Midlands schools are home to several of the states highest paid coaches, according to salary data obtained by The State. Irmos Bob Hanna and Dutch Forks Tom Knotts are the states highest paid coaches, each with a salary of $106,214, among the schools that responded to the survey.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, The State requested salary information for coaches receiving $50,000 or more for coaching and teaching duties from 82 public school districts as well as the S.C. Independent Schools Association.
Sixty districts responded, with salary information on 910 coaches and athletics directors. SCISA officials declined to provide records because they are a private organization.
Of the 10 highest paid coaches, five are coaching Midlands programs. Hanna and Knotts are employed by Lexington-Richland School District 5. Lexington 1 is home to the other three Lexingtons Scott Earley at $103,410; Gilberts Barry Harley at $96,532; and Pelions Ben Freeman at $96,032.
I think its an important position, said Hanna, who has been in charge of the Irmo program for 20 seasons. With nearly 700 of the schools 1,800 students involved in athletics, he said his position is a weighty one. Im just happy to be in this school district that recognizes that. It didnt start out like that.
Its the athletic director part of this thats creating the salary, he said. We affect almost 700 kids in this school that are involved in athletics. Tom and I, we have the same goals. Its a lot of work, we try to do it right, it takes a lot of time and were here a lot of hours.
In terms of the involvement that we have that way with the school, its an administrative position. Basically, we are on an assistant principals pay scale. I think in terms of hours and in terms of time, it was justified that way.
All but one of the Top 10, Bobby Bentley of Byrnes, serve as both athletics director and football coach. Spartanburg District 5 pays Bentley, the former head coach and now assistant coach and AD, $98,344. Two of the five, Bentley and Stratfords Ray Stackley, are listed as instructors, as well.
Cynthia Smith, chairwoman of Lexington 1 School Board, said the salaries are an investment in an important aspect of a well-rounded educational experience.
It is a huge investment and a very important one. Our athletic directors wear so many hats and we do produce great results in both boys and girls sports, Smith said.
Weve got two Class 4A programs, Lexington and White Knoll, and it looks like well be opening River Bluff as 3A and going to 4A, she said. Weve just had incredible growth, we have huge athletic programs and were very committed to our athletics. Were really proud of our athletics, and for well-rounded students youve got to have that.
Smith said the Lexington 1 board conducted a salary study to determine a fair and competitive salary for the athletics director and football coach position in a program that has consistently been one of the states top performers in multiple sports. Lexington 1s salary for Earley topped his previous salary at Lexington-Richland 5s Chapin High by a few thousand dollars.
We did look at all the salaries across the state and we felt like what we offered was fair, Smith said.
Lexington-Richland 5 board member Jan Hammond echoed some of that sentiment.
Ive just always said that we do need to be conscious of the taxpayers dollar, and weve got to balance that with the needs to be competitive, Hammond said. My goal as a school board member is to keep the focus on teaching and on learning.
According to records provided, Lexington-Richland 5 has 61 coaches earning salaries of $50,000 or more. Lexington 1 has 58.
Hanna said evaluating the return on that investment is not a matter of simply checking the records.
Weve had a lot of success through the years in all our athletics programs and when your athletics teams are successful, the climate at the school is so much better, the atmosphere of success is more conducive to learning, Hanna said.
I think its something that the community will have to judge for itself. Our school board recognizes the importance of athletics and they made an investment in that about 10 years ago and I really think its paid off for them, he said.