By Tony McClean
Updated: February 4, 2007
NOTE: On the heels of our two-part look at “The Plight Of Black Football Coaches”, BASN goes back to feature an article that first appeared on the site back in February On Super Bowl Sunday. At the time, the Cochran Firm, who first instituted the “Rooney Rule” to the NFL, was looking to do the same regarding NCAA Division I-A football.
“It was only less than five years ago that Johnnie Cochran launched his challenge to the NFL. He and Cyrus Mehri issued the report “Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities” that after wards the NFL began grudgingly to admit the problem of the lack of African American coaches in the NFL. Super Bowl XLI is a tribute to their efforts and should be recognized as such on Sunday evening in Miami.
– BASN Black Box (January 31, 2007).
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — When the final minutes of the AFC Championship Game was winding down two weeks ago, attorney Byron Perkins, managing partner of the Cochran Firm, was reminded of an particular conversation he had with former NFL players John Wooten and Harry Carson just a year ago.
Just as the former New York Giant was about to be enshrined into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, the two executives from the Fritz Pollard Alliance talked to Perkins about how each couldn’t wait for an African-American head coach to reach a Super Bowl and win it.
“The great part about what Lovie and Tony have done is that it shows that African-American coaches can compete at the highest level and they can win”, said Perkins, who currently serves as co-counsel to the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
Needless to say, but Sunday’s Super Bowl will hold a special significance for Perkins and the organization that was founded back in March of 2003. Formed as an affinity group of NFL minority coaches, scouts and front office personnel, the FPA has worked with the NFL to develop hiring guidelines for front office and scouting positions as well as talent development programs.
The Alliance also advocates for policy changes in the NFL hiring practices and working in partnership with the NFL to create opportunities for minority candidates. However, it was Cochran’s and Mehri’s aforementioned study back in 2002 proved to be the catalyst for a dramatic change in hiring practices.
It led to the formation of the NFL’s Rooney Rule just a few months later. The rule basically includes the requirement that each team interview at least one minority candidate prior to selecting a head coach.
In a short period of time, more minorities have been interviewed and hired in the league since implementation of these such rules. However, Perkins and his colleagues are now looking to take their plight to another level.
Another level in the name of Division I-A college football! Heading into the 2007 season, only six of the nearly 120 schools at the Division I-A level has an African-American head coach. While admitting that the task will be a bit difficult, Perkins feels that a “Rooney Rule” type program can and should be implemented in big time college football.
“Football and sports in general is not race specific”, Perkins added.
“However once there’s a level playing field for all parties involved and these individuals have the same opportunity to get with the decision makers and give them their vision, they’ll find out that they share those same visions”.
“We feel that the NCAA should have a similar type rule in place because it create all types of opportunities and it would make the game better. Because of the dollars involved, college football is a bigger business than the NFL. But eventually those doors and opportunities have to be opened on that level”.
Perkins reiterated that implementing the system isn’t just about hiring African-Americans alone, it’s about hiring the best and most qualified. “It’s all about giving equal opportunities for all of those who are the best qualified, no matter what color”, Perkins added.
One of the other things that Perkins and the Alliance is also seeking is much more input and support from today’s NFL players. While many former players like Wooten (the FPA’s chairman) and Carson (executive director) have made their presence known, their contemporaries haven’t been quite as visible.
Perkins added some efforts have been made to reach out. In fact, when New Orleans Saint rookie Reggie Bush was fined $5,000 by the league for his taunting of Chicago’s Brian Urlacher in the NFC title game, the Heisman Trophy winner donated the fine to the Alliance.
Much like the situation with the minority hiring practices, Bush’s generosity is a start. But Perkins and others agree that there’s still much more work to be done. However, when see what has been accomplished so far by the Alliance, the future and progress appears to be on their side.
We’ll be watching anxiously with eyes wide open.
NOTE: For more information on the Fritz Pollard Alliance, log on to www.fpal.org.