Its pretty evident that the Rooney Rule, an affirmative action program that the late Johnnie Cochran and Jesse Jackson pushed for and came about because of Dan Rooney ‘s relationship with former Steeler’s assistant Tony Dungy, has benefited NFL football. As always, some people see “affirmative” before the word “action” as “reverse racism”, but this ignores the reality of the rule. The rule says a team should simply interview a candidate who is a person of color for a coaching job before an opening is filled aka coaches are given a chance to win over a potential employer. Its a minimal expenditure to interview a minority candidate. This was recently expanded to include senior franchise positions (GMs and VPs), by majority ballot of NFL franchise owners in June of this year. College football still has a paucity of black coaches and this quote caught my eye:
Asked whether the situation in the college game represents institutionalized racism, Dungy said, “The numbers would tell you that it is.” After the 2006 season, Dungy recommended then-Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin for the head coaching position at a BCS school. Tomlin didn’t get an interview. A month later, the Steelers hired him as their head coach, and within two years he led them to a Super Bowl win. “That’s the difference between the NCAA and the NFL right now,” Dungy said. via Tony Dungy: Lack Of Black College Coaches ‘Disgraceful’.
There are more black assistants in college football than previous years, but in a sport where a majority of the big program rosters are filled with black players, those same teams are seldom helmed by black coaches. College football is not really suited for a national top down Rooney Rule type mandate. Boosters and select administrators hold amazing sway over college football and even more over big time high school football hiring (another feeder for college football coaching candidates). They are key to recruitment and program funding, especially for schools that do not make a bowl every year. NCAA Football is non-profit cartel for licensing and marketing controlled by member universities (mainly the big time BCS conference schools), not the other way around, so they aren’t a source for developing an interview process that promotes diversity. The real entry point for affirmative action programs that provide opportunity access may be at the state level. College football coaches are quite often the highest paid state employees and therefore subject to hiring laws passed by state legislatures. The state of Oregon has become one of the first states to implement a Rooney Rule for all coaching and athletic director jobs at all of the state funded university athletic programs. I hope this includes candidates of color and maybe even women for some male teams. A devil’s advocate query would be: what is the appropriate number of black coaches? Thatis of course impossible to answer. Should the percentage of black coaches be the same as the number of black players in the NCAA? Should the need be satisfied when the percentage of black coaches matches the percentage of black people versus general population? (the NFL has already met this second threshold). What about for other peoples of color? Quite often, at this level of coaching, a job not won in an interview by a candidate can result in a recommendation to another program who may love that same candidate. Hopefully implementations of this smart, low cost affirmative action can result in hiring of more qualified candidates, better college football teams and little or no need for affirmative action in the future. This still doesn’t address the real problem with college football, basketball and baseball: the abysmal 4 to 6 year graduation rates.
Update: Video of Tony Dungy’s interview