Fritz Pollard Alliance Challenges NFL to Expand Rooney Rule After Dismal Hiring Season
Groundbreaking Policy Recommended for Coordinator,
Assistant Head Coach, and President Positions
WASHINGTON, DC (January 22, 2013)—In a letter to National Football League (NFL) executives sent Tuesday, the Fritz Pollard Alliance (FPA) — an affinity group of minority coaches, front office and scouting personnel established ten years ago -called for an expansion of the league’s historic diversity initiative, the Rooney Rule, to include coordinator, assistant head coach, and club president positions. The proposal comes shortly after NFL teams formalized their 2013 head coach and general manager hires, none of whom are minorities.
In a letter to Executive Vice President of Human Resources Robert Gulliver and Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Pash, the FPA noted, “We have read and we agree with Robert’s recent statement that from a diversity perspective, this has been a disappointing head coach and general manager hiring cycle. We would like to take this opportunity to set forth in writing some suggestions that we have been recently discussing with Robert, Troy [Vincent], and others in the League office…
“We believe that for the Rule to be as effective as it can be, it must be expanded to apply to offensive and defensive coordinators and assistant head coaches as well. 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, and this expansion will diversify the head coaching pipeline.”
The letter was signed by John Wooten and Harry Carson, Chairman and Executive Director of the FPA, respectively.
Now in its tenth year, the Rooney Rule provides that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for any open head coach position, and has led to the hiring of a record number of African-American coaches since its implementation in 2003. However, with the recent dismissals of Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel, and no additional minority hires, only four of 32 teams have an African-American or Latino head coach— the lowest head coach diversity numbers the league has seen in a decade. Similarly, no minority front office candidate was selected for any of the vacant GM positions.
“We know that the clubs individually and collectively can do better,” said Cyrus Mehri, co-founder and counsel of the FPA and a key architect of the original Rooney Rule. “We believe that extending the Rooney Rule to the coordinator, assistant head coach and president positions will deepen the pipeline and enhance the competition for the top jobs in the years ahead.”
In the letter, the FPA also proposed that the NFL reinitiate its front office and coaching symposia to train coaches and front office personnel to be ready to take over when the opportunity arises.
“In this quarterback-dominated era, it seems clubs are increasingly looking for offensive coaches to fill head coaching positions in particular, and far too few minority coaches have been given offensive coordinator and play-calling responsibilities,” said Mr. Mehri. “We want to see a special focus on offensive coordinator and play calling duties going forward. We have many experienced wide receiver and running back position coaches ready to be coordinators now.”
“Last night at the Senior Bowl, we met with a good cross section of our members,” said Mr. Wooten. “They are very frustrated and disappointed with the recent hiring stats, but they are behind this new call to action. And just a day after Martin Luther King Day, we have to remember Dr. King’s words: the arc of history bends towards justice. We will learn from this and move forward in a positive way.”