarily Hispanic community, Griffin takes his job far beyond the usual drills and conditioning that ties to the position of head soccer coach. The 11-year veteran has helped with bills for the players at times, as well as helping some get jobs. He's cut practices short at times so his players can make it to work on time. Discipline and the scheduling of games was the job description when he first took the job, but that has mushroomed into so much more.
During the 2011 season, Griffin did everything possible to help then-player Bernabe Rangel, who was being deported -- from taking Rangel to court appearances to working with an attorney on doing whatever possible to help the player graduate before being sent back to Mexico.
"I don't publicize what I make, but I think some would be surprised when they find out," Griffin said. "With practices, travel and the offseason, it averages out to pennies on the hour, basically. I don't mind coaching, but my family isn't getting any money. At the same time, they're better when I'm coaching, because there's a sense of purpose and identity that comes with the job. I don't focus on the money; I would do it for free.
"When I see a kid come back that made it, that's all I need. It gives me a purpose and an identity that is priceless. I don't get caught up in the money. I didn't choose to be a soccer coach -- it chose me. The money is a bonus."
Dade County boys' basketball (Georgia Class AA)
Dade County Schools
Date of first practice: Oct. 24
Earliest date of first contest: Nov. 12
Last play date: Feb. 18
Maximum dates: 25
State playoffs: Feb. 24-Mar. 10
2011-12 supplement: $9,900
Hicks said there really isn't a lot of time to relax in his job, with three seasons in basketball: preseason, regular season and postseason. He gives his players the month of July off to "be a boy" but spends the other 11 months dealing with shooting or weights at 6 in the morning and toiling over how his team can be better in the long run.
His supplement puts him in the top percentage of coaches in the area, but to Hicks that's no reason to coast as a head coach.
"I probably spend about 30 hours a week doing something basketball oriented," he said. "I go through a legal pad a day watching film and trying to get better. Nobody's in this business to get rich; a majority of the coaches put the money they make back into the program.
"I've never really kept up with it, but I've never complained. It might or might not be fair, but I knew what I was going to make when I took the job."
Cleveland girls' basketball (Tennessee Class AAA)
Cleveland City Schools
Date of first practice: Oct. 29
Earliest date of first contest: Hall of Fame games (maximum 2), week of Nov. 14; then Nov. 19
Last play date: Feb. 14
Maximum dates: 24, two tournaments each counting as two games
State playoffs: Feb. 15-Mar. 17
2011-12 supplement: $8,591 (17.5 percent of base salary)
Kiser spent two seasons as a head coach in Oklahoma before moving to Cleveland and serving as a Lee University women's basketball assistant. She took the job at Cleveland High in 2011.
She was in charge of driving to the games last season, gym maintenance, floor care, laundry and fundraising, as well as what she called serving as a liaison between the players and the parents. In addition, she and her coaching staff put on a camp along with taking her team to a team camp with the 15 days allotted during the summer.
"Obviously, I make more money now than when I was an assistant, but that's not my main motivator at all," Kiser said. "It's a great opportunity; I get to meet a lot of people and do a lot of things. Is the ability to make extra money nice? Absolutely, but I do this because I love it. If you're in coaching for the money, you're doing it for the wrong reasons."
East Hamilton girls' soccer (Tennessee Class A/AA)
Hamilton County Schools
Date of first practice: July 30
Earliest date of first contest: Aug. 20
Last play date: Oct. 12
Maximum dates: 16, two tournaments with each counting as two matches
State playoffs: Oct. 13-Nov. 3
2011-12 supplement: $4,097.30 (10 percent of base salary)
Coaching both the boys' and the girls' programs at East Hamilton, Millard has found there just isn't much time for anything else, outside of family life. His preseason conditioning programs have overlapped with the postseason success of the Hurricanes, and even when there's not a season in progress, Millard is involved with club soccer or the Olympic Development Program.
"As a coach, you are able to journey with athletes through not only their greatest triumphs but also some heart-wrenching defeats," he said. "There are significant lessons to be learned on the field that have less to do with soccer and more to do with life. It is a privilege to share in this journey with them and be able to speak into such moments. I have experienced these moments as an athlete myself and hope that I have some sound advice to impart."
Walker Valley track (Tennessee Class AAA)
Bradley County Schools
Date of first practice: Feb. 11
Earliest date of first contest: March 4
Last play date: First week of May
Maximum dates: 11
State playoffs: Second week of May-May 24
2011-12 supplement: $4,000 (track and cross country combined)
Parks is not a teacher in the Bradley County school system, rather serving as a firefighter in Cleveland. Therefore, his supplement, which is 5 percent for cross country and 10 percent for track, is based on the salary of a first-year teacher in the Bradley County system. Parks also serves as director of the Chattanooga Cross Country League and runs Tennessee Runner, a website that tracks cross country and track athletes throughout the state.
His coaching responsibilities include meet-scheduling, practices, keeping up with eligibility paperwork and scheduling of buses as well as attendance for all the meets. At one point, he and his wife figured out that the amount of money he makes covers gas for a little more than half of the season.
"This is not a sport that you coach for the money," he said. "I do it for the kids that still call; for the kids that I still talk to and communicate with, and who come back and want to go into coaching.
"I do it for things that mean more than titles, like when a kid is getting married and I get an invitation, or when a kid gets married and is having a kid. Those mean so much more to me, and that's why I do this job."
North Jackson football (Alabama Class 4A)
Jackson County Schools
Date of first practice: Aug. 6
Earliest date of first contest: Aug. 30
Last play date: Oct. 26
Maximum regular-season dates: 10
State playoffs: Nov. 9-Dec. 7
2011-12 supplement: $7,500 (That's the amount the county earmarks for head football coach, although North Jackson chooses to pool all football coach allotments and chooses how it's divided among the staff)
Peek has spent 23 years in high school football, including eight of his 10 at North Sand Mountain as head coach. He recently completed his fourth as head coach at North Jackson.
Peek said summers are filled with a great deal of weightlifting and conditioning, primarily in the mornings, plus the AHSAA allows seven competition days, which teams use for 7-on-7 drills, linemen challenges, etc. A typical in-season weekday may include coaches' video study in the morning followed by an extensive afternoon practice.
"I can say our coaches are not getting rich," Peek said. "The big thing is the time they spend away from their families. In the summertime the regular teachers are gone; my coaches might be around three or four days a week. When we're in school, the regular teachers are out by 3 o'clock; most of my coaches won't get home until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. If they ever figure what they're making an hour, they'd probably all quit."
McMinn County tennis (Tennessee Class AAA)
McMinn County Schools
Date of first practice: Feb. 11
Earliest date of first contest: Mar. 4
Last play date: Last week of April
Maximum dates: 16, with each tournament counting as two matches
State playoffs: Second week of May-May 24
2011-12 supplement: $1,790 (for boys and girls)
Ray started the McMinn tennis program 25 years ago and helped make the team competitive at the state level. The Cherokees have won championships at the district and region level and have advanced to the state tournament on numerous occasions. That's one reason Ray believes there should be a reward for such accomplishments.
"I think there should possibly be some monetary incentive for postseason success," she said. "It actually might give some other coaches more desire to be successful."
Ray has pretty much taught herself the position of head coach. Now she realizes the responsibility of fundraising for uniforms and checking on eligibility, as well as general off-the-court preparations for matches.
"The role of a coach isn't just training a player for the sport anymore," she said. "You're not only coach, but you become a mom, a nurse and a counselor as well. There's so much mental preparation involved, but I've been pleased with how they've responded.
"Overall, I'm appreciative of what I get. I know there are other coaches that don't receive anything. I've said on a few occasions that I was going to log the amount of hours I put into it, but I never do. The time I put in is my choice. I could put in a short amount of time and make good money, but as competitive as high school sports have become, you have to put as much time as you're allowed. It's not about the money; like other professions, you have to have a passion for it. Of course I would like to make more money, but who wouldn't?"
Sequatchie County softball (Tennessee Class AA)
Sequatchie County Schools
Date of first practice: Feb. 11
Earliest date of first contest: March 11
Last play date: April 30
Maximum regular-season dates: 34 games, five tournaments, with each tournament counting as four games.
State playoffs: May 2-25
2011-12 supplement: $1,671
For the last seven years Stewart has been assistant softball coach at Sequatchie County Middle School, which is an unpaid position. She recently completed her fifth season as head coach at the high school. Her sister is the head middle school softball coach and her assistant on the high school team.
Stewart is the mother of two young boys. One began playing tee-ball this year with games twice a week for a month. Because of school coaching obligations, Stewart said she was able to attend only one of her son's games.
"I'm doing something with softball all the time," she said. "We start in July with middle school ball and go until October. Then we don't have anything for two months, but we're still at basketball games, setting up tables and selling baked goods as a fundraiser. You don't coach for the money. When you look at the time spent and how much you get paid, you're going to end up in the red. It doesn't balance out. I like softball."
Ringgold baseball (Georgia Class AAA)
Catoosa County Schools
Date of first practice: Jan. 28
Earliest date of first contest: Feb. 18
Last play date: April 27
Maximum dates: 26
State playoffs: May 3-27
2011-12 supplement: $2,310
Tucker has spent time since the early 1990s coaching football, basketball and baseball at the middle and high school levels, mostly as an assistant. Ultimately he began devotng his efforts toward being a high school head baseball coach. He spent five years in that role at Ridgeland and recently completed his fifth season in charge of Ringgold's program.
Tucker said beyond coaching on game days or overseeing two- or three-hour practices when baseball is in season, there's field maintenance to be done throughout the year, and someone has to take out the trash. During summers he oversees workouts in the weight room and sometimes exchanges ideas on ways to improve the overall program with middle school baseball coach Tas Womack.
"I have never felt cheated," Tucker said. "I also love what I'm doing. I love being around the players. I may fuss a little bit here or there, but there's nothing better than watching these kids grow up into young men. Now that I'm concentrating on one sport, I'm busier than when I was coaching three. I don't know why that is. I seem to be there more, but a lot of that is because I want to be there more. I put my time into it. I want the players to put their time in."