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'Progress has been made'

NFL defends record of minority hiring practices

Posted: Tuesday October 01, 2002 2:20 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL, threatened with a lawsuit over its lack of black head coaches, defended the steps it has taken in minority hiring, but acknowledged Tuesday there is room for improvement.

"Progress has been made and we expect that progress to continue," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

"We take the issue very seriously and have initiated several programs in recent years under commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue to ensure that our hiring practices are fair, and that all coaches have opportunities to advance."

Aiello was responding to a report released Monday by a group headed by attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. Using statistics compiled over the past 15 years, the report noted that black head coaches had been more successful than their white counterparts, but that they weren't hired commensurate with that success.

"Black coaches are being held to a higher standard," said Cochran, who suggested the league might be sued if progress isn't made. "Now is the time for the NFL to step up and make a change."

To stimulate the hiring of blacks as head coaches, Cochran proposed that Tagliabue "reward at least one team each year for developing a diverse front office" with a draft pick.

He also asked the NFL to require team owners to include "diverse racial groups" when interviewing candidates for coaching positions. According to the proposal, "owners can choose to opt out of this requirement, but to do so they must forfeit a draft pick."

There currently are two black head coaches in the NFL: Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and Herman Edwards of the New York Jets. But Aiello pointed out that in the last five years, 23 blacks have been interviewed for coaching positions and three were hired: Dungy, Edwards and Ray Rhodes, by Green Bay in 1999.

Tyrone Willingham, currently the coach of Notre Dame, also was among those 23.

Since Art Shell became the first black head coach of the modern era with the Raiders in 1989, there have been five: Dungy, Edwards, Shell, Dennis Green and Rhodes. Terry Robiskie served as interim coach of the Washington Redskins for three games at the end of the 2000 season.

There have never been more than three black head coaches in a season.

Last year, Green was fired by Minnesota and Dungy by Tampa Bay, then hired by the Colts. Rhodes also had two jobs, with Philadelphia from 1994-98 and Green Bay in 1999. Overall, eight teams have had black coaches: the Raiders, Eagles, Packers, Bucs, Colts, Jets, Vikings and Redskins.

Most of the progress is at the assistant level, the starting ground for head coaching job.

In 1980, there were 14 black assistants in the NFL, none of them coordinators.

By 1997, there were 103 black assistants. Now, 154 of the 547 assistants (28 percent) are black. Twelve of those are coordinators, compared with five coordinators in 1997.

"There are more black coaches in the pipeline," Aiello said.

The NFL also has given black coaches leadership roles. Green was co-chairman of the competition committee in 2000-2001, and Dungy is head of the coaches' subcommittee of that group, which presents a coach's view of potential rule changes.

Aiello also noted the NFL has a number of programs aimed at developing minority coaches. One of those, an internship program, produced among others Edwards and Johnnie Lynn, the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.


 
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