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Coit quits as SPJC coach

St. Petersburg Junior College men's basketball coach Jack Coit, a fiery motivator who led the Trojans through three consecutive 20-plus win seasons, has resigned his post because of a salary disagreement with the school, he said Monday. Coit, who five years ago relinquished a head coaching position at St. Petersburg High to take command of the Trojans program, will begin coaching the Green Devils again in the upcoming school year.

"Financially, it is no longer worth my time and effort to stay at (SPJC)," said Coit, who compiled a record of 94-28 (a winning percentage of .770) at the school. "I have always wanted to coach college ball and there was a time when I would have done it for nothing. I've had a lot of success here, but now the job has become a job. Since that's happened, I feel I should be financially compensated for it, and that hasn't happened. I am pleased by what the team has accomplished, but I no longer feel like I'm being appreciated for what I'm doing."

Coit, 41, began coaching at SPJC in 1987, when George McCrossin retired after guiding the Trojans through their first 35 seasons. Coit, an assistant under McCrossin from 1980-87, led the Trojans to a 19-9 record in his first season at the helm and, during the next three campaigns, accumulated 24, 27 and 24 wins.

In 1989-90, Coit's Trojans enjoyed the best season in school history, going a school-record 27-3 and winning the Suncoast Conference championship. Along the way, SPJC earned a No. 1 ranking among state junior colleges and climbed as high as 14th nationally.

But Coit says the school hasn't paid much attention.

"After four years of having pretty good success, I feel like I should be paid accordingly," said Coit, who claims he was the lowest-paid junior college men's basketball coach in Florida. "But (SPJC's) expectations for the program were much higher than they were willing to pay. And I can't justify in my mind putting in all these extra hours at the college knowing _ financially _ it could afford more."

Coit, who also served as an adjunct physical education teacher at SPJC, claims to have been paid just $8,000 annually _ $3,700 for his head coaching duties and $4,300 for his classroom time. He contends that a full-time SPJC staffer _ who on paper would need to add just one PE class to Coit's existing workload _ would be paid $32,000 a year.

The SPJC administration, however, argues that Coit has been treated fairly.

"We have a salary schedule for coaches and they all are paid at the same level," said Dr. Robert Sullins, vice president of education and student services, the administrative faction that governs SPJC's athletic department affairs. "While we have considered raising them all this year, the economic circumstances have prohibited us from doing that.

"And all of our teaching positions require a master's degree in the discipline. Some college hire full-time coaches just to coach, but this college has decided not to do that."

When Coit took the SPJC post in 1987, he said he had plans to get his master's. On Monday he said the rigors of his coaching and teaching schedule have made graduate school impossible.

"I was teaching two classes there already," said Coit, who also coaches the Team Florida select squad and teaches science full-time at St. Petersburg High. "Add one more and I make $32,000?! Adjunct professor or not, I just can't justify that difference in my mind."

At St. Petersburg, Coit will fill the vacancy left by Jamey Baby, who stepped down in March after five seasons at the school. Baby got off to a good start with the Devils, going 51-37 in his first three seasons. However, the team fell off dramatically over the past two, going 3-26 in 1989-90 and 4-21 in '90-91.

In his seven seasons at St. Petersburg, Coit led the Green Devils to a 157-51 mark. In two seasons before going to St. Petersburg, he was 54-5 at Clearwater Central Catholic.

"The recommendation has been made and Jack will be our basketball coach for the next school year," St. Petersburg High principal Bill Grey said Monday. "His coaching record speaks for itself."