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Coaching football in the Empire is a labor of love, but it doesn't pay the bills

  • Koli Palu, who works as an assistant coach for the Windsor High School varsity football team, also works as a bouncer at the Round "Dirty Bird" Robin on Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa.

About the only job missing from the following list is an one-armed trapeze artist. So think of the next paragraph as the occupational melting pot.

Church pastor. Bouncer. Cop. Taxidermist. Bartender. Backhoe operator. Fisherman. Chemistry teacher. Librarian. Tribal council leader. Horse shoer. Cattle rancher. Pool man. Dairyman. CPA. Carpet cleaner. Garbage collector. Vineyard owner. Mortgage broker. Truck driver. Social worker. Stay-at-home dad. Tree trimmer. Used car salesman. Caterer.

So which one of these men coaches high school football in the Empire? All of them.

Come as a shock? It certainly did to Thad Owens, Kelseyville?s head coach.

Owens had coached in Texas and New Mexico, where a high school administrator looking for a head football coach would first consider a candidate based on his ability to coach. If he was a teacher, it was a bonus.

?Here it?s the other way around,? said Owens, who teaches construction, computer drafting and turf and landscape management. ?When I found out you got a $2,500 stipend to coach here, that just blew me away. At a small school in New Mexico you could get paid anywhere between $11,000 and $16,000 to coach. Obviously the emphasis on football is a lot different there than here. It?s been a little bit of an adjustment.?

Bob Cazet, Rincon Valley Christian?s head coach, once worked in Smith Station, Ala., where the athletic director/head football coach made $90,000.

?Smith Station doesn?t have more than 1,500 people in it and doesn?t even have a main street,? Cazet said. ?Yet there would be 13,000 people in the stands for every game. They just attracted people from all over the county.?

Well, this ain?t Texas, folks, or Alabama either, since we don?t have good barbecue or a reason-for-living football obsession. But it is still high school football and given that fact ? football is the most popular sport in America ? a perception exists that is far, far from reality.

Do the fans who follow any of the 32 football-playing schools in the Empire know the sacrifices, not to mention the occupations, of the coaches?

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