Polling the coaches: The best in town, biggest issues and what they’d do if they weren’t coaching

Area high school football coaches say what they'd be doing if they weren't coaching, what the biggest issue they face and the best coach in the area

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.High school players had their say earlier this month.

How about their head coaches?

News4JAX handed out surveys to area football coaches at Baker’s Sports high school football media day before the season began. Responses were anonymous. Here’s what we heard from the 39 coaches who responded.

Besides yourself and those on your staff, who is the best coach in town?

(7) Darrell Sutherland, Bartram Trail and Brian Braddock, St. Augustine

(5) Matt Toblin, Bolles

(3) Christopher Foy, Jackson

(2) Verlon Dorminey, Trinity Christian; Tim Krause, Bishop Kenny; Marty Lee, First Coast; Sean McIntyre, Creekside.

Thoughts: Sutherland topped the chart last year and Braddock was tied with Toblin for No. 2. The St. Augustine coach made gains this year. Foy’s recognition is significant considering how Jackson had regressed since Kevin Sullivan left in 2009. Foy has helped pivot the Tigers from Gateway Conference bottom dweller to one of the area’s best teams with a realistic shot at an eight- or nine-win regular season. Dorminey is a coaching icon and one of the most successful in Florida history (nine state championships). Dorminey has taken Trinity from a homecoming opponent when he first began to a perennial force decade after decade. Interesting side note that five of these coaches are either in St. Johns County or have ties there. Krause, who has Kenny out to a 7-1 start, was the head coach at Nease before returning to the Crusaders. And Toblin was the head coach at Ponte Vedra before Bolles.

What is the biggest struggle or impediment facing your profession?

(12) Not paid enough/hard to keep coaches

(5) Transfer and enforcement

(3) Support from parents and administration; Family time; Time to focus on football and my regular job.

Thoughts: The pay and transfer issue were the top two issues last year. Coaching pay remains terrible across the board. Paychecks are in the form of supplements. Head coaches tend to be teachers or school district employees and coach in a part-time-type of capacity, at least on paper. There’s a misconception that coaches only coach. Not in Florida. The highest head coaching supplement in the News4JAX coverage area is Clay County’s (head football coaches there got a recent $17.50 pay raise from to $6,387.50 a year). When taxed and then sliced to a per hour return for the time put in, the rate of pay is far, far less than the state’s $11 minimum wage. One line that was repeated was that “demands and expectations don’t match the resources that are provided.”

If you could make one change in your profession, what would that be?

(12) Low pay

(5) Kids staying at own school.

Thoughts: This was the most wide-ranging answer. One interesting proposal on the transfer situation was if a student is to start at one school, then that’s the school that they should finish at. Pay, of course, topped this question for the second straight year, but actually dipped from 18 last year to 12 this year. Other responses included more oversight and enforcement from the FHSAA, more support from at the district level, more funding for athletics, later start dates, rules on homeschool athletes playing at private schools and a more professionally run side of football like there is in Texas. Very insightful feedback from this question.

There’s a new playoff system in place this year. Are you a fan of Suburban-Metro or is it too soon to tell?

(22) Too soon to tell

(7) No

(5) Yes.

Thoughts: The vote to pass this new system passed on a 9-7 split at the FHSAA board of directors meeting. Looking at the Yes and No votes here; that’s a similar margin. Like playoff changes in previous years, the new system is not without its faults and will certainly be tinkered with as time goes on.

Area high school football coaches say what they'd be doing if they weren't coaching, what the biggest issue they face and the best coach in the area

Name, image and likeness has been in place for just over a year in college. It’s poised to make its way to the high school level and already has in some states. Is that good or bad for you as a coach?

(24) Bad

(5) Good

(5) Not sure.

Thoughts: At some point very soon, this is going to hit the high school realm. Some states have already cleared the way for NIL in high school. Here, there’s powerful sentiment on both sides of the discussion but coaches overwhelmingly think NIL in high school is bad for the sport.

“Bad. Nail in the coffin of high school football.”

“As a coach it will be harder to tell a high school student who is getting paid what to do and have him listen.”

“Good as long as you control the team atmosphere.”

“Bad. Takes away the true meaning of high school sports.”

“I would be fine with it. We must adjust with the times.”

If you were to leave coaching, what would you do?

(9) Teach, work with kids, be a college professor/dean/principal

(4) Retire

(3) Would never and No clue.

Thoughts: Still being active in a teaching/mentoring role topped the list comfortably. Other jobs were mentioned, too (personal trainer, real estate, mortgages, pastor, author). One interesting answer was a coach saying he would homeschool his children. Retirement was the No. 2 choice, followed by coaches saying they’d never leave the profession or had no idea what they’d do.

“Coach football. There is nothing else for me.”

“Work in education making sure our athletes are taking care of themselves.”

“Help athletes and students in some larger way.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.