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Jeff Eisenberg

College athletics inches closer to adopting NFL's Rooney Rule

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Critics of the NFL's "Rooney Rule" have suggested it should be renamed the "Rooney Suggestion" because so many franchises abuse it, but there's no denying it has at least helped minority candidates land interviews.

As a result, the Florida Board of Governors is considering a similar rule that would require the state's public universities to interview one or more minority candidates for all head coaching and athletic director positions.

The board is merely in the early stages of studying the pros and cons of backing such a rule, but the implications for college basketball and football could be significant if it were implemented. Florida would join Oregon as the second state in the past two years to adopt such a requirement.

Although Florida's non-historically black public universities are actually slightly above the national average in terms of minority head coaches, the numbers across the country remain low. About 89 percent of NCAA Division I head coaches are white, according to 2007-08 data compiled by Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

As recently as 2008, there were only four black head coaches in Division I college football, though that number has risen to 13 in the past two years. College basketball is not lacking for minority assistant coaches, but Black Coaches & Administrators Executive Director Floyd Keith said that many still feel "pigeonholed as only top recruiters and not top coaches"

"I think the biggest problem we face today on the men's side is second chances," Keith said in March. "We've had difficulty getting the second shot for African-Americans by history."

The Rooney Rule certainly wouldn't be a cure-all for hiring in college athletics, but it would at least foster an environment where minority candidates are getting a fair shot.

Hopefully one day we'll reach a point where such a rule isn't necessary. Right now in major college athletics, we aren't there yet.

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