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Florida is suffering an exodus of high school football coaches

The Sunshine State has lost dozens of top coaches seeking greener pastures in other states

Beautiful world renowned beaches. Ideal weather year round. A perfect retirement destination.

Florida sells itself on these luxuries and they have attracted millions of new residents to the Sunshine State in recent years. There is one segment of the population, however, that seems all willing to seek a new home destination.

High school football coaches, in alarming numbers, have elected to leave Florida and its enormous talent base, to coach the game they love in other states. What is driving this exodus?

Pressure to win exists everywhere. According to many coaches who have spoken with SBLive Sports, the demands on coaches, both on and off the field have grown dramatically, but the compensation has not matched what high school football coaches are making in other parts of the country.

"I think the demands of the job in Florida from the 1980's, which is where our supplements are basically still at, have changed," Bartram Trail head coach Cory Johns said. "We still have to teach on top of that. We're not trying to get rich, but we want to get compensated fairly for the work we put in.

"Coaches are coaches and everyone talks to each other. If you're a head coach in Georgia, if you're not making over $100,000, you're making pretty close to it. When you see that pay happening elsewhere, it makes you think something has to change and it starts at the state level and then district level."

The discrepancy has certainly forced Johns to consider his options

"I can't tell you I haven't thought about it (leaving Florida for another state coaching wise)," added Johns. "Me and my wife both teach and both of us together don't make over $100,000. Almost all of my coaches I have, all coach other sports. It's not so much because they want to, but because they have to. All of our coaches coach another sport to help themselves make a living."

During state championship week in Talahassee, in December, the Florida Coaches Coalition (FCA) secured a meeting with members of the Florida legislature to discuss compensation levels for coaches, which it believes are "woefully inadequate."

In promoting the meeting, the FCA stated that Florida coaches "are compensated (on average) $2 per hour due to an outdated supplement system that has not kept up with inflation and the cost of living in Florida."

As was pointed out by Jon Santucci of the Daytona Beach News Journal, in a March of 2023 report, the FHSAA does not control coaching salaries in states. It is done by the individual counties and school districts in the state.

In the same report, Santucci detailed that Escambia County football coaches are the highest paid in the state, among counties with a base supplement, at $7,382 per season, while coaches in Broward County are at the bottom with a supplement of $3,038 per season. Assistant coaches in Oklaoosa County earn $5,374 per season, the highest in this category, while their counterparts in Monroe County receive the lowest supplement, just $1,550 per season.

According to a document published on the Atlanta Public Schools web site, the supplemental pay for varsity football head coaches in Georgia’s largest school jurisdiction, for the 2024 fiscal year, is $13,000. Offensive and defensive coordinators receive a supplement of $7,000, while other assistants receive $6,000. Middle school coaches receive supplement of $3,200 and their assistants receive $2,600.

That's 78.5% higher than the pay for Escambia coaches and whopping 328% higher than what is paid in Broward.

Former Mainland head coach Travis Roland, who won the 2023 Florida 3S state championship last fall before departing to become the head coach at Camden County in Georgia, said the salaries of coaches, especially those who teach, are no up to par with what they can make in Georgia. He also pointed to other financial issues that hinder football programs in Florida.

"The finances is a piece of it. What people miss on is the resources," Roland said. "My assistant coaches at Mainland High School make less than the middle school coaches in Camden County. The school being able to provide you a budget for football, but there's help provided. The weight room has 48 racks in it. It's the resources that are there. We are about to have major stadium renovations. In our region, we are the only one without an indoor facility. I believe at some point we will have one. We have a director of football operations. It's just the resources." 

In December, Travis Roland (holding trophy) celebrated winning a state championship with Mainland football team. Soon thereafter he departed Florida to become head coach at Camden County high school in Florida, largely because of better pay and more financial support for football.

In December, Travis Roland (holding trophy) celebrated winning a state championship with Mainland football team. Soon thereafter he departed Florida to become head coach at Camden County high school in Florida, largely because of better pay and more financial support for football.

According to Crestview head coach Thomas Grant, in Okaloosa County, which is on Florida’s Panhandle, the coaching supplement is designed to bring the total salary for a teacher-coach to the $75,000-$80,000 per year range. In some cases, this makes the supplement higher than it is in other areas, but the overall compensation for a teacher-coach still falls far short of six figures.

"Before it was a situation where coaches were making six figures (in Okaloosa County),” said Grant. “Now that they've separated administrator pay, it's around a starting base pay of $75,000 to $80,000. It is a struggle with everything we help out with kids. I'm not going to let a kid go hungry. When your players want something, you help them out.

“Our pay went down, but what we buy groceries wise has tripled. In Okaloosa County, the pay is better than most of Florida. What would ultimately drive me to Georgia or elsewhere is the help that we get at the high school. I know that's not a state thing, but anyone I speak to in other states, it's the resources you have. It's unbelievable. Getting on a level playing field with the other states would be very nice. I did not get into this for the money, but I just want to be on a level playing field.”

One former head coach who recently departed Florida for a an assistant coaching position in Texas, feels high school sports are on a "different level."

"Loved my time at Bloomingdale and at Lecanto," former Lecanto head coach Jacob Coulson said recently. "I think in Florida you get to coach a different, wide variety of kids because they're from everywhere. All different levels. I think that high school sports in the state of Texas is on a different level. It's not comparable. Not even close."

-- Andy Villamarzo | | @sblivefl