Saturday, January 31, 2009

6385: Scoring With The Rooney Rule.

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Steelers owner’s fight for minorities pays off

On Sunday, Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, will add to his family’s long NFL legacy if his team wins a record sixth Super Bowl championship.

But Rooney’s most important legacy may lie less with Super Bowl rings and more with a rule he pushed through the NFL in 2002, now called the Rooney Rule.

It mandates that NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate when they have an opening for a head coaching job, under most circumstances.

Some NFL teams balked at the rule initially. Some still pay it only lip service.

But the rule has delivered a sea change in the racial makeup of head coaches in the NFL.
In 2002, there were only two minority NFL head coaches.

Since then, 11 African-American head coaches have been hired, including the Chicago Bears’ own Lovie Smith.

It’s important to understand what the Rooney Rule is and is not.

It is not a mandatory affirmative action plan.

It doesn’t demand teams hire anyone or meet certain racial quotas, only that they let at least one minority coach in the door for an interview.

For years in the closed, insular world of NFL coaching, getting through that door was pretty tough for African-American coaches.

Now, minority coaches at least get a chance to prove themselves.

And just as important, even when they don’t get the job, they often become part of the mix for the next open job.

While the low-key Rooney over the years has played down the difficulty he faced in getting the rule passed, just imagine how hard it must have been to get a bunch of rich NFL owners—who don’t like anybody telling them anything—to go along.

It is a modest, common-sense step, and look what change it has helped create.

We can already hear critics saying that no hiring decision should be based on race, even who is interviewed; just let the best man get the job.

We’d respond that in many cases the best men did get the job, but NFL teams never would have interviewed them in the first place—they were not the first names that came to mind—were it not for the Rooney Rule.

Anyone care to argue Mike Tomlin isn’t doing a great job coaching the Steelers?

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