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Explaining the NCAA's official guidance to schools for handling overtime pay

Last week the U.S. Department of Labor announced a landmark decision to significantly alter the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage overtime requirements. Whereas the minimum salary required to avoid mandatory overtime payments currently sits at $23,660 annually, beginning Dec. 1 the threshold will be boosted to $47,476 a year.

Every coach in America works upwards of 40 hours a week, and the majority of them earn less than the $47,476. The "people interested in new Department of Labor overtime laws" and "college football coaches" Venn diagram has never had more overlap.

In layman's terms: an assistant coach making $35,000 is exempt from federal overtime laws presently because his salary exceeds the threshold. By Dec. 1, it will not, and a 70-hour work week that was worth $673 could now be worth $1,430 -- $673 in regular salary and $757 in overtime at 30 hours of time-and-a-half of his hourly wage. Simply put, this could bankrupt a large portion of athletics departments -- after all, they're paying their coaches $35,000 a year for a reason.

So the NCAA, in partnership with the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, issued a white paper document advising schools how to handle the new law and avoid going bankrupt.

And by "handle" we mean, well...

Katy Perry

Teachers are one of the few professions exempt from any mandatory overtime laws, and the NCAA has provided precedent set by the Department of Labor itself to show how coaches were classified as teachers in the past:

The U.S. Department of Labor has provided guidance on the application to coaches of the current duties test for the teacher exemption. In 2009, the Department issued an opinion letter regarding the application of the teacher exemption to coaches at a local public school. The school employed no full-time coaches, instead relying upon community members to meet its coaching needs. According to the letter, the coaches spent most of their time instructing student athletes in the rules and fundamentals of their sports, with the balance of their time going to activities such as recruiting, supervising team members during trips to and from games, disciplining team members, and accounting for equipment. On these facts, the Department concluded that the coaches qualified as exempt teachers. 


The NCAA noted that this white paper provides guidance to members and is intended only to provide a general overview for compliance, noting that it is not definitive and that each college and university should consult its own counsel. The good folks in Indianapolis also conveniently provided the name of the law firm they used in preparing this statement.

Because the FLSA’s overtime requirements depend largely upon facts and circumstances that likely vary by school and even by team, however, this white paper is intended only to provide a general overview for compliance—it is not definitive. Although we consulted our outside legal counsel in preparing this white paper—the labor and employment lawyers at Seyfarth Shaw LLP—it is not a substitute for consulting your own counsel. Members classifying, or contemplating classifying, coaches or trainers as exempt should conduct their own evaluation and consult counsel to assess the applicability of the FLSA’s exemptions.

You know, just in case you might need it.