SHSU listed in NCAA fair wages lawsuit

A lawsuit claiming student athletes should be paid was filed against Sam Houston State University in October, as well as the NCAA and every other Division I school in the country.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis about six weeks ago on the behalf of former University of Houston women’s soccer player Samantha Sackos.

Pennsylvania attorney Paul L. McDonald filed the suit and said in an email Monday that the crux of the complaint is student athletes should be treated and paid as work study participants.

“The complaint posits that student athletes also meet such criteria, as much as, if not more than, work study participants – thus must be recognized as temporary employees under the [Fair Labor Standards Act], and paid at least the minimum wage, too,” McDonald said. “Work study participants and student athletes are both students, first.”

The argument hinges on four core comparisons between work-study students and student athletes:

  1. Student athletes participate in school-affiliated, non-academic performance and receive no academic credit
  2. Student athletes perform for as many or more hours per week as work study students
  3. Student athletes perform under supervision by coaches and NCAA officials, similar to work study students performing underneath a superior
  4. Student athletes contribute benefits to the school as much as work study students

“The NCAA, for the most part, promotes and protects the best interests of student athletes,” McDonald said. “This complaint is aimed at perfecting the NCAA system, not fundamentally changing it.”

Bearkat Athletics Director Bobby Williams said it is difficult to determine how the university or NCAA would compensate the student athletes if any policy were to change.

“Trying to address that, I’m not sure if any of us in the NCAA can fully understand or come up with a plan at this point in time,” Williams said.

Williams said student athletes are already compensated in a way through scholarships.

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said in a statement in October that the NCAA is reviewing the suit.

“We are currently evaluating the complaint but disagree that student-athletes are participating in athletics as employees,” Remy said. “Student-athletes have a passion for their sport and a commitment to their teammates that can’t be equated to punching a time clock.”

The NCAA and the other defendants have not yet been summoned, according to McDonald. The NCAA will likely sign a waiver of summons, which is due by Dec. 12.

Representatives from the Texas State University System, whose component universities Texas State University, Lamar University and SHSU were all listed in the lawsuit, declined to comment since the litigation is ongoing.

Jay R. Jordan contributed to this report.

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