Rooney Rule Fact Sheet

Rooney Rule Fact Sheet January 22, 2013 In January of 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Tony Dungy – their…

Rooney Rule Fact Sheet

Rooney Rule Fact Sheet
January 22, 2013

In January of 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Tony Dungy – their all-time most successful coach – on the heels of the franchise’s best ever string of seasons, leaving the 32-team National Football League with one minority head coach.  The firing was emblematic of what minority coaches in the NFL had long felt: although minorities made up roughly 70 percent of the league’s players, minority coaches were generally the last hired and first fired.

Civil Rights lawyers Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. were furious with Dungy’s firing and they believed it was the result of systematic racial discrimination in the NFL.  They Commissioned a University of Pennsylvania labor economist to compare the win-loss records of NFL head coaches by race over the previous 15 seasons, and the results were stunning.  African American coaches won more games than white coaches but were less likely to obtain and retain head coaching positions.  Mehri and Cochran used the University of Pennsylvania study as the basis of a report they titled “Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance; Inferior Opportunities” and sent it to the NFL’s New York headquarters.  Ultimately, after several months of deliberation, the NFL implemented one of Mehri and Cochran’s principal proposals:  that every team looking for a head coach should interview at least one minority candidate before making a hire.  Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney was one of the proposal’s stalwart advocates as the NFL owners consider it, and the initiative therefore took his name: The Rooney Rule.

The Rooney Rule has been very effective in increasing diversity among the NFL’s head coaches during its ten year existence:

  • In the NFL’s 80-plus year existence before the Rooney Rule’s adoption, six African Americans had been NFL head coaches.   In the ten years since, eleven African Americans and one Latino have been hired as NFL head coaches:  Marvin Lewis of the Bengals,  Lovie Smith of the Bears, Herman Edwards of the Chiefs (who was hired for his first head coach job by the Jets before the Rooney Rule was enacted), Romeo Crennel of the Browns and then of the Chiefs, Art Shell of the Raiders (who was hired for his first head coach job by the Raiders before the Rooney Rule was enacted), Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Mike Singletary of the 49ers, Jim Caldwell of the Colts, Raheem Morris of the Buccaneers, Leslie Frazier of the Vikings, Hue Jackson of the Raiders, and Ron Rivera of the Panthers
  • The last seven Super Bowls (inclusive of the 2013 Super Bowl) have featured five African American head coaches (Lovie Smith of the Bears, Tony Dungy of the Colts, twice Mike Tomlin of the Steelers,  and Jim Caldwell of the Colts)
  • In 2007, the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule to apply to the General Manager position
  • The last seven Super Bowls (inclusive of the 2013 Super Bowl) have featured four African American General Managers  (twice Jerry Reese of the Giants, Rod Graves of the Cardinals, and Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens)
  • The last seven Super Bowls (inclusive of the 2013 Super Bowl) have featured at least one African American head coach or general manager

In recent years, however, the number of minority head coaches in the NFL has decreased, and this past hiring cycle has been particularly disappointing from a diversity perspective:

  • Eight teams conducted head coach searches.  None of the eight hired a minority head coach
  • Seven teams conducted general manager searches.  None of the seven hired a minority general manager
  • There are now only four minority head coaches in the NFL, the fewest there have been in a decade
  • In the last two seasons Super Bowl Coaches Jim Caldwell and Lovie Smith and Super Bowl GM Rod Graves have lost their jobs

In light of these developments, it appears the NFL’s diversity initiatives need a jolt, a part of which should be an altered and strengthened Rooney Rule.

 

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