Fritz Pollard Alliance calls for expansion of Rooney Rule

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group supporting the promotion of minority coaches, front office and scouting personnel, has sent a letter to the NFL calling for expansion of the Rooney Rule.

After eight head-coaching positions and seven general manager jobs were filled this offseason without a single minority candidate getting one of the spots, there has been intense focus on the lack of minority hiring. The letter calls for the Rooney Rule to be expanded to include hirings for coordinator, assistant head coach and club president positions.

One of the complaints you hear about a lack of minority candidates for head-coaching jobs is the lack of minorities in coordinator roles. With this change, the hope would be that shortcoming is addressed and corrected.

Here is a copy of the letter to the NFL from chairman John Wooten and executive director Harry Carson:

As the Fritz Pollard Alliance enters its tenth year, we have been reflecting on how we have grown as an organization and on the outstanding relationship we have developed with the both of you, the Commissioner, and the rest of the league’s front office. We are proud of this partnership and the equal opportunity gains it has produced.

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. Eight teams had head coach openings and now all eight teams have hired. None has hired a minority. The result is that only four of the league’s 32 teams have a minority head coach. 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.

We would like to take this opportunity to set forth in writing some suggestions that we have been recently discussing with Robert, Troy, 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. 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.

As such, although we believe that a new head coach coming in should have the right to construct his staff as he wishes, in the case of a sitting head coach we propose that the Rooney Rule apply to all offensive and defensive coordinator and assistant head coach hirings. In addition, to ensure continued equal opportunity in the clubs’ front offices, we propose that the Rooney Rule apply when club presidents are hired.

Finally, again to expand opportunity as widely as possible, we propose that the NFL reinitiate its front office and coaching symposia with the purpose of training coaches and front office personnel to be ready to take over when the opportunity arises. We would suggest that each club submit two people – one of whom is a minority – from each category for participation in the symposia. For the reasons outlined above, it is very important that play calling be a part of the training program for coaches and that this training extends into the preseason games. We have a plan, which we would like to share with you, for the way in which this play calling training can be implemented.

We are confident that these proposals will be effective in expanding opportunity and making the NFL an even better place to work and play. We look forward to hearing from you and discussing these proposals with you at your earliest convenience.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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