SCORING DOLLARS: Schools, systems try to keep athletic supplements competitivePublished 9:53am Wednesday, July 9, 2014
The athletic edge schools look for extends beyond the playing surface – and even beyond the opponents on its varying sports’ schedules. In many instances, the initial competition ignites in the halls of the board of education or city hall.
Before each school year, governing bodies across Alabama approve athletic supplements, or a school employees’ bonus for instructing extracurricular activities, for every coach in the school district. At that point, the race to attract the best and most qualified coaches comes in the structuring of its supplement package.
In Elmore County, varsity head football coaches collected $16,000 and $11,000 for the 2013-14 calendar year at Class 6A and 4A public schools, respectively, numbers that rank them in the top 25 percentile out of the pool of 14 school districts The Wetumpka Herald polled.
Out of the 14 polled, the Smiths Station football coaching job earned the largest annual supplement at a staggering $54,485. Wetumpka’s Tim Perry and Stanhope Elmore’s Jeff Foshee checked in at $28,000 for their athletic director and varsity football coach stipends, while Elmore County’s Norman Dean and Holtville’s Hunter Adams totaled $23,000 each.
“It is very competitive, but as a school system, we have limited resources. We find other school systems that can overpower us with what they’re able to offer for supplements,” Elmore County Superintendent Jeff Langham said Tuesday. “It’s something that’s under constant review; we look at what comparable school systems are able to do.”
Head football coaches in Montgomery Public Schools (MPS), which boasts the second-highest student population in the state, received $9.882.95 last year. MPS athletic director William Dean said while the system glances at other local districts, it focuses on systems similar in size.
“We sit down and compare school size with surrounding counties, but we make our stipends compare with counties our size,” Dean said. “I think we are very competitive with surrounding counties. If you look at our basketball stipend, it’s one of the highest.”
For basketball coaches, Huntsville City Schools shelled out the most of the systems polled, paying $6,000 in a coach’s first phase. Shelby County afforded $5,784, Lee County offered $5,500, Elmore County $4,500, MPS $4,235.78 and Jefferson County Schools $4,000.
Huntsville City Schools provided the highest supplement for its spring sports coaches as well, with its baseball and softball skippers pulling in $6,025 in their last phase. Baldwin County paid $4,629, Elmore County and Calhoun County both offered $4,500, while the Dothan City School district awarded $3,136.
Since proration hit Alabama three years ago, athletic supplements around the state froze where they were. Langham said his district was not immune to the cutbacks, but the Elmore County BOE has placed an importance on improving its supplements, a statement Perry trusts.
“When you factor in the economy, tax base, population, plus the diversity we have in our community, we trust in our school board and administration when they tell us they’d like to improve the supplements,” Perry said. “They realize they haven’t increased in a while.
“I don’t have an issue with the way I’m compensated at all. But you try to look at ways to help coaches improve their situations. That’s part of my responsibility as athletic director. I listen to others who coach, listen to their needs and try to explore ways to make their situation better – ways we can make the position more attractive so we can retain quality coaches so they won’t explore other options.”
Finding a balance among the different sports, as well as other extracurricular activities, is a priority for the Alexander City Schools system, Superintendent Darrell Cooper said.
“The main thing is you’re trying to be fair to the coaches and compensate them as best as we can,” Cooper said. “You can never compensate them for every hour they work. All sports are important. There are some cases here some coaches make more than others. You look at how the community supports different programs and try to attract a very qualified coach.
“We look for that great balance between all our programs, not only in the athletic department, but all things. We strive for good success in all programs, and we want our students participating in all programs.”
In Shelby County, one of the state’s fastest growing counties, its board of education eliminated school size when structuring its athletic stipends.
“Whether you’re the Vincent (2A) or Oak Mountain (7A) head football coach, it’s the same supplement,” David Hogue, Shelby County district supervisor of athletics, said. “We have balance across the board. We serve seven distinct communities, and we recognize their differences in size and demographic makeup, but we want to be consistent across the county because they all make up the school system.”
Some superintendents strive for supplement balance within their system, but in many cases may not help the district land its ideal coach.
“If a coach is able to pursue the same position in another school system where they might be compensated higher for the same amount of work, I can’t fault them for pursuing that,” Perry said. “Not everyone is motivated by money alone. Facilities, tradition, community, attitude of administration to the athletic program. Here in Elmore County, extracurricular activities are very well supported, and the administration during my time so far here at Wetumpka have been extremely supportive.”
The Elmore County BOE has worked to advance its athletic stipends, Langham said, without compromising classroom needs. For him, part of the return forms in the classroom as well as on the field.
“We’re in a better place than we were three years ago, but unquestionably there’s room for improvement,” Langham said. “That’s one of our key issues, to see how we can nurture and build those supplements in years ahead. We are competitive as far as supplements go – we have attracted some talented and award-winning coaches.
“We’ve been blessed. Even though we’re limited with means, we still have been blessed that talented folks have come our way.”