Labor amendment affects athletic department

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Matt Grahn, shown above, plans on remaining dedicated to improving UD athletics despite the amendment. University of Dallas Photo.

It’s no secret that working in the University of Dallas Athletic Department isn’t the most glamorous job; no one makes the $8 million a year that Jim Harbaugh makes as the head football coach at the University of Michigan. However, new amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) have made things even more difficult for two UD employees in particular.

Matt Grahn’s official job is that of recruiting coordinator; however, he has volunteered as an assistant men’s basketball coach for as long as he has been at the university. In fact, that was the original reason he came to UD: eventually, he was able to get on the payroll as recruiting coordinator.

“It was an opportunity for me to be on campus and to make a regular salary,” Grahn said. “It was very important to me to be on campus.”

This meant that Grahn was given an office and other benefits which helped his abilities as both a coach and a recruiter. In doubling as assistant coach, however, Grahn often worked nights and weekends. Under the FLSA, he was considered exempt from overtime pay.

Nathan Yacovissi, meanwhile, is the school’s sports information manager (SIM). For those who don’t know about the job of an SIM, it is incredibly time-consuming. If anything appears on the UD athletics website, Yacovissi put it there. In addition, he works at every home sporting event, making sure the scoreboards work, the cameras are set up, etc.

“It’s not a routine job,” Yacovissi said. “It’s not very predictable what you’re going to do in a given week.”

Yacovissi, like Grahn, often works over 40 hours per week, and he has also previously qualified for exemption status.

“ [There] is a significant increase to the minimum salary level generally required for exemption, raising it from $455 per week (i.e., $23,660 annually) to $913 per week (i.e. $47,476 annually),” according to NCAA’s official interpretation.

Neither Grahn nor Yacovissi currently meets this new minimum threshold, and therefore neither qualifies for exempt status. It is important to note, however, that not all employees in the athletic department need to meet this minimum salary in order to qualify as exempt. There is a provision that, according to the NCAA interpretation, applies to employees whose primary duty is teaching, tutoring and instructing. Coaches fall into this category because they spend most of their time teaching athletes and supervising team members during trips.

“If, however, their duties primarily include recruiting athletes or doing manual labor, they are not considered teachers,” the report says.

As a result, Grahn is no longer able to help coach the men’s basketball team. He is now limited to 40 hours per week, and he spends all of that time and more on his recruiting efforts.

“Recruiting is not a 40-hour a week job, whether you’re coaching or not,” Grahn said. “Recruiting is like shaving. If you don’t do it every day, you end up looking like a bum.”

Yacovissi faces his own challenges. For example, the weekend of Oct. 7-9, there were two women’s soccer home matches, two men’s soccer home matches, and three women’s volleyball home matches. Yacovissi said he was on campus working practically the entire day each day.

The FLSA amendment does not go into effect until Dec. 1, but the UD Human Resources Department (HR) has chosen to implement it as of Oct. 1 so that they can be better prepared when it officially goes into place. Yacovissi says he has been tracking his hours, and that in the month of September he worked well over 40 hours per week.

“I’m still learning as I go,” Yacovissi said. “I’m still being told, technically, to do my job the same way that I’ve been doing it.”

If Yacovissi does happen to go a little over 40 hours, he will get paid overtime, but the school would like to limit the occasions in which that happens, especially since the Athletic Department saw its budget cut for the 2016-17 school year. According to Athletic Director Dick Strockbine, this was the first time it had been cut in 21 years.

“Being a small university private school, they have to be fiscally conscious,” Grahn said. “The Human Resources Office is just doing their job, abiding by the law — a well-intended law with unfortunate results.”

According to the NCAA, athletic trainers do not, as coaches do, qualify as exempt. However, HR has decided that the two athletic trainers, Robb Leibold and Corrie Bober, who could not be reached for comment, are still considered exempt. HR declined to comment on the matter.

Despite all of this, Grahn and Yacovissi do not intend to work any less hard.

“I’m not going to not do my job because of [the new law],” Yacovissi said.

“I want to bring in the most student-athletes the University of Dallas has ever had,” Grahn said. “The overall admissions goal is 400 students. I want at least a quarter of those to be athletes.”

Finally, although the amendment has possible effects on Grahn and Yacovissi’s compensation, neither perceives that element as particularly important.

“Sure, I want to get compensated, but I don’t do it for the money,” Grahn said.

“It’s not about the money at this point for me,” Yacovissi agreed. “It’s always been about ‘How can I better promote the athletic program and the student-athletes at the University of Dallas?’”

 

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