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Old 03-10-2005, 12:47 AM   #1
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Default [Sports Central Newsletter] #122 - It's Madness Month

The Sports Central Newsletter
March 2005 - Issue #122

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor
- The O-Files: "The Rooney Rule is Working"
- Editor's Pick: "NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 2"



Hello folks,

March Madness is looming, and you can expect a full dose of SC coverage throughout the month. But I wanted to remind you that we've branched into NASCAR with Jeffrey Boswell's weekly power rankings. With the explosive growth NASCAR as undergone over the last decade, it was only a matter of time until it got some attention on SC. Look for the weekly NASCAR power rankings every Wednesday during the season, and his NFL predictions during the football season. The latest power rankings are featured in my Editor's Pick below.

Also of interest is a new column at SC, "Sports Q&A," which takes a look at the world of sports, via your questions, and through the eyes of semi-demented SC columnist Jeffrey Boswell, the voice behind the NFL weekly predictions and NASCAR power rankings. This column is pretty self-explanatory, and worth a look: https://www.sports-central.org/sport...s_qa/index.php

Mike's "Shots From the Lip" column should be back next month.

Enjoy the Madness and spring training,

-- Marc James
Sports Central Founder
mailto:[email protected]


|-- THE O-FILES -- |

The Rooney Rule is Working
By Brad Oremland

Renewed emphasis on illegal contact fouls were the big story in the NFL last season, but just two years ago, a controversial new policy known as "The Rooney Rule" was the big story out of the league's front office. The Rooney Rule, named after Dan Rooney (the Hall of Fame owner and administrator of the Pittsburgh Steelers who also chairs the NFL's diversity committee), stipulates that teams with a head coaching vacancy must interview at least one minority for the position -- and it generated much more heated debate than illegal contact.

It's easy to criticize the policy. Detroit Lions president Matt Millen was fined $200,000 by the NFL for not interviewing any minority candidates before hiring Steve Mariucci. According to the team, it had requested interviews with five minorities, all of whom turned them down, feeling the team wanted Mariucci all along. It's difficult to comply when no one wants to talk to you. Furthermore, Mariucci had a track record of proven success and appeared to be a great hire. When someone like Joe Gibbs or Bill Parcells becomes available, do you really need to see anyone else?

For all that, though, the Rooney Rule is working. When it went into effect at the end of the 2002 season, there were two black head coaches in the league. Now, just two years later, there are six, plus Jacksonville's Jack Del Río, who is of Hispanic heritage. In just two years, the number of minorities in head coaching positions has more than tripled.

Over 70% of NFL players are African-American. Does that mean 70% of the league's head coaches need to be, as well? Of course not. But 6% was clearly too low. I use those words -- "too low" -- carefully, because I don't believe the league should have a quota system. The 6% figure was especially troubling, though, because successful coordinators such as Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith were being passed over in favor of less-accomplished white assistants, unproven college coaches, or retreads. The last category is especially troubling, because it opens the door for the "experience" catch-22: you need it to get it.

Probably the most widely-criticized hiring of the last several years was San Francisco's selection of Dennis Erickson in 2003, the first year the Rooney Rule was in effect. Forget for a moment that Erickson was unimpressive as coach of the Seahawks from 1995-98 and that he has already been fired as coach of the 49ers after a disastrous two-year tenure. The Niners paraded Ted Cottrell and Greg Blache, both of whom are African-American, in front of the media, and then out of left field hired Erickson, who had not been considered a serious candidate to that point. 49ers GM Terry Donahue explained that the decision was based on experience and "gut instinct"; San Francisco's front office was simply more comfortable with Erickson.

The 49ers also never interviewed Dennis Green, who had head coaching experience in the NFL -- with much more success than Erickson -- and was part of the Bill Walsh coaching tree from which San Francisco had gotten its head coaches for the last 25 years. For teams other than the 49ers, though, the Rooney Rule helps to insure that minorities are given a fair shot at positions that are truly open. The Lions, without question, wanted Mariucci. It came as no surprise when the Dolphins hired Nick Saban this year, because he was known to be the front-runner. But in the absence of an obvious choice, numerous coaches receive consideration, and the NFL's hiring policy has helped bring qualified minorities into that process.

Now when a team finds itself in the market for a new coach and doesn't already have its eye on someone like Mariucci, one of the first things the front office considers is which minority candidate or candidates it wants to talk to. In years past, the owner or GM might have stuck to people he was "comfortable" with, but since the new policy, one third of all head coaching hires have gone to minorities (5-of-15), including half of all first-time head coaches (4-of-8).

From the end of World War II until the Rooney Rule went into effect -- almost 60 years -- seven head coaching vacancies were filled by blacks (including two each by Ray Rhodes and Tony Dungy, but not Terry Robiskie's three-game interim stint in Washington). In the two years since, four black men have been hired as NFL head coaches (counting Dennis Green's new job in Arizona, but not Robiskie's five games as Cleveland's interim leader).

Can all of this progress be attributed to the new policy crafted by Rooney? Probably not. Green is an extremely accomplished coach and it is almost unthinkable that he would not have gotten another chance. Marvin Lewis, Lovie Smith, and Romeo Crennel were the most highly-regarded defensive coordinators in the NFL when they were hired. Social progress in general has almost certainly played a role.

But would all seven of the NFL's minority head coaches have their current jobs in the absence of some policy like the Rooney Rule? Probably not. Art Shell was very successful as coach of the Raiders, but no one picked him up. No one hired Lewis after he directed Baltimore to one of the best defensive seasons in history in 2000, or when he replicated his efforts in 2001; only after the 2002 season, with the Rooney Rule in effect, did Lewis finally get his shot. Tampa Bay's ownership even stepped in and overruled its general manager to prevent Lewis's hiring.

For an open-ended policy that never actually mandates hires, it appears that the Rooney Rule has already had an enormous effect. For all its flaws, the Rooney Rule is working.


Brad welcomes your feedback: mailto:[email protected]?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)


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There have been 18 new articles posted on Sports Central in the last week. Check them all out at: https://www.sports-central.org. The Editor's Pick is:

NASCAR Top 10 Power Rankings: Week 2
By Jeffrey Boswell

As NASCAR heads into an off-week, Kurt Busch zooms to the number one position, while Jimmie Johnson holds steady at two. Find out who's moving, who's shaking, who's pitting, and who's grinning, in SC's Jeffrey Boswell's weekly NASCAR power rankings.



(Thanks for reading! Next issue is set to come out on 04/03/05.)

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