Though way above their colleagues in other sports, salaries of football coaches still probably 'far below minimum wage' because of long hours required

BROCKTON – Brockton High School football coach Peter Colombo said it doesn’t matter that he’s paid more than any other coach at the school, or in the region.

No high school coaches, he said, are paid enough.

“College coaches are being paid like pro coaches, and high school coaches are being paid like part-time employees,” Colombo said, adding that his assistant coaches are “even more underpaid” than he is.

He doesn’t coach for the money, Colombo said, but if one were to become a high school coach for the stipend it provides, his sport – football – is the way to go.

At every high school in the region, football coaches receive the largest stipends of all three sports seasons.

Colombo made $13,554 last year, over $10,000 more than the lowest-paid head coach in Brockton, cheerleading coach Cassandra Spatola, who made $3,094.

At Oliver Ames in Easton, which has a smaller football program than Brockton, varsity football coach Mike Holland still made $8,257, over $6,000 more than ski coach Jeff Brown.

To Oliver Ames High School athletic director Bill Matthews, this is fair.

“I believe it’s justified, observing what happens with the coaching,” Matthews said. “The amount of time involved in coaching a football team is much greater than any other sport.”

He said he has seen football coaches typically watch film of games, scout other teams and put together detailed game plans.

Peter Caruso, Brockton’s longtime athletic director who retired last year, said season length was taken into consideration when determining Brockton’s coach stipends, as well.

Football has the longest season of any Brockton sport, so football coaches are paid more.

As for why Colombo’s coaching salary is so much higher than any other coach in any other sport, Caruso attributed that to “historical bias.”

“There is a little bit of bias toward the bigger-profile sports,” Caruso said.

Matthews and Whitman-Hanson Regional athletic director Bob Rodgers agreed.

Last year in Rodgers’ district, varsity football coach Mike Driscoll made $8,845, the school’s largest coaching stipend, while golf coach Brian Dempsey made just over $4,500.

“A lot of the coaching salaries were established years ago, when football was the big marquis sport,” Rodgers said.

Matthews suggested that there “might have been more competition for coaches” of high-profile sports, like football.

In 1989, when Brockton’s coaching salary chart was first set, the high school had just completed a decade of football dominance.

The varsity football coach then was Colombo’s father, Armond Colombo, who led the team to victory in three state championships in a row.

“It was some pretty incredible stuff,” Colombo said.

Since the 1990s, the football team hasn’t had as much success. Colombo took over for his father in 2003, and said the team has been “still playing some pretty good football,” but nothing like the so-called Golden Age.

Colombo said he only has “a rough idea” of what he makes as Brockton High’s coach, and has never taken part in coaching salary negotiations.

“I don’t even know what I make,” Colombo said, “but I know it doesn’t come close to compensating for the hours I put in.”

He said he treats his coaching position like a full-time job, which he feels is necessary “to beat the teams I’ve got to beat,” like Xaverian Brothers High School and Newton North High School.

In general, Caruso said, Brockton based its coaching compensation on schools like these, Division 1 schools, rather than on other schools in the Brockton region.

“There was no set formula of how salaries were decided,” Caruso said, “but they thought this would be equitable.”

Matthews maintained that no high school coaches in the region are paid enough.

“They’re paid an incredibly small amount, if you look at it on an hourly basis,” he said.

Rodgers made the same argument.

“Broken down by hour, their pay is far below minimum wage,” he said.

“The pay is not why they do it,” Matthews said. “They have a tremendous amount of responsibility for the amount they are paid.”

Coaching responsibilities have only increased over the years, Matthews said, and now include everything from CPR training to “dealing with parental pressure” and “having their conduct scrutinized.”

Despite the greater responsibility coaches have compared to even a few years ago, Matthews said he hasn’t heard many complaints about low pay, which can be negotiated every three years as part of teachers’ union contracts.

Rodgers said Whitman-Hanson has recently modified a few of its coaching contracts, including raising the cheerleading coach salary to be in line with other sports, and lowering the salary for the junior varsity hockey coach, because they don’t practice every day.

Even with these changes, no coaches in the Whitman-Hanson district are making more than $9,000, and many are making less than $3,000.

“Everybody would like more money, but I’ve never had a coach leave because the pay wasn’t high enough,” Rodgers said. “In fact, a lot of coaches invest the money they make back into their program.”

“Our coaches got into it because they love working with the kids, and they love their sport,” he added. “They’re not trying to make a living.”