Universities oppose paying their postdocs overtime, but will pay football coaches millions of dollars

Colleges and universities have made the indefensible argument that they can’t afford to pay their low-level salaried employees for their overtime under the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule. Universities have singled out postdoctoral researchers, many of whom spend 60 hours a week or more running the labs that turn out the nation’s most important scientific advances, as a group of employees that would just cost too much if they had to be paid for the extra hours they work each week.

Analyzed on their own, these postdocs—who are among the best-educated and most valuable employees in the nation, on whom our future health and prosperity depend, in part—obviously deserve to be paid for their overtime hours. After all, at a salary of $42,000 a year, these postdocs are being paid about $13.50 an hour (less than fast food workers are demanding).

When juxtaposed against the inflated salaries of university administrators with less stellar academic credentials making $200,000 to $3 million a year, the case for overtime compensation is only stronger. The comparison that really drives home how unfairly universities are treating their postdocs, however, is with the universities’ football coaches.

Figure A

Universities oppose paying their postdocs overtime, but will pay football coaches millions of dollars: Top NCAA College Football Coaches’ Salaries by State, 2015

State University Head coach  Salary
Alabama University of Alabama Nick Saban  $6,932,395
Alaska University of Alaska N/A  N/A
Arizona Arizona State Todd Graham  $3,000,000
Arkansas University of Arkansas Bret Bielema  $3,954,166
California UCLA Jim Mora  $3,350,000
Colorado University of Colorado Mike MacIntyre  $2,009,778
Connecticut University of Connecticut Bob Diaco  $1,550,000
Delaware University of Delaware Dave Brock  Unknown
Florida Florida State Jimbo Fisher  $5,150,000
Georgia University of Georgia Mark Richt  $4,000,000
Hawaii University of Hawaii Norm Chow  $550,000
Idaho Boise State Bryan Harsin  $1,100,004
Illinois University of Illinois Bill Cubit  $915,000
Indiana Purdue Darrell Hazell  $2,140,000
Iowa University of Iowa Kirk Ferentz  $4,075,000
Kansas Kansas State Bill Snyder  $3,000,000
Kentucky University of Kentucky Mark Stoops  $3,250,000
Louisiana LSU Les Miles  $4,300,000
Maine University of Maine Jack Cosgrove  $186,995
Maryland University of Maryland Randy Edsall  $2,110,648
Massachusetts Boston College Steve Addazio  $2,585,655
Michigan University of Michigan Jim Harbaugh  $7,004,000
Minnesota University of Minnesota Jerry Kill  $2,500,000
Mississippi University of Mississippi Hugh Freeze  $4,300,000
Missouri University of Missouri Barry Odom  $2,350,000
Montana University of Montana Bob Stitt  $175,000
Nebraska University of Nebraska Mike Riley  $2,700,000
Nevada University of Nevada Brian Polian  $575,000
New Hampshire University of New Hampshire Sean McDonnell  $200,000
New Jersey Rutgers Kyle Flood  $1,250,000
New Mexico University of New Mexico Bob Davie  $772,690
New York University of Buffalo Lance Leipold  $400,000
North Carolina North Carolina State Dave Doeren  $2,200,000
North Dakota University of North Dakota Kyle Schweigert  $1,500,000
Ohio Ohio State Urban Meyer  $5,860,000
Oklahoma University of Oklahoma Bob Stoops  $5,400,000
Oregon University of Oregon Mark Helfrich  $3,150,000
Pennsylvania Penn State James Franklin  $4,400,000
Rhode Island University of Rhode Island Jim Fleming  $175,000
South Carolina University of South Carolina Steve Spurrier  $4,000,000
South Dakota University of South Dakota Joe Glenn  $145,010
Tennessee University of Tennessee Butch Jones  $4,100,000
Texas University of Texas Charlie Strong  $5,100,000
Utah University of Utah Kyle Whittingham  $2,600,000
Vermont University of Vermont N/A N/A
Virginia University of Virginia Mike London  $3,196,724
Washington University of Washington Chris Petersen  $3,400,000
West Virginia University of West Virginia Dana Holgorsen  $2,880,000
Wisconsin University of Wisconsin Paul Chryst  $2,300,000
Wyoming University of Wyoming Craig Bohl  $882,000

Note: The highest available head coach salary was selected for each state.

Source: Data from USA Today and HKM Employment Attorneys LLP

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Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, opposes the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule because (he claims) it will cost Tennessee universities so much. But what about the University of Tennessee’s head coach, Butch Jones, and his $4.1 million salary? What about the assistant coaches? Are their salaries a burden? Did Sen. Alexander complain last year, when, as the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported, the school gave them millions of dollars in raises?

Tennessee increased the salary pool for its assistant football coaches by $275,000, bumping the staff’s combined salaries to $3.495 million, based on the amended contracts released Tuesday afternoon to the Times Free Press through a records request.

The eight returning coaches received $250,000 in raises, while the Volunteers are paying new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord $25,000 more than his predecessor.

Receivers coach Zach Azzanni and running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who were awarded new titles as Tennessee shuffled their staff’s roles after DeBord’s hire, each received $50,000 raises and now make $350,000 each.

And what about Memphis, whose head coach was paid $1.4 million last year? The priorities of our top universities, which routinely pay more than a million dollars to a football coach while starving the best-educated scientists in the world, are clearly wrong. They should be ashamed to be fighting a rule that will provide modest compensation for their employees’ long hours.

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