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Texas twist: Football coaches earn more than teachers

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."