Did the Rooney Rule Really Work?

Last week, Tobias J. Moskowitz and?L. Jon Wertheim wrote a guest post about black coaches in the NFL and the introduction of the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority applicant when filling head-coaching spots. Moskowitz and Wertheim concluded that the policy change was successful: “The league achieved its aim. By 2005, there were six African-American coaches in the NFL…” However, a?paper by Benjamin L. Solow, John L. Solow and Todd B. Walker examines minority hiring in the NFL and challenges that conclusion. “We examine a unique data set of high-level assistant coaches (offensive and defensive coordinators) from the beginning of the 1970 season through the beginning of the 2009 season to determine whether race is a factor in NFL teams’ decisions to promote these assistants to head coach,” write the authors. “Using logit and hazard models that control for age, experience and performance, we conclude that conditional on a coach reaching coordinator status, there is no evidence that race influences head coach hiring decisions. We also find no evidence that the Rooney Rule has increased the number of minority head coaches.” [%comments]

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  1. Quinton says:

    It’s gated so I can’t really dive into the study but I’m skeptical from the abstract. Not finding evidence for something isn’t the same thing as proving it didn’t exist. Yeah, it’s a step down that road but I’d like to know what they think did cause the increase. Were there no good minority coaches before? Is the increase since the Rooney Rule purely coincidental? How did they measure coaching performance, something that is as elusive to nail down as ability would be for labor economists? I’m sure its a cute paper but I need more to chew on.

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  2. Steve says:

    Did the rule work? “The league achieved its aim.” So, in a very simple analysis, yes, the NFL made a plan, executed the plan, and achieved it’s goal.

    What really seem to be in question here is whether or not the rule worked by it’s direct effect. Did more minorities interviewed = more minorities hired?

    What is much harder to measure is whether the rule had an indirect effect. Perhaps, knowing that they had a better chance to at least get interviewed, more minorities attempted to become head coaches. Perhaps, knowing that the league was serious about diversity, owners and managers gave more serious consideration to minority coaching prospects.

    Did the Rooney Rule work? Maybe, but certainly it takes many factors working together to change any kind of racial or cultural bias, and the rule was only one part of that change. As a rather modest measure, only forcing interviews not hires, it surely did no harm.

    Whether or not it worked, it seems like a good rule to me.

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  3. Zaka says:

    The guest posters began their research based upon the observable fact that black head coaches outperformed white ones by a significant margin before the Rooney Rule.

    “Conditional on reaching coordinator status” suggests that this ignores the starting premise. Where there relatively fewer black coordinators? Were those coordinators better at their job than their white counterparts were?

    Regardless of whether you believe they had to be better to get the job, the question remains unanswered from just that abstract.

    The Rooney rule didn’t necessarily make more head coaches black, but it did drop performance of the few black coaches back into line with white ones, suggesting that it did limit discrimination.

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  4. Rosewood says:

    The Rooney Rule is also about getting African American head coaches an interview. That experience is quite valuable and although team X may have a token interview for Black Candidate Y, at least that Candidate gets experience. The hope is that at some point that the process of going through the interviews will eventually help them lead to a head coaching job, but not give it to them outright.

    Or so says some of the talking heads on ESPN radio.

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  5. Ryan says:

    They should have looked to college coaches. Compare the percent of college head coaches to NFL head coaches. Its around 10 in college and about 4% or 5% of the total.

    Also, its not about just coaches generally, its about the head coaches because the person in THE leadership position is a different variable in and of itself.

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  6. David says:

    Having snuck past the gate, Quinton, you are right. Also, part of their argument is based on the idea that there are also few minority coaches at the career level just below head coach, which might be another valid explanator for the lack of minority head coaches, but something worth noting in its own right.

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  7. Justin McAleer says:

    “there is no evidence that race influences head coach hiring decisions”

    Um, isn’t that the goal?

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  8. syndicat says:

    Of course it worked. Getting someone the interview is part of how the candidate eventually gets a job. Owner A tells owner B that “I hired coach X, but I spoke to Y and was really impressed. I thought X was a better fit for our team.”

    What really worked is that it was done by the owners, not the government.

    The comments that precede mine are all well thought out.

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