Diversity group seeks expansion of NFL’s Rooney Rule to cover coordinator jobs

rooney

Dan Rooney in 2011

The watchdog group that oversees diversity in NFL hiring has asked the league to expand the sport’s minority interviewing rule to cover most vacancies for offensive and defensive coordinator jobs.

The request by leaders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance in a letter to NFL officials dated Saturday and released Tuesday, comes after no minority candidates were hired for any of the eight head coaching jobs or seven general manager vacancies recently filled by NFL teams.

“The result is that only four of the league’s 32 teams have a minority head coach,” said the letter, which was signed by the organization’s chairman, John Wooten, and executive director, Harry Carson. “These are the lowest head coach diversity numbers the league has seen since 2003, when the Rooney Rule was just implemented. Similarly, no minority front office candidate was selected for any of the vacant GM positions.”

The letter was addressed to Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s executive vice president of human resources, and league counsel Jeff Pash.

The interviewing rule, commonly called the Rooney Rule after Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who was instrumental in its implementation, requires each NFL team with a head coaching or GM vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate.

All teams complied with the requirement during the hiring cycle that just ended, according to the league. Leaders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance have said in previous years they were focused more intently on opportunities than hiring results. But NFL officials have expressed dismay at the lack of diversity in this year’s hiring cycle, and the group contends that an extension of the interviewing rule to coordinator jobs would put more minority candidates into the head coaching pipeline.

“We believe pipeline issues are a part of the reason we’ve seen a reduction in head coaches of color over the past few years,” the letter says, “and this expansion will diversify the head coaching pipeline. In particular, far too few minority coaches have been given offensive coordinator and play calling responsibilities, and in this quarterback-dominated era it seems clubs are increasingly looking for offensive coaches to fill head coaching positions. Without this expansion of the Rooney Rule, it is hard for us to see minority coaches in the league getting the head coaching opportunities they deserve.”

The group proposes that the interviewing rule apply only to teams with carryover head coaches. Those teams with newly hired head coaches would be exempted. The alliance  proposes extending the interviewing rule to team president jobs as well, with the goal of ensuring “continued equal opportunity in the clubs’ front offices.”

In addition, the organization asks the league to revive seminars to prepare coaches and front office members, both minority and non-minority, for promotion opportunities.

According to the letter, such changes already have been discussed with the league.

In a written statement released Friday by the NFL, Gulliver said “the hiring results this year have been unexpected and reflect a disappointing lack of diversity.”

Gulliver also said: “The Rooney Rule has been a valuable tool in expanding diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, but there is more work to do, especially around increasing and strengthening the pipeline of diverse candidates for head coach and senior football executive positions. We have already started the process of developing a plan for additional steps that will better ensure more diversity and inclusion on a regular basis in our hiring results.”

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