County high school football coaches cite poor pay, support for exodus

Jan 24, 2018
Bobby May is one of nine Palm Beach County football coaches who have stepped down or been let go from their positions during the offseason. May, who spent two seasons at Suncoast, cited a lack of support for teachers and coaches in Florida. (Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post)

Since the final whistle blew on the regular season in November, nine Palm Beach County high school football coaches have stepped down or been let go from their head coaching positions.

That’s two more than last season, and three more than 2015.

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Offseason coaching changes aren’t unusual in high school football. But the turnover rate in Palm Beach County clearly has followed an upward trend.

Former Jupiter Christian and Jupiter head coach Bill Powers isn’t surprised by that.

Powers, a longtime coach who won back-to-back state titles with the Eagles in 2007 and 2008, said coaches are growing more frustrated with a job they say lacks adequate compensation, stability and support.

“No one gets into coaching for money,” Powers said. “But the evolution of coaching that includes recruiting of players, parents, lack of administration support, additional training requirements, not being appreciated, lack of commitment and lack of ability to discipline and the lack of money make it much less rewarding.”

Coaches simply aren’t paid enough for the amount of work they do, they say.

Head football coaches in Palm Beach County’s public schools get a $4,110 coaching supplement, according to county athletic administrator Yetta Greene. Assistant football coaches get a $3,015 stipend, while junior varsity and freshmen football coaches also get $3,015.

Private school coaching stipends vary by school, Greene said.

Florida’s public school football coaches make less than in many states, including those that do not produce the same amount of talent. For example, varsity head football coaches in Minnesota are paid an average stipend of $6,250, according to CBSMinnesota.

And in Georgia, the pay is much higher than that. Former Seminole Ridge football coach Matt Dickmann received a stipend of $8,533 when he took the coaching job at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Ga., in 2012. Five years later, he’s making $10,667.

Many coaches in Georgia also get paid year-round, and receive bigger supplements based on experience and level of education, said former Glades Central football coach Rick Casko, who also coached in Georgia.

“We are in the No. 1 state for high school football as far as top recruits go,” longtime Park Vista head football coach Brian Dodds said. “But we are paid like one of the weakest states.”

That doesn’t sit well with area coaches, who devote a good chunk of their time to football-related duties, both during the season and outside of it.

Between games, practices, strength and conditioning programs, schedule setup, practice field setup, film study, 7-on-7 competitions, camps, laundry, meals and recruiting, coaches are always on the job.

“The dedicated winners work year-round,” said former Cardinal Newman head coach Brian Pulaski, who was let go Dec. 13 after two seasons with the Crusaders. “Even if you doubled the pay, with all the preparation that goes into having a successful season, you’d still only make 10-15 cents an hour.”

In some states and Florida counties, coaches can make additional money through their schools’ booster clubs. These clubs also help pay for football-related costs, such as building and upgrading athletic facilities.

In Palm Beach County’s public schools, coaches are on their own.

Without booster club incentives — which are not allowed — coaches must rely on community support or hold fundraisers to get better facilities and replace aging equipment.

“If you are a talented football coach, and you are either offered a better opportunity in another state or if you don’t feel appreciated in your current situation here in Florida, why would you coach here?,” asked former Suncoast head coach Jimmy Clark.

His successor with the Chargers, Bobby May, asked — and answered — that same question.

The former Dwyer football standout resigned Jan. 10 after two successful seasons as the school’s head coach, citing the lack of support for teachers and coaches in Florida. May, who also teaches social studies, plans to move out of state.

“I am looking for a better opportunity to move to a state where teachers and coaches are appreciated,” May said earlier this month.

Dickmann took the same route.

Seminole Ridge’s inaugural football coach left the Hawks after eight seasons and three district championships to pursue a better opportunity in Georgia.

At Harrison High, he has access to two turf fields, a football weight room and a field house, plus he earns supplemental pay from the school’s booster club.

“I never wanted to leave Palm Beach County,” Dickmann said. “But I could not pass this opportunity up for my family. My wife and I were paying more in gas money to travel to Seminole Ridge from Jupiter than my supplement. I could no longer justify to myself what I was taking away from my family. I was losing money being a head coach in Palm Beach County.”

Dodds, one of Palm Beach County’s longest-serving head football coaches, acknowledges there is much that could be done to help coaches, starting with a more balanced pay structure.

Other coaches would like to see better administrative support.

Seminole Ridge head coach James Parson resigned Jan. 17 after two seasons with the Hawks, citing jealousy and animosity as a few of his reasons for stepping aside.

Though Parson thanked the school’s athletic director and principal in a statement and expressed pride in what the team had accomplished during his tenure, he also noted that his staff planned to coach elsewhere next season.

One of his assistants, Damien Berry, confirmed that he and his fellow varsity coaches would not stay on.

Berry followed up Parson’s statement by posting one of his own to social media Saturday. In it, he was critical of the school’s administration and teachers for constantly scrutinizing the football program. He also wrote that he felt he was being bullied.

“Administration at Seminole Ridge made it extremely hard to succeed,” the statement read. “We were the most frustrated, stressed-out and emotionally drained coaching staff in Palm Beach County.”

Berry stood by his comments when asked to confirm them.

He expressed concerns with detentions given to football players, hurtful comments made to players and coaches throughout the season, constant nitpicking, and a lack of interest from administrators and teachers in the football program, even after a 6-0 start.

“It was sad, because we did whatever it took to make sure our guys were successful,” Berry said. “We were changing lives. Not only were we coaching, but we were building men, men of integrity, men of character. That was our goal. Why would you want to get in the way of that because of a personal vendetta that was unresolved? I felt we weren’t being treated fairly for the work we were putting in.”

Phone calls and messages left for Seminole Ridge administrators seeking a response to Berry’s comments were not returned.

Berry and Parson have left coaching for now, but both said the opportunity to mentor young men is why they got into it in the first place.

“The main reason I do it is definitely not for the money,” said Berry, a former Glades Central and University of Miami running back who played three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. “It’s for the kids. I want them to experience everything I experienced.”

The money will get a little better for those coaches who remain on the sidelines this fall. Coaches’ stipends will increase by 10 percent over the next two years.

“That is a nice start,” Clark said.