West Coast Conference Adopts the 'Russell Rule' for Diversity Hiring Commitment

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2020

Bill Russell accepts the Arthur Ashe award for courage at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

In an effort to increase the number of minority coaches and administrators within the league, the West Coast Conference announced the adoption of the "Russell Rule," named for Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

Similar to the "Rooney Rule" in the NFL, each school within the WCC will have to include "a member of a traditionally underrepresented community" in its final pool of candidates when hiring for key positions. This includes head coaches and assistant coaches as well as athletic director and senior administrator positions.

According to the release, this is the first conference-wide initiative to improve diversity hiring in Division I athletics.

"It is my hope the West Coast Conference initiative will encourage other leagues and schools to make similar commitments," Russell said. "We need to be intentional if we’re going to make real change for people of color in leadership positions in college athletics. I'm proud to assist the WCC and Commissioner Nevarez by endorsing this most important initiative."

Before winning 11 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, Russell starred at San Francisco, which is now in the WCC. The center won two NCAA titles with the Dons, averaging 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game in his three collegiate seasons.

He has continued to push for social justice following his playing career and has become a key part of the conference's "We Are Committed to Change" initiative.

In addition to the hiring commitment, the league also has antiracism educational webinars for all personnel as well as video campaigns and civic engagement.

It could help increase the number of minority coaches across sports, especially in college basketball. According to Rob Dauster of NBC Sports, 29.2 percent of Division I schools nationwide have Black head coaches, including just 13.8 percent in Power Five leagues.

This is despite Black players representing 53.6 percent of Division I as of 2017-18 and (as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out) almost 80 percent of scholarship athletes at major conferences, per Dauster.

The WCC will follow through on its commitment by handing out report cards for each member institution based on annual racial and gender hirings.