Affirmative “Play Action”
Alfred Anderson | Staff Writer
The Rooney rule requires that all NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching and senior football operations jobs.
Named for Dan Rooney, the chairman of the league’s diversity committee, this regulation was established ten years ago in order to give minorities more leadership opportunities within the organization.
Despite the implementation of this rule, there is a current absence of minority leadership in the NFL.
The first African American head coach in the NFL was Fritz Pollard. He coached and played for the Akron Pros and the Hammond Pros for four years, before being removed from the league in 1926. Afterwards, there weren’t any more African American coaches in the league until 1979. Before the Rooney rule was implemented, there were only six minorities who held head coaching jobs: Tom Flores, Art Shell, Dennis Green, Ray Rhodes, Tony Dungy and Herman Edwards.
Since this time, there have been twelve African American head coaches and one Hispanic head coach hired by NFL teams. However, four of these coaches were interim head coaches and only four of the coaches are still actively coaching in the NFL.
Though the Rooney rule has helped to give a few more minority coaches opportunities, the league isn’t satisfied with the progress that has been made. Last season, there were fourteen head coaching and front office jobs filled, with only one minority hired. The case of former head coach of the Chicago Bears, Lovie Smith, especially stirred up controversy.
Smith, who was hired a year after the Rooney rule was established, won ten games last season. As a result, he was interviewed for many of the head coaching vacancies, however was passed over in favor of other coaches like Andy Reid, who only won four games last season.
When asked their opinion about the lack of minority, specifically African American, head coaches in the NFL, members of N.C. State’s football team shared their opinions. “It’s definitely due to the fact that it takes many coaches years to become head coach at any level and when it comes to the NFL, it could take even longer. Also, since head coaching in the NFL is dominated by white coaches, more African American coaches will have to rise up and go for these jobs,” said defensive-end Mike Rose.
Teammate Maurice Morgan said, “there doesn’t always seem to be many African American coaches who want to be head coaches in the NFL.”
As a result of the lack of progression, the NFL is now discussing an option to expand the Rooney rule. The expansion would require teams to also interview minority coaches for vacant coordinator jobs and president jobs. Although the NFL has not made a final decision about the expansion of the rule, many around the league hope that this can create a bigger pool of potential head-coaching candidates and team leaders, while also improving opportunities for minorities.