Rooney Rule

  • December 8, 2009
    The effort to improve diversity in college football coaching seems to be getting a slight boost, USA Today reports. The newspaper notes that with Virginia's hiring of Mike London, there are now 12 minority head coaches in the "120-school Football Bowl Subdivision." But the report notes that while the new number is a record, it "is low in a sport in which nearly two-thirds of all players are minorities."

    In a 2008 Issue Brief, published by ACS, Washington, D.C. attorney Douglas C. Proxmire examined the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires pro-teams with head-coaching vacancies to interview one or more minority candidates, and concluded that it should be expanded to other sporting arenas, such as college football.

    Proxmire wrote, "NCAA Division I college football would appear to be the next logical arena for adoption of the Rooney Rule, as some measure is desperately needed to address the woeful disparity between minority head coaches and minority Division IA football players." Proxmire noted in his Issue Brief, "The Rooney Rule, Its Application and Ideas for Expansion," that while the NCAA "has resisted taking the formal step of implementing the Rooney Rule, the NCAA Division I Athletic Director's Association has made a commitment to interview at least one minority candidate when an NCAA Division I football head coaching position opens."

    Tony Dungy, former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who is encouraging the NCAA to diversifying its coaching ranks, told USA Today that the new hires were a hopeful signal, but that he was waiting to see what happens at BCS schools because "that's the place we have to look, because that's where you have a chance to win a national championship."


  • October 13, 2009

    News that Rush Limbaugh is party to a group bidding for a National Football League team has revived discussions of race on the sports page. Readers are being reminded of Limbaugh's short-lived career as an NFL commentator on ESPN -- a career that ended in controversey following his racially tinged statement about African-American quarterback Donovan McNabb, which included the following:

    Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve.

    Limbaugh's bid has drawn fire from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here and I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about," Goodell said of Limbaugh's reputation for stirring controversey. "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, absolutely not."

    Just this year, Commissioner Goodell initiated the NFL's moves to ameliorate the lack of diversity among coaches and executives of color, embracing and broadening application of the Rooney Rule. Analyzed in this ACS Issue Brief by attorney Douglas Proxmire, the Rooney Rule requires the NFL to interview at least one minority for any coaching or front office position. 

    In The Nation, sports writer David Zirin catalogs both recent commentary by Limbaugh expressing racially provocative views and the reactions of several NFL players. For his part, Zirin calls for League officials to block the purchase, writing

    [F]inancial scuzziness aside, Limbaugh's bid must be stopped. The NFL owners have the power to nix any prospective owner, and if they have a shred of conscience in their overfed, underworked bodies, they should collectively veto Limbaugh's joining their exclusive club.

    And for the first time, an NFL team owner today voiced his perspective. "I, myself, couldn't even consider voting for him," remarked Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. "When there are comments that have been made that are inappropriate, incendiary and insensitive ... our words do damage, and it's something that we don't need."

    Among others making their voice heard on Limbaugh's bid is Stephen Colbert, offering the perspective you can watch below: 

  • June 17, 2009
    The National Football League has announced an expansion of the "Rooney Rule" on minority hiring. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the rule, which requires NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies to interview one or more minority candidates, would be expanded to cover hiring of front-office personnel.

    The Washington Post reported that the expanded rule would require teams seeking to fill front office positions to interview at least one minority candidate. In a statement, Goodell said, "The discussion at the league meeting identified the strong reason for taking this step, which in large part simply confirms a recommended practice that clubs have voluntarily embraced. The recommendation also recognizes that this process has worked well in the context of head coaches, and that clubs have deservedly received considerable positive recognition for their efforts in this respect."

    An NFL committee, headed by Steelers President Dan Rooney (left with Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin), proposed the adoption of the rule on hiring head coaches in 2002 after the committee concluded that the league's hiring practices were discriminatory.

    In December, ACS distributed an Issue Brief on the impact of the Rooney Rule.