BRUNSWICK, Ga. — All around Georgia, winning isn’t just about the score. Football is in the DNA of Georgia — from the Brunswick coast to the streets of Atlanta. In the race to field a winning high-school football team, some say coaches have proven to be the real winners.
“Pay across the state is going up, and in some cases they are offering a $135,000 to $140,000 for a football coach in a one high school town,” says Glynn County School District athletic director Steve Waters.
At least 22 school districts around Georgia paid their head football coaches six figures in 2015. Waters estimates that number will rise.
“Everyone knows about the college market, but the high school market is getting more and more competitive each year,” Walters says.
Records obtained by TEGNA partner First Coast News show a growing trend of coaches making six figures.
The highest paid coach in Georgia is Jess Simpson of Buford High School ($174,107.65). Simpson has a record of 138-8 as Buford’s head coach and has multiple Georgia state titles. Simpson is the fourth highest paid district employee behind the superintendent, two principals and a director of curriculum.
The second highest paid coach is Colquitt County High’s Rush Propst ($130,038.00). Both teach classes and neither serve as athletic director. Propst is the third highest paid employee behind the superintendent and one other district administrator. Propst was paid $6,881.08 more than the principal at Colquitt County High School.
In southeast Georgia, Ware County’s Franklin Stephens and Glynn Academy’s Rocky Hidalgo make appearances on the list.
“Coaches are paid based on their experience and certificate level,” says Waters. “If they have a higher degree, they are paid more and that’s the way we do it in Glynn County.”
Waters began studying high school coaching salaries in 2015 because he wanted to make sure Glynn County could stay competitive. He looked at salaries around the state, but focused on the 12 counties nearest Glynn County. Waters says he believes coaches are fairly compensated, but says some coaches around the state are overpaid.
“We certainly spent a lot of time paying attention to what other people were paying because at the end of the day you want to be able to hire the best candidate. We wanted a coach that can create a winning environment and it showed this year.”
According to the National Education Association, the average teaching salary in Georgia is about $53,382. As with the coaches, teaching salaries are based on educational and higher degree levels. Georgia does have a few teachers making six figures.