Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Love of game doesn't fill coaches' stipend gap

Max Smith left Dunedin High for a grad assistant job at the University of Toledo, envisioning more pay sooner in his career.


Max Smith left Dunedin High for a grad assistant job at the University of Toledo, envisioning more pay sooner in his career.

Max Smith seemingly had it made.

As the head football coach at Dunedin, he had revved up the fan base by guiding the program to its first winning season since 2008. Most of his skill players were returning, and his freshman class was deep in talent. He had one child at home and another on the way.

Three weeks ago, Smith stepped down as coach.

He would rather grind as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Toledo, in a job that pays little for longer hours and offers no guarantee of larger paychecks and more prestigious titles, than remain a high school coach.

His $3,400 stipend wasn't worth it. "It wasn't that tough of a choice," Smith said.

Smith is part of a statewide trend in coaching turnover that represents the glaring effect of tightened district budgets on Florida high school sports.

Districts have tried to reduce expenses through the Deferred Retirement Option Program, leading to early retirement for some of the area's coaching fixtures, including Larry Beets (Ridgewood baseball), Dan Wright (Lakewood boys basketball) and Linda McQuade (Hudson/Fivay volleyball).

Their departure leaves a glaring hole in that icon of schoolhouse lore, the veteran coach who is an essential figure in the community and a student's life. Coaching searches have produced younger candidates who could offer the longevity of some of their predecessors. But many of those up-and-coming coaches are leaving before they ever become established, lured away by better paying high school jobs in the state or the prospect of a profitable future in entry-level college positions, such as the case with Smith.

And that's if those up-and-comers even get hired in the first place.

"Principals may not appreciate the value of a coach. They're hiring teachers whom they feel can help kids excel on the FCAT, not necessarily teachers who also happen to coach," veteran Hillsborough High football coach Earl Garcia said.

"A principal is going to try to find the best instructors available. And then after all those best instructors slots are filled, then if he can find somebody who can be a department head, then it's still trickling down. Where on the food chain does assistant or head football coach lie? It all depends on the individual school."

Smith, 28, walked away after his second year at Dunedin.

"I love coaching high school football," he said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't pay anything. If I stayed, in 10-15 years down the road I'd be making another $4,000 more combined teaching and coaching.

"The average position coach in the (Mid-American Conference) makes between $75,000-$90,000. I'm not there yet, but I'm in a good situation where I feel I'll be taken care of and can get to that point in a short amount of time."

Yusuf Shakir, a former player and assistant at Tallahassee Lincoln, was hired as Gibbs football coach in 2007. He planned to build the program into a power. Instead, he left after two seasons to return to his alma mater, where he led Lincoln to a state title in 2010.

Going home was a big factor in Shakir's decision. So was the pay. The stipend for head football coaches in Leon County is $4,432, about $1,000 more than a head coach in Pinellas. That does not include additional pay for each round of the playoffs, something Pinellas does not offer.

"When I first became a head coach at Gibbs, I was young, single and had no kids," Shakir said. "I was happy just to be a head coach and didn't care what I was making. I think that becomes more prevalent as you get older and start having a family and kids and then start thinking about retirement. You spend your entire time taking care of everybody else's kids that eventually you realize it's time to start taking care of yourself."

Garcia envisions a day when the full-time, dedicated coach is extinct.

"It's not going to be long before we're going to have all drive-by coaches," he said. "I'm going to have guys drive up to school, coach, get in their car and drive home. I think it's a gross injustice to our kids."

Times staff writers Joey Knight and Matt Baker contributed to this report. Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.

Long hours, low pay

The minimum hours a Pinellas County head football coach spends on various duties in one year (compiled via interviews):

Practices per week x 17272
Games x 1155
Offseason weightlifting96
Summer weightlifting112
Team camp36
Video study/treatment55
Total hours762

2013 supplement: $3,448 (total for the year)

Pay per hour: $4.52

Federal minimum wage: $7.25 per hour

Basic minimum wage in Florida: $7.79 per hour

Love of game doesn't fill coaches' stipend gap 07/13/13 [Last modified: Saturday, July 13, 2013 6:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  2. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs


    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  3. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury


    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.
  4. A rare treat Saturday for Rowdies: a home playoff game


    ST. PETERSBURG — Rowdies fans, set to be rewarded with their first home playoff match in five years, can also take a little credit for it.

    From left, Georgi Hristov, Joe Cole and Marcel Schafer are among the Rowdies’ top scorers.
  5. Why it's too early to give up on the Bucs


    Don't panic. It's not too late for the Bucs.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrate after the defense recovered a fumble during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times