â†µThere are critics and proponents of the NFL's "Rooney Rule," but few would argue that it doesn't at least get more minorities interviews with NFL teams. And that's why the idea of an equivalent rule for the state of Florida might be a momentous step in college football. â†µâ†µ
â†µThe rule isn't particularly close to becoming law; so far, it's just a request from Richard Lapchick, a University of Central Florida professor who is often at the nexus of studies of sports and society, and Richard Steinberg, a state senator, to the Florida Board of Governors. It hasn't been studied in committee or brought to a vote. It's a long way off. But it makes sense, and has precedent in the college ranks: Oregon passed a Rooney Rule equivalent last year. â†µ
â†µFlorida would be a much bigger foothold in than Oregon. Oregon has just seven public universities in the Oregon University System; Florida has six public universities in its state system that play FBS football, and 11 total. If Florida were to adopt Oregon's law, which requires public schools to interview minority candidates for job openings in all sports and for athletic director—and with Lapchick behind both efforts, that's a possibility—it would give the idea of giving qualified minority candidates interviews a much larger testing ground in college sports. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt would also give minority candidates many, many more chances to interview for positions, thanks to Florida's wealth of openings. It might not have changed, say, Jimbo Fisher taking over for Bobby Bowden at Florida State, because the NFL's rule exempts teams with coaches-in-waiting, but certainly, getting minority candidates in the door to interview for the vacancy left by Jim Leavitt at South Florida would have helped. And it wouldn't have helped Mario Cristobal, the only minority head football coach at a public FBS school (the University of Miami is private), get his job, but it might help him get a look at UCF should George O'Leary be fired. â†µâ†µ
â†µThe Rooney Rule is fundamentally a good idea that draws the lion's share of the criticism it receives when individual NFL teams only pay lip service to it; if making it law makes enforcement even easier, the Rooney Rule might work better for colleges than it does for NFL teams. And bringing it to the overwhelmingly white college ranks—where raising the percentage of black head coaches at FBS programs to just more than 10 percent is considered a "watershed of success"—might help talented coaches of any background diversify the football coaching fraternity, while extending it to all sports could only help further. â†µâ†µSure, it hasn't even been debated by a legislature yet, but a Rooney Rule for Florida has precedent in Oregon and would set a precedent for other sports-mad states with a slew of public universities to follow. Here's hoping it happens.â†µ
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