Sunday, January 13, 2008

What about a Rooney Rule for College Coaches?

I was pleased to read that NCAA President Myles Brand used the opportunity of his address to the annual NCAA convention yesterday to call attention to the lack of women and minorities in head coaching and athletic director positions.

After remarking that Title IX and the integration of American universities have each created opportunities in sport for women and people of color, Brand continued:

There remain challenges to the full implementation of Title IX and from attempts to roll it back. African-American student-athletes compete well in college sports, making up 63 percent of the Division I basketball teams and 55 percent of the football teams. But there remain challenges for African-Americans in leadership positions, athletics directorships and head football coaches in particular.

There is work to be done to meet these challenges before we can claim that intercollegiate athletics genuinely demonstrates social justice. Among the challenges on which we must focus is the full implementation of Title IX. Women continue to be under-represented in terms of grants-in-aid for student-athletes, coaching opportunities for women’s sports, and leadership positions in terms of athletics director positions. Athletics scholarships, coaching positions and athletics directorships must, of course, be allocated on the bases of talent and hard work. But it is simply incredulous that the talent pool is so weighted toward men to produce this imbalance. The facts, as well as the history of past lack of female representation, point to a continuing problem of injustice.

He then concluded on this topic by suggesting that "the NCAA national office and the over 1,000 universities it represents, must recognize the[se] challenges and commit ourselves to meet them."

This seems like the perfect invitation to (re)visit the issue of extending the idea behind the NFL's Rooney Rule to the NCAA, and to consider expanding its scope to address women as well as racial minorities. Under such a rule, the NCAA would forbid its member institutions from conducting closed, single-candidate searches for head coach and athletic director positions, and it would require them to interview at least one female and at least one minority candidate before filling any such position.

This rule would be subject to some kind of narrow exception for situations where there is genuinely no such applicant or potential applicant to be found, an exception that would probably be most frequently invoked as it applies to female applicants for football head coach positions, since there are not many women among the ranks of former football players, which universities often consider the to be the traditional applicant pool. However, in light of the facts that (1) some women do play football, both in college and in other contexts, and (2) not every head coach is a former player of that sport, this exception would apply only on a case-by-case basis and will require the university to conclusively prove that there's no qualified female applicants in order to avoid the requirement of interviewing one.