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.

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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