NFL, NCAA Football Minority Coaches and Creating Stronger Opportunities

Bryan Beasley Contributor IJanuary 13, 2011

Mike Tomlin
Mike TomlinJared Wickerham/Getty Images

As we typically see around this time of year heading into the start of the NFL Playoffs, head coaches are being fired, interviewed and hired around the league with teams that did not make the postseason. 

I felt prompted to write this article as I watched "Outside the Lines" today on ESPN, and the topic of discussion revolved around African-American head coaches and giving them opportunities to have successful coaching campaigns in the NFL and NCAA football. 

The topic of discussion was the 'Rooney Rule' that was implemented in the NFL.

The Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003 and mandates that NFL teams interview minority candidates for various head coaching and senior football operations opportunities. 

This rule stems from Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and the Rooney family tradition in providing African-Americans a chance to grab a leadership positions. Rooney is also chairman of the NFL's diversity committee. 

There were not many minority head coaches in the NFL, especially when you consider names like Denny Green, Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy.

These coaches were in the league before the Rooney Rule was implemented and struggled for years before getting a head coaching position in the NFL. 

Here's what the current situation in the NFL looks like, in terms of minority head coaches: 

-Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

-Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears 

-Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts 

-Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals 

-Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers [Fired] 

-Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 


Three of the six have guided their teams toward the Super Bowl and the overall regular season record of these coaches was 52-43.

In addition, Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings turned around a struggling team and was eventually named the Vikings head coach. 

Like it or not, the Rooney Rule has worked.

However, these rich billionaire owners do not care about the Rooney Rule and will pay greater attention to leading their franchise to winning. The owners won't care about a $250,000 fine for not interviewing minority coaches for the most part. 

But, I do believe that it is essential that the league attempt to discover qualified minorities. 

The NFL has established more inequality, especially when you consider there had been six minority coaches in the NFL modern era before this rule was in place. However, this rule is not a be-all, end-all and is definitely not a lifetime pass for African-American coaches. 

The question becomes how can a rule like this be put into place with the NCAA and the football programs throughout the country? 

Tony Dungy was extremely vocal about this issue in college a year ago and called it "disgraceful." 

Notable African-American coaches in college football are Turner Gill at Kansas, Charlie Strong at Louisville, Joker Phillips at Kentucky, Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina and Mike London at Virginia. 

Earlier this year, Miami's head coach Randy Shannon was questionably fired after a loss to South Florida. Shannon had stopped the widely known disorderly behavior amongst the players of Miami and promoted academic progress of the student-athletes. 

In addition, when Auburn questionably hired Gene Chizik as its head coach, Turner Gill was a big candidate after having a large amount of success at Buffalo. Gill might have not gotten the opportunity because of the color of his skin, but also because his wife is white. Charles Barkley was not happy with the hire of his alma mater. 

Also, there has been an issue that boosters may not donate as freely if a minority is the head coach at a university. 

In some cases, boosters can make up for at least half of the overall budget of a football program for a prominent D-I school. 

Ultimately, the NCAA will see change in this situation if they implement a rule similar to the Rooney Rule. They have a stupid rule for just about everything else, so I believe they can provide a rule for minority coaching opportunities that will produce effective results. 

What else can the NCAA do to minimize the problems that boosters may have against donating if there was a minority head coach? 

Time will tell, but there is clearly still some tension in terms of letting minorities take over football programs. The NCAA most find ways to limit this and create a stronger sense of equality.