The Rooney rule
The Rooney Rule
Let's face it, in this day in age, diversity rules. Everything you hear or see these days is always related to race. Take the National Football League for example. The league is known for having a very low number of minority head coaches, and was being criticized about it almost every single day. Finally something was done. To help the cause the "Rooney Rule" was born.
The Rooney Rule has gathered a lot of attention since it was developed in 2003 (Daklin). It was named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, and this NFL by-law requires each team to interview at least one minority candidate for an open head coaching job (Daklin). The rule was developed when two civil-rights attorneys, Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri, formed a document titled, "Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities" (Turner). The two lawyers threatened the league with legal action if something was not done about the situation. Obviously, two lawyers this well-known wouldn't be kidding around. In 1995, Cochran had rocketed to superstar status following his successful criminal defense of O.J. Simpson (Biography.com). The lesser-known Mehri, meanwhile, had led cases against of Texaco and Coca-Cola worth a combined nearly $370 million in out-of-court settlements (Mehri & Skalet, P.L.L.C.).
After the document was released by Cochran and Mehri, the NFL realized it needed to act on the situation. Dan Rooney was the main figure in getting something going. In December 2002, a group on diversity led by Rooney issued its recommendations, most crucially a requirement that any club seeking to hire a head coach will interview one or more minority applicants for that position (NFL). This "Rooney Rule" was issued to all the teams in the league. Any team that violated the rule would be penalized by the commissioner.
By 2006, the number of teams with African American head coaches rose from two to seven, and then leveled off (USA Today). Wanting to expand from this concept, team owners this June announced they had voted to extend the rule to cover senior front-office vacancies (Horowitz). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his full support to the owners.
Things came to a head early on. In 2003, when Detroit Lions President Matt Millen hired a white, Steve Mariucci, as head coach, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue slapped his team with a $200,000 fine (CBS Sports). Prompting this drastic action was the fact that Millen had announced his intention to hire Mariucci in advance, thus discouraging five already-contacted African American candidates from coming in for interviews (Horowitz). Worse yet, noted affirmative action advocates, Mariucci's immediate former employer, the San Francisco 49ers, hired veteran college and pro coach Dennis Erickson over former Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green, an African American (Horowitz). Erickson, critics said, was a mere "recycled" coach who benefited from white skin privilege (Horowitz).
When you think about it, these cases made the Rooney Rule look good. Mariucci was not able to turn the Lions into a decent team. In the 2008 season, they suffered the ultimate embarrassment of a 0-16 season. The 49ers with Erickson, weren't much better. Last year's midseason hiring of an African American, former Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, turned things around (Horowitz). When both these coaches were hired though, they had impressive resumes. Steve Mariucci during his six seasons at the helm of the 49ers (1997-2002) racked up a 57-39 (.594) combined regular season win-loss record, taking his team to the playoffs four times, and with a 12-4 record or better in three of those seasons (Pro-Football-Reference). His departure, actually a firing following a postseason blowup with team General Manager Terry Donahue, placed him at the top of any team's short lists (Horowitz). As for Dennis Erickson, currently head coach at Arizona State, he had been, and still is, one of the NCAA's most successful coaches, with huge success at the helm of Miami and Oregon State (Arizona State University Athletics). Erickson also led the NFL's Seattle Seahawks to respectable performances during the 1995-98 seasons (Pro-Football-Reference). It was a fact that Erickson brought a great deal of experience to the table. Dennis Green, in his own right, had amassed an impressive record, producing a .610 cumulative winning percentage during his decade with the Vikings, though later he posted a .333 winning percentage with the Arizona Cardinals (Pro-Football-Reference). But the thought of that hiring decisions were based completely on racism is just ridiculous. Nobody can predict the outcome of a hiring decision. That's why teams go through an interviewing process anyway, isn't it. I don't blame the Lions and 49ers for choosing the coaches they did, they were both proven winners and looked good at the time.
Although the Rooney Rule might seem unfair to some, I think it is pretty fair. Let's face it, the rule isn't going to be perfect; it has only been around for a couple years. It's the least football can do though, given that the majority of NFL players are now African American and that African American-coached teams, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers under Mike Tomlin, have been proven winners (Horowitz). Unfortunately, this view leaves out more than it explains.
Rooney Rule enthusiasts point to the results, and they are pretty impressive. Young Mike Tomlin, only in his second season as Steelers head coach, took his team to a Super Bowl win this February in a 27-23 thriller over the Arizona Cardinals (Horowitz). As the number of African American coaches has increased, the number of African American success stories also has increased (Horowitz). The 2007 Super Bowl involved a historic match-up between two African American head coaches, the Indianapolis Colts' Tony Dungy and the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith (Horowitz). In 2009, the Indianapolis Colts hired Jim Caldwell as their head coach, and look where they are now... 13-0 and looking like the best team in the NFL.
The question is though, did those successes result from the Rooney Rule? Dungy had established a strong track record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then with the Colts before the rule was adopted (Horowitz). Lovie Smith, who had been the linebackers coach under Dungy at Tampa Bay, was a natural candidate (Chicago Bears). And Tomlin, contrary to common perception, was not a beneficiary (Horowitz). His boss, Dan Rooney, the man whose name adorns the Rooney Rule, asserted as much when he hired him in 2007. "Let me say this: Mike Tomlin was not part of the Rooney Rule," Rooney said (Smith). "We had already interviewed Ron Rivera (then the Bears' defensive coordinator), and so that fulfilled the obligation (Smith). We went on, had heard about Mike, called him in and talked to him (Smith). He was very impressive" (Smith). That's how things should work. The whole purpose, and only purpose, of an interview is to find a head coach that you think will help your team win. Why should an NFL team worry more about race than winning?
A problem I see coming up is that some teams will not hire a coach because he is the best choice. They will hire whoever the public thinks they should hire, especially if multiple races are involved. Most of the time when the public sees an African American hired, they feel the need to applaud the team for making the hiring. If the team hires a white, the public really has no feeling towards it. They act like nothing really special happened. To me, that says the public is very attentive to anything that happens regarding to race.
One thing I would like to know is that how people can immediately assume that a coaching decision was made based on the race of the candidates. I find that to be completely insane. The only real situation in which I would definitely say race is involved, is if the university has a history of not hiring minority coaches, or has a history of not recruiting minority players. In that situation, I don't see how anyone cannot say that race is involved. Other than that, I can't really think of anything else that would automatically be considered racism. There are just too many factors to look at when deciding on a head coach, or any coach for that matter.
While the NFL is the only well-followed sports league to have this type of rule, more leagues area looking to follow. The Black Coaches Association (BCA), for one, is demanding that the National Collegiate Athletic Association adopt the Rooney Rule idea for hiring Division I football head coaches (Horowitz). Currently, the NCAA does not have any rule like the Rooney Rule in place (Horowitz). BCA Executive Director Floyd Keith has threatened legal action if more minorities aren't hired (Horowitz). I see something big happening in the near future involving the NCAA making a statement about a rule being put in place. If something isn't said, I believe the NCAA is going to hit... hard.
Just like the BCA, there are a ton of people who want a policy put in place to help out minority coaching candidates. Last year, Auburn University's decision to hire Gene Chizik as its next football coach over Turner Gill, an African American, definitely caused a huge uproar. The coaching decision received public attention after Charles Barkley, a former NBA player, accused Auburn University of race discrimination. And to tell you the truth, I agree with him. The other candidate was Turner Gill, who turned around Buffalo University's football program while Chizik struggled mightily at Iowa State. As expected, the school denied that race was a factor in the hiring. Although Gill did not get a chance at Auburn, I'm glad to see him finally coaching a big name team. Gill was hired as Kansas University's head coach early this month (ESPN).
If you were to compare the NFL and NCAA in terms of the race of head coaches, you would find that the NCAA has to do something. While the NFL currently has seven minority head coaches, there are only nine minority head coaches working at one of 120 major bowl eligible schools in NCAA football (Alston). When you think about it, an African American has a better chance at becoming a head coach in the NFL, where there are only 32 teams. That is just insane.
I have my own opinion on the fact that the Rooney Rule "requires" a team to interview at least one minority candidate for a vacant head coaching job. Although the "Rooney Rule" is believed by some to put too much pressure on teams, I believe it can be altered in a way that still helps minorities get head coaching jobs. I believe that the rule should be changed. I think it should be changed so that teams only have to meet the "requirement" if they don't hire their first candidate, in other words, if they don't hire the first person they interview. That way, teams don't have to worry about meeting any requirements while still having to choose their head coach for the future. Another positive factor in this "updated" version of the rule is that candidates will not have to waste their time going to an interview if they know that the team they are visiting has all but signed their first candidate. As you can see, this version helps out both sides. Welcome to the "Rooney Rule", it's going to be here for a while.
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Narration - paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 11, 15
Compare and Contrast - paragraphs 12, 13, 14
Example - paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 9
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