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Todd Fairbourne, softball (right)

OREM — Coaching a college sports team may seem like a dream ticket to riches. With millions of dollars being thrown at football and basketball coaches around the country, it's hard not to think that.

Salaries at Utah Valley State College bring those dreams down to reality. For the most part, all of the coaches except for the men's and women's basketball coach make what an average white-collar worker would in a year.

In looking at the numbers, it's fair to say that the coaches — even the ones who are the highest-paid at UVSC — are on the lower end of what their colleagues make at other schools.

According to public records released by UVSC, men's basketball coach Dick Hunsaker leads the pack at $119,000 a year. Women's hoops coach Cathy Nixon is a distant second, making just under $70,000 per year.

Most of the other head coaches earn anywhere between $40,000 to $55,000.

Women's volleyball coach Sam Atoa is one of those who can claim a comfortable salary now. It hasn't always been the case for him, though.

After serving as an assistant for the BYU men's team for a couple of seasons, Atoa came to UVSC to lead the intramural program, teach a few physical education classes and serve as an assistant for the women's volleyball team.

The hours eventually took a toll as he was not making enough for working three jobs. "There needed to be a change," Atoa said. "It was a financial decision."

It wasn't just about the money for Atoa, adding that the time away from his family also pushed him to take a break.

Eventually Atoa was lured back to the coaching ranks at UVSC, and his efforts have paid off as he has a competitive salary after spending close to 14 years with the team.

Now the head coach, Atoa still puts in at least 10-hour days on campus. He can usually be seen at in his office at 8 a.m., thinking that it's important to be around in case any members of the team need a word with him.

For Atoa, it's well worth the work. "I teach the sport I love," he said.

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Other coaches also know what sacrifice means in order to land a head coach position.

Women's soccer coach Brent Anderson ran a soccer shop and an indoor soccer facility in Logan that helped build connections to become an assistant at Utah State.

Anderson remembers those days of coming to campus early in the morning to coach until around 5 p.m. and then head out to help with indoor soccer until about 1 a.m.

And doing this with a wife taking care of their young children as well.

"During the season, my wife is a widow," Anderson said. "She takes care of things at home."

It's a common problem as coaches don't have much free time as it is taken up by practice, recruiting, helping athletes out school-wise and taking road trips during the season.

With a head coaching job, common sense would say that Anderson has less work now. "You would think that," Anderson said. "But it's very time consuming."

The coaching life definitely affects his three children, Anderson said. "They have grown up with me as a coach and don't know what a normal family is like," he said.

Despite the constraints, Anderson still finds time to keep his family involved. His kids are frequently seen around matches, practices and athletic department functions trying to make the most of any time with their father.

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A path that some coaches take is having a successful high school coaching run and trying to take it to the next level. That's what cross country and track coach Scott Houle has done at UVSC.

Houle spent 11 years coaching cross country, track and women's basketball at Orem High. Leading the Tigers to runner-up finishes at state in all three of those sports, he finally helped the girls cross country team win the state championship in 2003.

After making the move over to UVSC in 2004, he hasn't looked back and loves the thrill of motivating athletes at the NCAA Division I level.

"In high school, kids have the motivation," Houle said. "In college, they have degrees in their future and time constraints that are hard on college students."

And Houle likes coaching individual athletes in cross country and track. "I miss it (basketball) a little bit," he said. "But I definitely enjoy this.

"You can coach to defend the other team (in a team sport). But in track and cross country, it's about science, velocity and energy systems."

Plus, Houle has the luxury of being in-season most of the year, with only about a month or so between the end of cross country and the beginning of the indoor track and field season.

It's definitely a change from having to teach most of the day and then spend two to three more hours in practice during his time coaching preps.

"My 10-hour days are all about coaching," Houle said of how he enjoys his role now. "It's more focused time."

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With all the talk about the time that head coaches put in, it's the assistant coaches who are the lifeblood of any athletic program.

Some are paid pretty well, with assistants for both of UVSC's basketball teams making more than what some of the head coaches of some of the other sports earn.

For others, it's hard work with some just putting in volunteer hours for the hope of a salaried position down the road and part-timers not making nearly enough for the time that they put in.

Lacee Koelliker was fortunate enough to not have to go the route of a volunteer coach with women's volleyball after landing an assistant's position right after her four years of playing with the team were over.

"I didn't expect it at all," she said of getting the job offer from Atoa. "I was very appreciative."

For her, she didn't think she was ready to make the transition to bench after being the Wolverines star player. "I didn't think I was qualified," Koelliker said.

But with her experience playing, she is fitting right in and able to help out with recruiting and keeping the players on track in their academic goals.

While Koelliker was able to get a full-time gig, some don't have that luxury. Anderson said that his assistant, Rachelle Dixon, puts in full-time hours with part-time pay.

Every sport at UVSC has the same situation with assistants, and all of the head coaches are appreciative of the sacrifices they make in order to get by.

"To get into college coaching, sometimes you have to start out as a volunteer," Anderson said.

UVSC coaching salaries

Men's basketball

Dick Hunsaker, head coach — $119,000

Jared Barrett, assistant coach — $46,575

Women's basketball

Cathy Nixon, head coach — $70,323

Chris Boettcher, assistant coach — $46,800

Malinda Larson, assistant coach — $29,822


Steve Gardner, head coach — $57,766

David Madsen, assistant coach — $34,287

Women's volleyball

Sam Atoa, head coach — $54,229

Lacee Koelliker, assistant coach — $27,451


Greg Williams, head coach — $49,936

K.C. Rock, assistant coach — $30,015

Track/cross country

Scott Houle, head coach — $49,822

Kirke Adamson, assistant track/XC coach — $32,000

Anna Dolegiewicz, assistant track coach — $10,435


Todd Fairbourne, head coach — $47,533

Rachel Hartgrove, assistant coach — $27,451

Women's soccer

Brent Anderson, head coach — $43,385

Rachelle Dixon, assistant coach — $15,000


Clark Rustand, head coach — $38,295