6/15 Roundtable - Is A Rooney Rule Needed?
Buffalo head coach Turner Gill
Buffalo head coach Turner Gill
Posted Jun 15, 2009

Does college football need a Rooney Rule? It's the Monday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 15

Should college football have a Rooney Rule in place?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 12 Should Alabama vacate wins?
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: Should college football have an official Rooney Rule, the NFL rule that requires teams to interview minority head coaching candidates?

Would it hurt anyone? No, and the Rule certainly helped the cause in the NFL, so if there needs to be a check and balance to make sure minorities are getting a look at the head coaching jobs after being all but shut out over the long history of the sport, fine.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the problems college football has had in its woeful lack of head coaching diversity. First, at this point in the game, to accuse a college administration of being racist, which is what's being insinuated any time there's a hubbub over a minority not getting hired, is wrong, cheap, lazy, and worst of all, dangerous.

Auburn hiring Gene Chizik over Turner Gill might have been strange on the surface, especially considering where the SEC was at when it came to integration around 40 years ago, but does anyone with a brain really think skin color had anything to do with the decision? Hiring Gill, at the very least from a PR standpoint, would've been the easy thing for Auburn to do. At the most basic element, jobs and careers are on the line with this out-of-the-box hire of Chizik, a coach who did nothing at Iowa State, and self-interest alone would've made it obvious that the powers-that-be would want to save their own paychecks by hiring the guy they thought was the best candidate. And that's the flip-side in the Rooney Rule discussion; maybe the minority candidate was interviewed and didn't nail it (which was the inside rumor coming from the Gill interview). Maybe Auburn thinks Chizik has the potential to be far better in a different setting (remember, it's not like Bill Belichick was a genius at Cleveland).

And then there's the second part of the discussion. Maybe the non-minority candidate is a slam-dunk choice. Colorado got a in a little hot water a few years back after going through the motions in the coaching search when it knew Dan Hawkins was going to be the hire all along. If a program is going to hire a coordinator with no head coaching experience to run the program, that's one thing, but if the desired hire is a coach like Hawkins, who appeared at the time to be a perfect fit for Colorado, then there can't be too much of an outrage when a program arranges a token interview to satisfy a requirement. Again, either step up and call the school administrators racist for choosing a head coach on the basis of skin color, and be able to back it up, or use logic and reasoning before going with the potentially explosive innuendos.

So why would a "token" interview help and why is it needed? Is Hawkins working out at Colorado? Not really, and maybe the job opening will be there in the near future. While a Rooney Rule interview might just be window dressing at first, it could mean a stronger look the second time around and more exposure across the coaching landscape. Coaches rarely stay at the same school for several years and there's always plenty of turnover after each season.

It wasn't all that long ago when having an African-American at quarterback or middle linebacker was considered a big deal, and soon, skin color won't be in the discussion when it comes to hiring a college football head coach. Real progress is being made, measured partly by the lack of fanfare over race when New Mexico State, New Mexico, Miami University and Eastern Michigan hired new head coaches. But does that mean the problem is solved? Hardly, and there's still a place for a type of Rooney Rule in college football just to keep the discussion and the problem on the front-burner. It's a fair way to address the issue, even if it might have an undesired side-effect of calling attention to skin color when the overall goal is to erase the distinction from the equation.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: Should college football have an official Rooney Rule, the NFL rule that requires teams to interview minority head coaching candidates?

No. Listen, like most any sane individual, I don’t have any tolerance for racism or exclusionary hiring practices. I saw it in action at the very early stages of my career, and it’s ugly and the height of ignorance. However, I’m not a supporter of anything that resembles affirmative action, which the Rooney Rule approaches by requiring organizations to interview at least one minority candidate or else suffer a significant fine.

To properly answer this question, you first have to answer this one: Do you believe specific colleges have intentionally avoided hiring minority head coaches? If there’s proof, let’s get it out there, whack those schools with sanctions, and force the violators out. If not, doesn’t the Rooney Rule basically accuse college football of being racist by suggesting the only way to change the numbers is through legislation and enforcement? Go ahead and label me naïve, but I do not believe that to be the case. Has race ever been a factor in hiring? I’d imagine so, but I don’t believe it’s a common practice, especially at institutions typically revered for their open-mindedness and quest for equity. If the schools are not inherently racist, should we be mandating them, both public and private alike, to interview minority candidates? It seems a rather heavy-handed and intrusive to me.

I’ve spoken to BCA executive director Floyd Keith on more than one occasion. I believe his heart is in the right place, but his blueprint for progress is flawed. If you want more exposure for some of the best and the brightest among minority coaches, you’ve got to treat this situation like a Heisman campaign. Promote, promote, promote. If you want Mike London, Charlie Strong, Tyrone Nix, and countless other quality coaches to get more national exposure, making them household names could be more effective than getting big brother involved.

Back in 1963, Martin Luther King waxed famously that he sought a nation that no longer judged by the color of skin, but by the content of character. Regardless of the situation, I wholeheartedly agree.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: Should college football have an official Rooney Rule, the NFL rule that requires teams to interview minority head coaching candidates?

No one's saying you have to hire a minority candidate, but giving a minority a legitimate interview opportunity would move the ball forward.
One sports truism can be applied to this discussion: "If we can just give ourselves a chance to win, that's all we can ask..."
Just give all candidates a chance to snag a job after being ignored in the past, for whatever reason -- that's all that can reasonably be asked for.
Sure, many will counter with the reasonable and perfectly valid argument that it's pointless, even potentially demeaning, to give someone an interview when you're really not interested in that person. If that mindset does indeed persist, yeah, there is a certain lack of honesty to the process. However, the whole point of the Rooney Rule was and is to get organizations to at least hear out minority candidates in the first place. If enough minority assistants are listened to in the offices of athletic directors and school presidents, perhaps the larger mindset will change in the manner being sought by the Black Coaches Association.

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Should college football have an official Rooney Rule, the NFL rule that requires teams to interview minority head coaching candidates?

: I guess I'm not one that is fond of quotas, but then again I have always been a part of the majority; American white male.  Perhaps that means my opinion on this matter comes from a place that can’t possibly understand the importance of things like the ‘Rooney Rule’, but I guess I still cling to the notion that the best person is going to get the job.  Now, I will admit that can’t possibly always be the case in a world like college football.  Buddies get AD positions and they can look to bring in one of their old school, beer swilling fellas from the Pi Kappa Alpha Days.  However, that usually doesn’t work out so well.

If we are going to have the Rooney Rule for head coaches, why stop there?  Why not make it a requirement that whomever is the head coach has to run the Rooney Rule for the assistant ranks of the staff?  And you keep going, and going and going.  Title IX has been horrible for major college athletics and I would see something like the Rooney Rule being akin to Title IX.  Let the best man win the job.  There are going to be examples of bias and possibly even prejudice, so someone will always need to be a watcher on that wall, but keep the Rooney Rule out of college football.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: Should college football have an official Rooney Rule, the NFL rule that requires teams to interview minority head coaching candidates?

A: I don’t think so.  I mean, the premise seems noble enough, but what has it really done? 

I don’t think Auburn would have hired Turner Gill if the Rooney Rule had been in place.  I don’t think Charlie Strong would be a head coach by now if the Rooney Rule was in place.

Here’s the deal, programs don’t care all that much about having to interview an extra candidate.  If these guys didn’t want to hire someone they were forced to interview, then they probably still wouldn’t hire him.  They’d ask him some questions, pat him on the back, and wish him well.  Then they’d go hire the guy they wanted from the start.

Then there’s the fact that some of these guys don’t want to spend the time and money to go interview for a job that they know they won’t get.  When a team has a clear cut candidate, much like the Detroit Lions did when replacing Marty Mornhinweg, then what’s the point?  It seems almost insulting to me to be the only minority asked to interview simply because the team had to invite you.

I don’t see that the Rooney Rule has done all that much in the NFL.  Sure the numbers are up slightly, but the guy for whom the rule was named, Steelers owner Dan Rooney, has already stated that hiring Mike Tomlin had nothing to do with his rule.  Adding this stipulation to the ranks of college football would do no more good than the sign at the public pool that says “No Running.”