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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Some high school football coaches are leaving the richer-player fields of North Carolina for the richer-paying fields of South Carolina.
For North Carolina high school football coaches who choose to move, the grass — and the money — on the other side of the South Carolina border often looks greener.
That certainly was the case for Tommy Norwood, who departed after 19 seasons at Ragsdale and 36 as a head coach in Guilford County to become defensive coordinator at Murrells Inlet (S.C.) St. James High.
"I'm making more as an assistant than I made as a head coach in Guilford County," Norwood said. "And Guilford County is going to pay more than a lot of people do in North Carolina."
Norwood also left because he could collect his full N.C. retirement pay and benefits after 30-plus years in the school system while also earning a paycheck at his new school in South Carolina. With a less-restrictive salary and supplement schedule, South Carolina is able to lure some of North Carolina's top coaches.
Tom Knotts, who guided Charlotte Independence to seven consecutive NCHSAA state championships, left North Carolina to coach at Irmo (S.C.) Dutch Fork High.
According to a public-records request filed by The (Columbia, S.C.) State, Knotts made $106,214 in 2015-16 as athletics director and football coach at Dutch Fork. For the 2015-2016 school year, 20 football coaches in South Carolina were paid at least $90,000 as a teacher and/or coach.
"It is kind of disheartening that you can go be a coordinator in the next state and make more money than a head coach that's been here for over 30 years," said East Forsyth coach Todd Willert.
A higher salary in South Carolina is just one factor, though. Those who teach and coach football often have to teach fewer classes than their counterparts in North Carolina.
"You're doing the same job," said Kevin Gillespie, who left Page after 11 seasons as head coach to take over at Asheboro High. "You're going to have issues down there. ... But to go somewhere and have less responsibility, make more money? ... That makes it very tough to stay in North Carolina."
Former Northern Guilford Coach Johnny Roscoe, who is a member of the S.C. Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has seen what it's like on both sides of the border.
"North Carolina has more players, without a doubt, because there are more schools," Roscoe said, "but South Carolina concentrates on football. On Friday night, that's the thing that carries 99 percent of the schools' athletics departments, and you have to win."
With that type of financial pressure on coaches, monetary decisions have moved up the priority list when it comes to head coaching positions. With higher expectations, some coaches in the Triad say they feel shortchanged.
"You have a lot of good coaches in this county, but if you don't do something you're going to continue to lose those guys," said Darryl Brown, who, in his second season at Grimsley, is the second-longest-tenured head coach in the Metro 4-A Conference. "That's going to hurt football, but it's going to hurt the schools as well because a lot of those coaches do great things for their schools and their communities."
Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraNR on Twitter.
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