Updated: Apr 5
To earn a few extra bucks over the holiday season, Riverview High School head football coach Josh Smithers sold Christmas trees.
To that, Dr. Andrew Ramjit would say, “Bah! Humbug!”
Two days after leading his Gainesville High football team to the 2012 Class 6A state title game, head coach James Thomson went to work at SeaWorld Orlando.
“All wet” would be Ramjit’s probable response to Thomson’s mammal moonlighting. To the athletic director for Brevard County public schools, the stipend Florida head coaches — particularly football — earn in their sport is beyond embarrassing, particularly when compared to head coaches in other states.
In fact, before becoming AD, the 34-year-old Ramjit coached high school football and wrestling. But with a wife and three children at home, he could not justify being absent 40-50 hours a week for remuneration totaling less than $4,000.
“That’s the reason I took this job,” Ramjit said. “It wasn’t financially feasible anymore. I’ve come across so many coaches in my district who had to give up coaching because of the financial implications.
“The turnover I’m facing is enormous. I’m filling hundreds of different coaching vacancies on a yearly basis.”
So, today at The Westshore Grand in Tampa will be the all-day Florida Coaches Coalition Clinic. Most of the time will be devoted to coaches at the high school, college and pro levels speaking on their areas of expertise. But at 9 p.m. will be a discussion of interest to high school coaches around the state. That’s when Ramjit, Thomson and others will discuss ideas in getting coaches representation during contract negotiations for teacher salaries.
“It’s more than just a (better) stipend,” Venice High head football coach John Peacock said. “It’s about that, of course, but I think it’s more of giving coaches a voice. Giving them a seat at the table when it comes to county negotiations.”
Via email, coaches in Sarasota County learned their stipends have been permanently frozen at whatever their current level. In the past, any increase in teacher salary applied to their stipend as well. Florida, which produces the highest number of NFL players in the country, ranks 37th out of 50 states nationwide in high school head football coaching salaries.
Across the state, stipends for head football coaches range from around $3,000 to $6,500. The exception is Bay County, where a head coach earns $61,000 and isn’t required to teach classes, Peacock said. In Texas, another high supplier of college and pro players, 57% of head football coaches earn between $29,000 and $87,000 a year, with the top 8% making $204,000.
Peacock said he recently bought new rims and tires for his pick-up truck, and his $3,500 (after taxes) stipend, received before Christmas in a lump sum, didn’t cover the cost. When he factors in off-season workouts, work done at home after practice, regular-season practices, workouts and games, Peacock said he’s earning pennies per hour.
In December, Ramjit made the Florida Coalition For Higher Coaching Salaries Twitter page, sent out a tweet, “and the next thing I know, this thing has over 350,000 impressions. It really took off. I’ve had a few hundred coaches reach out through direct messages.”
One of the coaches who contacted Ramjit was Thomson, who said he wanted to be a part of the effort. Because of family, Thomson is returning to Florida to be the head coach at Winter Haven High after coaching five years in Georgia, where he earned “in the six figures.”
“You can’t have these (coaches) working for free,” he said. “Something has to be done. This is a violation of the minimum wage act. I think we all know the most important person in a young man’s life is his coach. If you know this, why do they invest so poorly in coaches?”
Ramjit said he’s reached out to several employment attorneys, who feel he has a case. But the amount of work necessary means they wouldn’t do it pro bono. Part of the discussion at Saturday’s clinic will be how to secure the necessary funds to move the effort forward.
“The main purpose of the clinic will be to organize, put our heads together, and let the coaches know that we are all unified,” Ramjit said.
“Coaches have no rights,” Peacock said.
He hopes Saturday’s meeting is the first step to changing that.