A recent study by University of Iowa economist John Solow found little evidence of racial discrimination in head coach hiring by National Football League Teams. In 2003, the NFL instituted the "Rooney Rule" to try and increase the number of racial minorities who served as head coaches. The rule required teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities. Despite the league’s effort to increase diversity in the head coaching ranks, some are critical that six years after its implementation, only six of the 32 NFL teams have minority coaches. Seventy five percent of NFL players are minorities.
Nonetheless, Dr. Solow concluded that race is not an important factor in promotion decisions for head coaches. Solow studied head coach hiring from 1970-2008, and noted that most vacancies were filled from the ranks of offensive or defensive coordinator positions. He found that success as a coordinator was the most important factor in moving to the head coaching ranks. According to Solow, the most effective means for the NFL to increase the number of minority head coaches would be to increase the number of minorities in the lower level coaching positions from which head coaches are ultimately drawn. Solow contends that applying the Rooney Rule to these other coaching positions would be the best way to increase the number of minorities in the head coaching ranks.
"If the league introduced African-American coaches into the front of the pipeline instead of at the end, more of those coaches would have the experience teams are looking for and be more likely to be hired as head coaches," Solow said.
Solow’s statement could be applied to virtually any workplace. Some might call it simplistic, but it makes sense that providing people opportunities at the entry level is key to developing diversity throughout an organization. Despite those who criticize the NFL because of the low number of minority head coaches, there are few organizations today as color blind as professional sports leagues. There is virtually no other industry where minorities have been as successful. If other workplaces were as color blind as the NFL, we wouldn’t be so worried about diversity.