Oregon Mandates Schools Interview Minorities

Brock Fritz Headshot

Oregon is ahead of the game when it comes to hiring minority coaches.

They’ve been ahead of the game for 10 years, as no states have followed suit since Oregon passed House Bill 3118 in June 2009 to require state universities to interview at least one minority candidate for all head coach and athletic director jobs. The number of minorities hired at Oregon universities has increased significantly, yet the 2019 report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport shows a lack of diversity in college leadership positions nationwide.

“We all want to get to a point where a law isn’t required, but we’re a long ways from that, so I am surprised [the rule hasn’t spread],” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in a recent The Undefeated article that examines the history of Oregon’s law and the hiring of minorities. “We have one of the most diverse student groups on any of our campuses, and so we should be working diligently to make sure our staff look similar to our student-athletes.”

Since House Bill 3118 – also known as the Rooney Rule, which is also used for a similar NFL policy – passed, the University of Oregon football program has hired an African-American head coach in Willie Taggart, as well as a Cuban American in current coach Mario Cristobal. At an administrative level, Portland State and Western Oregon have minority athletic directors in Val Cleary and Curtis Campbell, respectively.

“What the Rooney Rule has proven in the state, in the city and the county, is it works,” Sam Sachs, a Portland activist who spearheaded Oregon’s law. “It’s such an easy fix.”

The issue isn’t fixed everywhere. Going into the offseason, there are 13 African-American head coaches in the 130-team NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Across those universities, the FBS Leadership College Racial and Gender Report found that white people held 337 of the 400 campus leadership positions, including chancellors, presidents, athletic directors, faculty athletic representatives and conference commissioners. White men make up 76.2 percent of athletic directors.

“I don’t know there’s been anybody in the other states that has been as avid and tenacious as Sam was,” Jeremi Duri, a law professor at American University who counsels the Fritz Pollard Alliance that oversees the Rooney Rule in the NFL. “There was a sense Oregon would be the first of several, and none of the others came to pass.”

Any further changes will likely have to happen on a local or statewide level, as the NCAA has stated that it doesn’t have authority over schools’ hiring practices. Sachs and Richard Lapchick, a University of Central Florida professor and the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, have shifted some of their focus on getting college conferences to implement a version of the law.

“I don’t see it happening from an NCAA Level,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told The Undefeated. “They don’t control hiring practices. A member school would create legislation and then it would have to be passed by all 372 Division I members. That’s not going to happen. In a conference, an institution would have to bring it up in a meeting and all 14 schools would have to pass it. That’s not going to happen. The reality is, it has to be something like a state initiative, like they have in Oregon. … [The rule] would be advantageous, but it’s very hard to get passed.”

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