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Saturday, August 26, 2006
Texas twist: Football coaches earn more than teachers

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- Football coaches at schools in the state's two largest classifications average $31,404 more in salary than teachers, slightly less than they did 10 years ago, the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday following an examination of public records.

The Statesman reviewed the salaries for the 2005-06 school year from schools in Classes 5A and 4A through documents obtained under the Texas Public Information Act. The findings were very similar to a similar study done by The Associated Press in 1996, using records from the 1995-96 school year.

The latest numbers show coaches making an average of $73,804, compared to $42,400 for teachers.

A decade ago, the AP survey showed coaches making $54,000 and teachers making $31,000.

Teachers have seen their salaries go up 36.8 percent, compared to 36.7 percent for coaches.

The Statesman reviewed the total compensation paid to the head football coaches and salaries of their highest-paid teachers, high school principals and superintendents for all school districts with schools in 4A and 5A. To be classified in 4A or above, schools had to have at least 950 students; that covered 461 schools. There were 428 schools in 4A and 5A during the AP review.

Among the new findings:

• Five coaches earn more than $100,000, topped by the $106,004 salary for Sam Harrell of Ennis High School. The leader in 1995-96 was Stephenville's Art Briles at $82,658.

• The lowest-paid coach is Cornell Gray at Houston Furr. His salary of $42,300 is a tad below the average teacher's salary. The lowest-paid last time was Dallas Wilson's Damon Miller at $34,474.

• There are 27 coaches who earn more than their school's principal.

• Southlake Carroll coach Todd Dodge, whose teams are 63-1 with three state championships and a mythical national title the past four years, ranks 36th among coaches at $90,510.

• Coaches in large school districts such as Austin, El Paso, Houston and Fort Worth are bunched toward the bottom of the pay scale.

• In Houston, the district's highest-paid teacher makes $95,191 -- far more than the $76,913 drawn by the district's top-paid coach, Tom Nolan of Houston Lamar.

"The state sets a minimum salary, and paying teachers anything above that is a district-by-district decision," said Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley, a former superintendent at Galena Park North Shore.

"Not everything is going to be equal," she added, noting that math and science teachers tend to make more than English and history teachers. "I've been in the public school business for 35 years now, and it's just the way it is."

Donna Haschke, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, was glad to see teachers keep pace, but she'd like to see them narrow the gap much more.

"Sports has its place, and it's an important, positive place in the curriculum," she said. "But I think that we should be putting some of that time and money into education."

Coaches receive a base salary, plus a coaching stipend that ranges from $1,000 to the $35,000 paid to Dodge. Their contracts usually are based on a 226-day work year, while teachers' contracts are based on a 187-day year. It's common for football coaches to log 70 to 100 per week during the season, including time on Saturdays and Sundays, compared to 40 to 70 per week for teachers.

"My wife is a teacher, and she doesn't want to work the schedule I work," said Lufkin coach John Outlaw, third on the salary list at $103,500. "She's told me numerous times she doesn't want to do it. And I don't blame her."

Coaches' jobs are more scrutinized, with thousands of people in the stands watching them and results posted in the newspaper and debated within the community. Neeley noted that successful coaches also produce more college scholarships for players.

Over the last decade, D.W. Rutledge has gone from one of the top-paid coaches while at Converse Judson to executive director of the Texas High School Coaches Association. His view remains that coaches deserve what they are getting.

"I believe a coach has two tasks," he said. "One is a minor one, and that is really teaching techniques of the game and skills of the game. The major task is the intangibles that coaches bring to the table. Good coaches teach leadership skills and sacrifice and dedication and unselfishness."

Harrell, 49, is making 65 percent more than he did during the AP study. That's the biggest bump among the 46 coaches still at the same school. And he's among the rare high-earners who is merely the football coach and not also the coordinator of all athletic programs in either the school or school district. Few 5A and 4A coaches are classroom teachers.

"I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world," said Harrell, whose teams won 4A state titles in 2000, 2001 and 2004.

Ennis superintendent Mike Harper said the football program generated $260,000 last year, making Harrell "worth everything we pay him." Harper said administrators keep upping Harrell's paychecks to prevent him from being lured away.

"Some days I think I get overpaid," Outlaw said. "But then you have to deal with knucklehead boys and knucklehead mommies and daddies, and you realize that everybody in education is underpaid."