Legislation would bring Rooney Rule to Oregon

About the only guy in town who seemed upset when Jerry Glanville was hired as Portland State’s football coach a couple years back was Sam Sachs.

Glanville, a gregarious and well-liked man who had NFL experience, was widely hailed as someone who would raise the Vikings’ profile both on and off the field.

But Sachs saw Glanville’s swift hiring as an example of what’s wrong with college football.

A graduate student at Portland State at the time, Sachs said he had no personal stake in the school’s hiring decision but was nonetheless dismayed to see a white coach sweep into the job without consideration of minority candidates.

Two years later, Sachs is the driving force behind proposed legislation that would require Oregon universities to seek diverse applicants for coaching positions.

Sachs’ proposal, inspired by the NFL’s Rooney Rule, comes at a time when some are calling on the NCAA to adopt a similar policy, especially when it comes to college football. Nine of the 120 head football coaches in FBS programs are minorities.

“I think it’s a great step. I think the state of Oregon, by putting this into place, would cause other states to take notice. It would be a positive step in the landscape of a very difficult and complex issue of hiring,” said Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches and Administrators organization. “The statement it makes is that they’re asking for universities to be inclusive and diverse in the search.”

In January, Sachs appealed to Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Democrat from Portland, who introduced the legislation, SB 3118. It was originally aimed at football coaches, but a House committee expanded it to include all sports as well as athletic directors, Greenlick said.

It would require universities to interview at least one minority in each hiring process. The state’s Board of Higher Education would enforce the legislation, but the bill specifies no penalties.

The bill easily passed the House. Should it be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, Oregon would become the first state with such a requirement.

Incoming University of Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti, who was replaced as Ducks coach by offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, said he supports the measure.

Portland State athletic director Torre Chisolm said his school is neutral on the legislation. He understands both sides of the debate.

“On the pro side, you can certainly say that statistics don’t lie and in certain sports there is a big discrepancy between the number of minorities who play a sport and the number of minorities who have a chance to become coaches. Statistics don’t lie,” he said. “On the other side, every school is in a different circumstance, facing different challenges, so a one-size-fits-all rule potentially creates an unlevel playing field for certain institutions.”

Chisolm, who was not the Vikings’ AD when Glanville was hired, said while there are certain affirmative action rules in place when it comes to hiring, schools may obtain a waiver, for example, if an internal candidate has already been identified or to speed the hiring process in the interest of the student-athletes.

Keith knows some might consider such legislation an obligation to hire minority coaches.

“Where people get the wrong opinion is that they’re trying to mandate hiring an African American, or a person of color, an ethnic minority, for every job. That is not what it is,” he said. “It is that a person is legitimately considered, and then you take it from there. I see this as a landmark in terms of a state making a decision to be proactive about this.”

Sachs suggested if Oregon paves the way, the NCAA may face more pressure to look more closely at diversity among its coaches.

Others also are looking to the NCAA to act.

New Jersey state Sen. Richard Codey, D-West Orange, introduced a resolution in January that urged the NCAA to adopt the Rooney Rule for college football.

“Adopting the ‘Rooney Rule’ will greatly benefit college football programs by providing teams with a pool of talented, dedicated, and competitive head coach applicants that has gone virtually untapped, and will result in a leadership of college football programs that more adequately reflects the diversity of the student-athletes in those programs,” the resolution said.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the NCAA said its member institutions have not given it the responsibility of regulating hiring practices.

But the statement did say: “The NCAA continues to stand behind its core purpose and values relating to all diversity issues. The Association ? through its member colleges and universities, conferences and national office staff ? shares a belief in and commitment to an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.”

As for Oregon’s proposal, the statement said the NCAA “respects a state’s autonomy to legislate and regulate.”

The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was adopted by the NFL in 2003.

Sachs, who sat down for an interview sporting a Steelers hat and watch, is white. He was a fullback at Western Oregon University, and is a former sheriff’s deputy. He also has a degree in black studies, and teaches diversity at Portland’s Police Academy.

“I felt like at some point we have to stop complaining and try to be part of the solution. We have to try to do something,” he said. “I can’t change the whole world. I can’t change the NCAA. But I might be able to change Oregon, my part of the world.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.