College Football Coach
Mentor, Dave Rader
Dave was the head football coach for the University of Tulsa from 1988 to 1999. His 1991 Golden Hurricane squad finished with a 10-2 record, a Freedom Bowl victory over San Diego State and ranked 21st in both the final Coaches’ Poll and final AP poll.
Dave was a gifted athlete and a starting quarterback in high school and then for the University of Tulsa his junior and senior year. He was picked by the San Diego Chargers in the 1979 draft and ended the year with the New York Giants. His first college coaching job was at the University of Alabama as the quarterback and wide receiver coach. He then went to Mississippi State as an assistant and a year later was hired at TU. Dave was as an assistant head coach for his alma mater for one year before being named head coach. After leaving TU twelve years later, he went into private business but returned to coaching in 2003 as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Alabama until 2006. In 2010, he was the offensive co-coordinator and QB coach at Ole Miss. Dave stayed one season and then returned to Tulsa to work in the energy industry.
Dave still loves football and gives private quarterback and position lessons. He also does recruiting counseling that prepares graduating high school students and their families to meet with college coaches to help them make the best decision about which college or university to attend. Dave is a public speaker who teaches the principals for success in life that he has learned from his career in sports including commitment, leadership and team building. He speaks at retreats for men’s groups where he teaches ways men can exhibit positive personal character traits in their lives. Dave is the author of the book “ Missing Page from the Playbook, Fundamentals Behind the Physical, Mental and Emotional Elements of Commitment” and has also served his community as a board member of the John 3:16 Mission, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Big Brothers & Sisters and Heritage Family Services. Dave was also a member of the American Football Coaches Association's Football Issues and Ethics committee and was inducted into the Independence Bowl Hall of Fame, Tulsa Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, University of Tulsa Athletic Hall of Fame (1919 team) and the Will Rogers High School Hall of Fame.
In his article, Dave talks about coaching at both the college and high school level and how you can prepare yourself for these positions. Because there are a lot of people interested in coaching team sports, Dave stresses that you have to be committed if you want to enter this profession. Most people start as assistant coaches at the high school and college level and only become a head coach after having five to ten years of experience as an assistant. He also points out that while the salaries of the college football coaches at large schools can be substantial, most small college/university and high school football coaches earn about the same salaries as other teachers at their schools. If you are a coach in high school you will most likely have to also teach four or five classes along with coaching. This means you need to be able to teach subjects that are in demand in order to stand out from other people applying for high school coaching positions
Dave’s article should be read by anyone who is considering a career coaching any team sport at any level and wants to lean more about what is necessary to succeed in the coaching profession. His article will also be of interest to anyone wanting to learn more about how team sports teach character and the positive effect a good coach can have on young people’s lives.
For me, the love of football came about because the game forces one into a competitive physical element. This physical element teaches the necessary willingness to take risks even taking hits and physical injuries are inevitable. It also teaches one how to overcome adversity. As an example, one has to learn to overcome the physical pain from an injury. Football also teaches persistence. When injury occurs and a position on the team is lost, hard work and persistence is mandatory to win back the position upon recovery from the injury. It is not automatically given back. It is earned.
I was blessed with enough talent to play football, basketball and baseball at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa where I was the starting quarterback for the football team. As a senior at Will Rogers, interest from several football programs came my way including Southern Methodist University, Kansas, Navy and Air Force. I decided to take advantage of a football scholarship offered by the University of Tulsa where I majored in engineering. As a starting quarterback my Junior and Senior years, we finished 1978 with one of the best all time records for the school where we went 9-2 and I threw for 1,683 yards and 14 touchdowns (numbers that do not compare in today’s fast paced offenses). I also earned my engineering degree and had tremendous support from many fine professors and help from some teammates at TU who knew a lot more about engineering than I did.
In the spring of 1979, the San Diego Chargers picked me in the 11th round of the NFL draft. I was released by the Chargers then signed with the New York Giants and finished the season as a Giant. Sometime after leaving the NFL, I decided I wanted to coach. My first job was with the University of Alabama as the quarterback and wide receiver coach between 1983 and 1985. While at Alabama, I was mentored, challenged and allowed to grow by a number of good men who happened to coach on that staff. From there it was on to Mississippi State University in 1986 where at age 29 I became the youngest offensive coordinator in the Southeastern Conference. Then, TU called in 1987. I jumped at the chance to coach for my alma mater and started as the assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach. One year later, I was named the head coach. At that time I was only 31 and the youngest head coach in Division I football. The twelve seasons at TU is longer than any other football coach in University of Tulsa history. Our 1991 squad finished with a 10-2 record, a Freedom Bowl victory and a national ranking of 21 in both the final Coaches’ Poll and the final AP poll. Our time at TU saw some wins against prestigious programs including the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Missouri and Iowa. Our program helped produce four All-Americans, three First-Team Academic All-Americans and eleven NFL draft picks. It was always part of my goals help prepare my players for life. Our players had a higher graduation rate than the University as a whole.
After leaving TU in 1999, private business offered an opportunity for a few years but the opportunity to return to Alabama could not be denied. From 2003 through 2006, I was the offensive coordinator and QB coach for the Tide. From there, I went back into private business before accepting a position at Ole Miss in 2010 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. We were there for one season and went back to Tulsa to work in the energy industry as Vice President of Marketing for Pacer Energy Marketing.
I am still involved in football and give private quarterback and position lessons, do recruiting counseling, and public speaking that includes retreats for men’s group where I teach ways men can build positive character traits in their lives. Having always wanted to write a book, 2011 saw publishing of
“ Missing Page from the Playbook, Fundamentals Behind the Physical, Mental and Emotional Elements of Commitment”
You can learn more about all of Dave’s current activities and his book at his website: http://www.daverader.com
Preparing for a Career in Coaching
- First, if you want to pursue a career in coaching it is important that you are passionate about the game. I liked to prepare the game plan and game management on the field as well as breaking down film and scouting reports. These are all things you will have to do as you progress through the ranks and gain the experience you will need to become a head coach.
- You should also have an interest in helping young people both on and off the field. Team sports can teach a lot of valuable life lesions to young people like commitment, persistence and character that can help them later in life. There should be a desire to mentor and be a role model to your players and teach them these kinds of life lessons.
- A good coach must also possess leadership and communication skills. Having these skills allows a coach to inspire players and work with them on improvement. Put yourself in situations where you learn to speak in front of people beginning in high school and continuing through college by taking leadership positions on your athletic teams, being active in things like student government and consider classes like speech and debate.
- Think about what level you want to coach. There are coaching positions at many levels including the NCAA division I, II and III schools, NAIA, junior college and high school. At the college level, there are also position coaches who work with the players in practice and in meetings. For example, quarterbacks, linebackers, wide receivers, defensive lineman and running backs all have their own position coaches. But understand I had some good assistant coaches while I was head coach at TU who were never football players. They had worked with teams as trainers and team managers and had experience around college coaches and teams. If you are not a player, you need to get this kind of experience as a trainer or team manger in high school and college. But it is likely going to be more difficult to find coaching jobs at the college level without playing experience but not impossible.
- Coaching in high school normally requires you will also have to teach four or five classes a day. This means that you must first earn a Bachelors degree and a teaching certificate. People who play or have been associated with team sports like football, basketball and baseball usually love their sport and many want to stay involved by coaching. This means there is a lot of competition for these kinds of coaching positions and entry-level positions are hard to come by. In order to stand out, you need to be able to teach subjects that are in demand by high schools. These are currently STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Being able to teach subjects like math or science in high school gives you an advantage when you are applying for a school’s coaching position. Majoring in Physical Education is not going to help most people anymore because of budget restrictions at many high schools where physical education classes are limited or no longer taught. You also need to be recognized as a good teacher. One of my fellow coaches once told me that a good coach should be the best teacher in the school.
- Before you can become a head coach at a high school or small college you will first have to gain experience working as an assistant coach for several years often beginning at the junior varsity level. You can expect to spend five to ten years working as an assistant before you will get the opportunity to become a head coach. You must be committed to work your way up through these assistant levels. Once you are there, understand that head high school coaches have to work additional hours compared to a regular teacher. During the sports season, you will be working nights, holidays, evenings and weekends and pre season training for football begins in the summer before regular school classes begin.
- You should also understand that most of the jobs in coaching at the high school and small college level pay about the same as teachers at those schools. If you don’t teach any academic classes, coaches can earn less than teachers. So, most likely, you are not going to find financial riches coaching at the high school or small college level. The high salaries you see in the press are for coaches at major colleges and professional teams. However, there are some significant regional differences for high school coaching salaries in states where football draws a lot of attention that are an exception. For example, in Houston the average public high school head football coach makes $92,887 with the highest paid coach earning over $132,000. There are also some salaries over $100,000 for other large cities in Texas like San Antonio and Dallas and for high school coaches in the larger cities in Georgia where over 17 high school football coaches earn over $100,000 and six high schools in Alabama where football is also very popular. These salaries are higher than some small colleges.
- There is pressure for coaches to consistently win to keep their positions even in high school just like there is for college and professional coaches. This produces a higher turnover for coaching positions compared to regular teaching positions.
I have always enjoyed playing and coaching football. I was fortunate to have played in a winning college program and to have gained experience in the NFL that gave me the exposure and personal contacts that helped me pursue a college-coaching career. But the majority of coaching jobs in football are at the high school and small college level where most people interesting in pursuing a career in coaching will need to have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. You will also have to start at an entry-level position as an assistant coach and work up through the ranks for between five and ten years in order to gain the coaching experience you need to get a job as a head coach. Salaries for most coaching positions are about the same as for teaching positions at the same school. So, financial wealth will not be yours via coaching unless you are fortunate to become a head coach for a large university or a professional team. But for those of you who love the game and are committed to work through the ranks to gain the experience you will need to become a head coach, I can tell you form my own experience that coaching can be a rewarding career.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics – Coaches
The USBLS does its salary surveys for both coaches and sports scouts who only work at these jobs. Their surveys do not include coaches who are also teachers. For that reason, we have shown the USBLS salary survey for teachers as well as the coaches and scouts survey. Also keep in mind that coaches at some schools earn a bonus when they teach regular classes and also coach a sport. But this extra compensation is not consistent across all schools. Also understand that while there are a few states like Texas, Georgia and Alabama where head high school football coaches can earn about 150% more than a regular teacher, there are a limited number of these kinds of positions.
USBLS Salary Survey for Coaches and Scouts
|2014 Median Pay||$30,640 per year|
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||None|
|Number of Jobs, 2014||250,600|
|Job Outlook, 2014-24||6% (As fast as average)|
|Employment Change, 2014-24||14,800|
75th Percentile $47,700
25th Percentile $19,750
USBLS Salaries for High School Teachers
|Quick Facts: High School Teachers|
|2014 Median Pay||$56,310 per year|
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||None|
|Number of Jobs, 2014||961,600|
|Job Outlook, 2014-24||6% (As fast as average)|
|Employment Change, 2014-24||55,900|