The West Chester Golden Rams football coaching staff is not only feeling the pressures associated with opening the season 0-2, but also those stemming from a federal law limiting their time in the office and on the field. The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was passed in 1938, originally to protect the rights of federal employees in terms of minimum wage and overtime entitlement, has recently extended its coverage. In the year 2004 this law was extended to include the private sector. More recently, the law was amended to cover part time faculty. Which means that since coaches are considered part time faculty and were once salaried employees, free to work on average 70 per week, the coaching staff must now comply with a standard forty-hour workweek. As one can imagine, this adds an immense amount of stress to the already demanding jobs football coaches possess. Despite the new clauses in the law, coaches would prefer to be working their usual hours. “It hurts them because they would like to be doing the things that they normally do,” said head coach Bill Zwaan, who happens to be exempt from these restrictions due to the fact that he is full time faculty member and remains a salaried employee, “Now we have to put it to them and tell them that they are only working a certain amount of hours this day, and make those hours as productive as we possibly can” Zwaan added. This becomes an issue not only in terms of the size of the staff’s paychecks but much more directly on the time spent dedicated not only to the game lying ahead on the schedule, but also the time spent with players both on and off the field.
An essential responsibility for an assistant coach during the week is studying and analyzing game film with players. Since the law has been amended it is not a given that coaches will be afforded the hours to spend in the film room with players. To their credit, the team has stepped up, making sure they would not skip a beat because of this issue. Before the season even began, Coach Zwaan addressed the players stating “there’s going to be some days when your coaches can’t be here and cant meet with you, and your going to have to pick up the slack and sit down and watch film on your own and break down film on your own, or take notes that the coaches have given you and use them while you’re watching film.” That would have been nice. The players took this one step further by pooling money together to purchase a big screen television and DVD player for the locker room, ensuring that they would never be without a place to watch and study film. The FLSA may only reach its mandates as far as the assistant coaches, but its impact goes far beyond the practice field or the film room.
The most destructive consequence the FLSA presents to the team and everyone involved, will rear its ugly head in the classroom. Like any collegiate sports team, Coach Zwaan has long appointed one of his assistant coaches, Mike Lux as an academic coordinator. Lux not only has the everyday responsibilities of any position coach or coordinator, but he also spends half of his day checking on the players’ grades, sending emails to professors and in extreme cases, making sure that a player has his assignments turned in on time, especially around break periods. Now, due to the new restrictions, his only office time is spent working on the football aspect because he is not afforded the extra hours to keep tabs on the players’ grades.
Every school seems to be handling these new restrictions differently. A vast majority of Division II schools are turning a blind eye to the restrictions and continuing to pay their coaching staffs on a salary basis, thus allowing them the ability to work as many hours as they wish. Some schools are paying for all overtime available. Others, not as much. West Chester University seems to be adopting a wait and see attitude. They are paying some of the required overtime now, at least as much as they can within the budget. But Zwaan is concerned about what is to come in the not so distant future. “Who knows, recruiting [could] fall off, the off-season program [could] fall off, so now you are really worried. I haven’t even had a chance to plan ahead to all of that. I’m just hoping that we can get through the season.”
It is imperative for the powers that be at this Institution to develop a clear cut policy regarding the coaching staffs across the board, not just football in order for the individual teams to remain competitive. Sports have a trickle down effect not just on the mentality of students attending the university, but in those prospective students who will have to decide between attending West Chester and another division II sports institution.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show on 91.7 WCUR and www.wcur.fm on Saturday’s from 12:00-2:00PM.