The hiring of two Meridian High School football coaches in the last five months has highlighted a disparity between the salaries of football coaches and teachers and between football coaches and others sports coaches.
Football Coach John Douglass, who was appointed June 20, will receive $95,000 — paid in 12 installments — beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2020, according to his contract with the Meridian Public School District.
Douglass' predecessor, Martez Edwards, was scheduled to receive $44,000 in five installments for the 91 days between Feb. 11 and June 30, according to his contract.
By comparison, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program’s (MAEP) salary schedule for the fiscal year 2018-2019 states the base salary for a teacher with a doctorate and 35 years of experience is capped at $67,370.
A first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree begins with a base salary of $34,390. The base salary for a teacher with a master’s degree, 15 years of experience and a specialty certification is $45,360.
Coaches in sports other than football are typically classroom teachers, too. They receive the base teaching salary and a smaller stipend that can range from $1,000 to $15,000, depending on sport and length of service.
Meridian’s head football coach's salary is set by the district’s superintendent and is based on a 12-month contract. Football is the only sport offered at the school to have its head coach’s salary determined by the superintendent.
“It’s about responsibilities,” Meridian High School athletic director Chuck Butler said. “There are more pressures to be successful from outside sources. The more pressure, and the more demand that there is for success, obviously, the more chances you have to be let go as a coach.”
The school and previous coach Calvin Hampton parted ways after a 4-7 record and no playoff appearance in the 2018 season.
Although Douglass has no classroom responsibilities at Meridian, Butler said the football coach's duties include more than just game-day operations and weekly practices.
Butler said Douglass is also the program's top fundraiser and ambassador, and he'll be expected to establish relationships with local businesses and drum up community support. Additionally, Douglass will manage Meridian’s middle school football coaching staff.
“The bottom line is, it’s about responsibility, the number of kids you’re coaching — if you’re coaching three kids versus 100 kids, you deserve to be rewarded financially because of the extra responsibilities and the extra kids you’re working with,” Butler said. “Essentially, our head football coach is not only over our high school football program, but he’s also over our middle school program — he has to staff that whole thing. He’s over 15 coaches, and probably 175 kids.”
The district uses a supplement scale to determine stipends for coaches of other sports. At $15,000, a head varsity basketball coach receives the second-highest compensation for head coaches with 1-2 years of experience. Baseball follows at $10,000, while fast-pitch softball receives $7,500. Basketball and baseball top out at their respective base pay, while fast-pitch softball is capped at $8,000 for coaches with more than 20 years of experience.
Coaches tabbed to lead sports other than football typically are teachers, too, which provides the largest amount of their annual compensation.
Disparity between districts
There's a disparity, too, between compensation for a football coach in the city district and the neighboring Lauderdale County School District, which is comprised of four high schools: Southeast Lauderdale, Northeast Lauderdale, West Lauderdale and Clarkdale.
The majority of coaches within the LCSD also teach, according to LCSD athletic director Tim Moore.
The base salary for the district’s certified teachers with no experience is $37,315 on a 187-day contract. Coaches, however, receive a 210-day contract, for which they are compensated an additional $4,230 for first-year employees.
The LCSD’s base coaching supplement for a coach with no experience is set at $4,000, depending on the sport, while a coach with at least 25 years is compensated $5,100.
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"We expect the same things, as far as the capacity in which they act, as Meridian's coaches," Moore said. "The only difference, really, is in the size of the schools. A lot of time, the budgets are different. Lauderdale County services four high schools, four middle schools. Meridian's budget is different than ours. Our coaches are still expected to fulfill the same requirements, it's just we don't have the monetary resources they do. Our coaches also teach."
Community expectations play a role in how Meridian sets the salary for its football coach, Butler said.
“Regardless of how it should be, we are servants of the community, and the community has input into a lot of decisions,” Butler said. “I won’t say they have the final decision, but they have input in a lot of decisions that go into a school district, and athletics is one of those things. If the community demands a great program in a certain area, then that person is going to be under a lot more scrutiny and will be rewarded for that extra scrutiny.”