COLUMBIA -- Eight years ago, Dutch Fork coach Bill Kimrey was not among the highest-paid high school football coaches in South Carolina.
He is now.
Thanks to an initiative by Lexington-Richland 5 and its school board, Kimrey tops the list with an annual salary of $104,141. Sharing the top spot with Kimrey is Bob Hanna of Lexington. A third Lexington-Richland 5 coach, Larry Grady of Chapin, is No. 4, at $98,208.
The salary figures for all three coaches include compensation for their roles as athletics directors at their schools.
The increase in salary for football coaches is a trend that area administrators say is the result of school districts trying to keep up with one another. Coaches say they deserve more money to compensate for football's evolution into a year-round sport. However, not everyone can afford to keep pace.
Lexington-Richland 5 conducted a salary survey of its employees about five years ago, Dutch Fork principal Gregg Morton said. "Once the findings were known, our coaches got substantial raises, as well as other employees, across the board."
The reason for the study was to make Lexington-Richland 5 competitive with school districts statewide. A recent analysis of high school football coaches' salaries by The Myrtle Beach Sun News showed a large gap, ranging from more than $100,000 to just over $40,000.
Shell Dula, who has been coaching football for more than 30 years before retiring from Greenwood at the end of the 2008 season, said the responsibilities of football coaches have changed drastically, and salaries should reflect that.
"When I started coaching, there wasn't enough to do during the summer," Dula said. "We'd put up the pads for the summer 'till next season. Now, football, as the case with a lot of other sports, has become a year-round sport."
Longtime Summerville football coach John McKissick said he made $2,700 a year when he was hired at Summerville in 1952, and he coached more than football.
"Everybody thought I was making the most money," McKissick said of his current salary of $86,400. "Shoot, I probably make the least."
McKissick's salary doesn't rank in the top 10, but McKissick, who has won 10 state championships and is the nation's all-time winningest coach, isn't concerned.
"I've been fortunate at Summerville that the administration considers athletics and extracurricular activity are important," he said. "If you're going to send your kids here to be taught and coached, then you expect to be provided with sufficient teachers and coaches."
Some districts in the Midlands simply are trying to keep pace with one another.
Richland 1, which has seven high schools -- Eau Claire Columbia, Lower Richland, A.C. Flora, Dreher, Keenan and C.A. Johnson -- struggles to keep pace financially, but it made an attempt to change that.
Robin Bacon, who recently stepped down as football coach at A.C. Flora after 10 years at the school, served on a Richland 1 committee that studied ways to increase the pay of its coaches. The district's coaches received a bump, but it wasn't enough to keep pace.
"What we found was that they were so far behind everybody, every school district," Bacon said. "It was really tough to compare. Some schools were paying their assistant coaches more than what we were paying our head coaches. ... There are ways to do it -- stipends for playoff games, etc. They do it the right way."
The issue isn't just about putting more money in pockets. Some coaches suggest investing in tangibles such as facilities helps retain coaches.
Over the past five years, a number of multimillion dollar stadiums have been built in the state, including five in the Midlands.
"You can pay a coach all you want, but if you have poor facilities ... there's a bad perception made by the community that this school and this administration is not about winning," Bacon said.
"Some people who are against athletics say that it's the tail wagging the dog, and that's not so," he said. "You're asking these kids to come after school, work hard for you and shower at the school. You want a nice place for them, a place to show that you care about their well-being. It shows them that the community, administration cares and wants you to be the best that you can be."
But money, and lots of it, speaks volumes.
"Hey, I had a great time here (at A.C. Flora)," Bacon said, "but the grass is greener at other places ... a lot greener."
STATE'S TOP 10
1. Bill Kimrey, Dutch Fork, $104,141
Bob Hanna, Irmo, $104,141
2. Allen Sitterle, Lexington, $101,260
3. Larry Grady, Chapin, $98,208
4. Chuck Jordan, Conway, $97,888
5. Jerry Brown, Berkeley, $96,508
6. Freddie Brown, Spartanburg, $95,542
7. Ray Stackley, Stratford, $94,838
8. Reggie Kennedy, Fairfield-Central, $94,500
9. Chuck Reedy, Goose Creek, $94,343
10. Bob Hayes, Wando, $91,092
Area Coaches Rank/Salary
15. Jimmy Wallace, Northwestern, $87,311
17. John Barrett, York, $86,057
20. Floyd Drum, Lewisville, $85,148
22. Joe Montgomery, Rock Hill, $83,866
31. Ken Schofield, Great Falls, $81,136
33. Jet Turner, Clover, $80,893
34. Bennie McMurray, Lancaster, $80,537
36. Bobby Carroll, South Pointe, $79,529
71. Ed Susi, Fort Mill, $70,839
72. Mike Mayer, Indian Land, $70,674
83. Rusty Jester, Nation Ford, $68,795
122. Maurice Flowers, Chester, $62,107
-- For a complete list of state salaries, go to midlandpreps.com