When I was younger I'd always ask my parents for toys I knew down deep I probably wouldn't get. They would invariably shake their heads and say no, and I'd always respond by saying, "Just think about it. Promise me you'll at least think about it." They'd always humor me and agree to think about it, but their answer would never change no matter how cautiously optimistic I would be.
My futile give-and-take with my parents sometimes reminds me of the NFL's Rooney Rule. Instituted in 2003, it requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head-coaching opportunities. In other words, to "think about it" before making a hire.
Yes, more often than not it results in an embarrassing song-and-dance between owners (who already know whom they're going to hire) and minority assistant coaches (who essentially know they have no chance of getting the job). Such was the case in 2003 when the Detroit Lions were so dead set on hiring Steve Mariucci that no self-respecting minority coach would interview for the job, so the Lions were technically in accordance with the Rooney Rule.
But while the Rooney Rule may not be the perfect answer for minorities to get a fair shake on head coaching opportunities, it is at least a step in the right direction. It's a step that the NCAA should make this offseason if it wants to prove that its football programs are just as diverse and open-minded as the institutes of higher learning that these programs call home.
Within the past year four prominent football programs have named assistants as head coaches-in-waiting, meaning that once that school's head coach decides to leave or retire the assistant will become the new head coach without any search process.
On the surface it's a ridiculous move that handcuffs an assistant to a program and vice versa. In this ever-evolving football climate in which coordinators can go from gurus to goofs in a span of a season, it's ridiculous to force them to pass up prominent jobs at other schools. Who's to say the school may not want a different head coach two years from now, when the formerly hot assistant's stock may suddenly be lower than General Motors? It also needlessly makes a quasi-lame duck out of the current head coach.
Below the surface, however, these moves scream racism when it comes to giving qualified minority head-coaching candidates a fair shake. The programs aren't even telling these guys they'll "think about it." They're basically saying they don't want the minority candidates now or any time in the foreseeable future.
This isn't a knock on Chip Kelly, who will be taking over at Oregon, or Will Muschamp, who will
be taking over at Texas, or Jimbo Fisher, who will be taking over at Florida State. They are all qualified head-coaching candidates who will hopefully do just fine in their future roles.
This is simply an indictment of the hiring practices of major college athletic programs and at least a partial explanation for the embarrassingly small number of minority head coaches in the FBS. How embarrassing? There are only three African-American head coaches out of the 119 schools that make up the FBS and only one at a BCS conference school.
Embarrassing doesn't even begin to describe those numbers and the chances that minority coaches are being given to advance in college football.