Just recently, Jim Harbaugh was hired as the latest football coach of the Michigan Wolverines. His contract is for seven years and he is set to be paid $5 million dollars per year. Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers after coaching the team for four seasons. It appears that Harbaugh and the front office of the San Francisco 49ers didn’t get along to well to continue their relationship.
Now, the purpose of this article is not to talk about NFL teams and their relationship with their coaches. Rather, I do want to focus in particular rule that the NFL implemented in 2003 when teams hire coaches. It is known as the Rooney Rule. Named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the storied NFL franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers, this rule requires that any NFL team interview at least one minority candidate for any coaching and senior football operation vacancy.
The purpose of this rule was to provide diversity in key positions in the NFL. When I saw that Jim Harbaugh was hired, I couldn’t help but think would a school like Michigan throw money out to a black candidate like they did for Harbaugh? The NCAA does not have any rule that is equivalent to the “Rooney Rule.”
While Division 1 NCAA football does employ certain hiring guidelines similar to the Rooney Rule, this is only voluntary. Per the NCAA’s website, there were eight black head coaches in the Football Championship Subdivision. The number of black football head coaches rose from 14 to 17 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
While the NCAA considers these numbers encouraging, one can still see that further progress has to be made. This issue reminds me of the story of Nat King Cole, the late great jazz singer and pianist, was the first Black-American to host his own variety program on NBC from 1956-1957. The show was cancelled after one season because national advertisers would not take a chance on a person of color. Nat King Cole was quoted as saying after the show’s cancellation, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.” How true do those words ring in 2014? It’s a question that the NCAA should answer.