High school football coaches are paid well in South Mississippi, with some coaches making close to $90,000 a year — more than twice what an entry level teacher makes.
Head football coaches at public high schools here made annual salaries ranging from $46,500 at Hancock High to $89,000 at Pearl River Central during the 2016-17 school year, according to figures obtained by the Sun Herald.
The average salary among all Coast football coaches is $68,545 a year.
The Sun Herald obtained salary information of all head coaches at public high schools in the state’s southernmost six counties for the 2016-17 school year through multiple Freedom of Information requests. The one exception is in the Jackson County School District, which provided salary figures for the 2017-18 school year. St. Patrick, St. Stanislaus, Resurrection Catholic and CCA are private schools and did not provide salary information.
Most coaches are teachers who are paid a stipend in addition to their teacher’s salary. There are exceptions that include paraprofessionals who do not teach and retired employees who are rehired as a head coach.
The two highest paid public school head coaches from the 2016-17 school year were football coaches who also held athletic director responsibilities at Class 5A schools — Pearl River Central’s Larry Dolan ($89,000) and Forrest Williams of Long Beach ($88,763).
The highest-paid coaches in South Mississippi who don’t also have athletic director duties are two of the Coast’s largest Class 6A schools — Gulfport’s Eddie Pierce ($88,354) and Ryan Ross of Ocean Springs ($85,958). Pierce teaches a course at Gulfport and is considered a part-time administrator. Ross does not teach a class.
Some football coaches’ total salaries are smaller because they are retired teachers. One example is Picayune’s Dodd Lee, who made a total of $53,046 last year that included a coach’s stipend of $19,600.
Biloxi football coach Bobby Hall, who does not teach, was paid $48,000 in 2016-17. Hall retired from Madison Central after the 2014 season, allowing Biloxi to hire Hall in January 2015 as either a teacher or a coach.
Mississippi public school teachers are paid according to their years of experience and certification level. Entry level pay for high school teachers in Mississippi is a base salary of $34,390-$39,108 according to their certification level.
“You have to give plenty of time to counsel kids, be a chauffeur, be a dad,” St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead said. “Sometimes, you spend more time with your players than you do your own kids. You know that your players are counting on you for other things. You try to take care of them.”
Not always the best paid
It’s a common assumption that football coaches are always the highest paid among their fellow coaches at any given high school, but that’s not the case at every school in South Mississippi.
Among the 21 public high schools in the area, the football program features the highest-paid coach at 12 of those schools.
Bruce Thornton, who coaches slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball, was the highest paid coach at Biloxi in 2016-17, making $77,506.00. Hancock’s highest paid coach was boys basketball coach Charles Moore, who made $70,640.00
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram released a report in 2016 that included the 54 largest high schools in the Fort Worth area. Salaries for head football coaches ranged from $72,373 to $113,553, with an average of $98,041.
The 30 highest-paid high school football coaches in the Houston area all made $105,000 or more, according to a November 2016 report by the Houston Chronicle. Gary Joseph of Katy High School checked in as the highest paid at $133,102.19.
A 2015 report by Al.com found that nine of the state’s high school football coaches made in excess of $100,000. The highest paid was Hoover’s Josh Niblett, who pulled in $125,000 a year.
Colquitt County, Georgia, football coach Rush Propst, who once served as the head coach at Hoover, made in excess of $134,000 in 2015, according to the Moultrie (Ga.) Observer. He was one of at least 17 high school football coaches earning at least $100,000 in the state of Georgia.
Games at Colquitt County often draw 10,000 fans and serve as a significant source of revenue for the athletic department as a whole.
While high school football games in South Mississippi don’t draw close to those numbers, football programs still serve as the greatest source of revenue and often help prop up smaller sports.
Most of South Mississippi’s largest high schools feature athletic directors who do not coach a sport. Bryan Caldwell is the athletic director at Gulfport. Biloxi’s athletic director is Tom Gladney. The Pascagoula-Gautier School District has one athletic director, Greg Freeman. Bobby Trosclair is the athletic director for the entire Harrison County School District.
“I don’t know how someone in this day and age can still be a coach and also be an athletic director,” Gladney said. “In the old days, we may have only had four sports. I don’t really see how a guy or lady can coach a sport and be an athletic director at a high school.”
Depending on the school district, athletic directors are often required to have a master’s degree to qualify for the position.
Pascagoula football coach Lewis Sims served as both athletic director and head coach at Moss Point before he left to take over the rival Panthers in 2011.
“It’s tough because when the season ends, not only are you in charge of your sport, but you’re in charge of everything else,” Sims said of his time as an athletic director and football coach. “You have to be very organized with your time when you’re an A.D. and a head coach.”
During the football season, coaches can put in long work days. Outside of the season, Sims estimates he has a work week of 50-60 hours. A coach’s job often continues well into the summer with responsibilities including workouts and 7-on-7 drills.
“A typical work week (during football season) is 60-80 hours and that’s on top of lesson planning, grading papers and faculty meetings and department meetings,” said Sims, who teaches English to seniors.