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Dismal high school football coaching salaries a focus of Saturday’s Tampa clinic

A coalition is considering litigation over the long-languishing stipends for Florida prep coaches.
High school coaches in the state make a stipend of a few thousand dollars per year. That lags far behind their peers in other states, like Texas and Georgia.
High school coaches in the state make a stipend of a few thousand dollars per year. That lags far behind their peers in other states, like Texas and Georgia. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 23

Billy Napier, Jeff Scott, Mario Cristobal and other football coaches from across Florida will be in Tampa on Saturday to talk strategy, network and have frank conversations about a vital, hot-button issue in the profession: high school coaching salaries.

“For far too long, coaches have not made what they deserve here in Florida,” said Andrew Ramjit, Brevard Public Schools’ athletic director.

Related: From 2013: Our look at the budget crunches in local high school athletic departments

Top prep coaches in Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma earn six-figure salaries. The annual head coaching stipend in Hillsborough County: $3,736 — a number that’s comparable elsewhere in the state. Florida high school coaches typically teach, too, unlike in other football-heavy states where coaching is a full-time job for the top programs.

It’s a difference Winter Haven coach James Thomson knows well from his time leading Gainesville High to the Class 6A state title game and his stint as a head coach in Georgia.

“When I was here and I was successful and I told people that I was a high school coach, they felt sorry for me,” Thomson said. “They’re, like, handing me money — like, ‘Oh, you poor thing.’ Up there in Georgia, I tell people I’m a head coach, it’s prestigious. It’s like, ‘Oh, wow.’”

Related: Georgia football’s rise comes at the expense of Florida, in more ways than one

Though the prestige might not matter to fans or parents, the effect does. By one count, more than 200 high school coaches have left Florida for Georgia’s greener pastures over the past two decades. The brain drain and turnover weaken local teams, which trickles up to local colleges.

Ramjit and Thomson recently helped form the Florida Coalition For Higher Coaching Salaries to try to address the issue. Ramjit said he has spoken with several law firms about potential litigation. For now, they’re focused on rallying coaches for a united front.

“It’s about making sure we get as many coaches as we can on the same page, understanding that we have to stick together in this fight for trying to get the salaries, stipends and supplements increased,” Ramjit said.

The FL Coaches Coalition Clinic runs from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at The Westshore Grand. Cost is $75. Other coaches scheduled to speak include Florida State defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, Florida A&M coach Willie Simmons, Indiana coach Tom Allen and UCF offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. More information is available at flcoaches.com.

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