Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mocking the Rooney Rule?

Bill Simmons, who writes the Sports Guy column for ESPN, got a good one here when he tweeted: "Thank God for the Rooney Rule. Otherwise Leslie Frazier never woulda had a chance to not have a chance at the Seahawks job."

The Rooney Rule, as you might know, was established in 2003 and requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching or senior positions. The Seattle Seahawks have apparently already guaranteed the job to Pete Carroll. But now, they are wanting to interview a "minority candidate" like a Leslie Frazier just so they can fulfill the Rooney Rule.

What's the point? Well, I guess for the Seahawks, they'd get to avoid paying the fine for breaking the rule. And on paper at least, they seem like they are interested in "diversity."

Over the last three years, Frazier has interviewed for head coaching positions at Atlanta, Miami, Denver, Detroit and St. Louis. Was he a legitimate contender or an opportunity for teams to fulfill the Rooney? Both, perhaps?

There will certainly need to be some tweaking done to the Rooney, if the goal is to avoid the "sham interviews" and give more non-white candidates opportunities. In this regard, the positives of the rule are worth noting. Researcher Brian W. Collins noted in Tackling Unconscious Bias in Hiring Practices: The Plight of the Rooney Rule that despite the shortcomings there is an important silver lining: "The total number of African American candidates recently interviewed has been unprecedented, with a number of candidates receiving multiple interviews and further entrenching themselves in the Caucasian dominated head coaching network."

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