NCAA Schools Urged to Adopt Rule to Increase Coaching Diversity

To give minorities a better shot at head coach or other athletic leadership roles at colleges and universities, the National Association for Coaching Equity and Development is pushing NCAA schools to adopt the “Eddie Robinson Rule,” pledging to interview at least one minority candidate when hiring to fill those positions.

Where the NFL has a Rooney, the NCAA needs a Robinson: That’s the message from several athletic organizations seeking to promote diversity in college sports.

Last week, the National Association for Coaching Equity and Development (NAFCED), in partnership with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS) and the No Hate Zone, recommended that all NCAA member institutions and conference commissioners adopt the “Eddie Robinson Rule.”

The rule, which NAFCED is asking NCAA to voluntarily implement, would require institutions to interview at least one minority candidate for all head-coaching and executive athletic leadership positions before making their final hires. It’s similar to the so-called Rooney Rule, which places the same requirement on NFL teams.

Dr. Richard Lapchick, president of NCAS and the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES), coined the rule and has been pushing for such a measure for years.

A study released by TIDES late last year revealed the lack of diversity at Football Bowl Subdivision schools and conferences:  87.5 percent of the 128 head football coaches in the FBS are white. Further, almost 80 percent of college presidents and athletic directors at FBS schools are white men.

“There has been a systematic hiring process that has been in place a long time that has pretty much excluded coaches of color, black coaches in particular,” NAFCED Executive Director Merritt Norvell told Associations Now.

Norvell says what “started out as blatant racism evolved into an indirect discriminatory process” that the three groups are looking to change.

For example, in revenue-producing sports like football and basketball, athletic directors will say they are looking for a sitting head coach, which automatically tells the some 540 minority assistant coaches and 16 minority coordinators that they are not being considered. Athletic directors can also fill out a waiver with their HR departments and classify the hire as an emergency, making it acceptable that a minority candidate was not considered. “People who are qualified never get an opportunity to be interviewed,” Norvell said.

Minority coaches “need an opportunity to compete in this process,” he said. Though he recognizes that even if the Eddie Robinson Rule were adopted, some schools would just go through the motion of interviewing a minority candidate, Norvell said the most important thing is to get the process started.

“If they are talking to our coaches and candidates the way they have professed they do, that’s a positive step for us because right now it’s not happening,” he said. “When 52 to 57 percent of revenue-producing sports players are black, but only seven coaches are black, we have a problem with that.”

A statue of Eddie Robinson, the iconic former Grambling State University football coach. (via the Eddie G. Robinson museum)

Katie Rucke

By Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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