What can we say about the NFL’s hiring of head coaches of color?
The push for greater representation of head coaches of color within the NFL has been well documented, especially since adoption of the Rooney Rule1 in 2003. The Global Sport Education and Research Lab, with the help of the Paul Robeson Center at the University of Central Florida, sought to answer this question.
1The Rooney Rule requires teams hiring a head coach to interview at least 1 person of color.
Racial/Ethnic Breakdown of NFL Head Coaches – 2009-10 vs. 2018-19
Since the adoption of the Rooney Rule, coach hiring in the NFL has been under scrutiny—are coaches of color being hired and fired at a fair and equal rate? We examined who was hired and fired and looked for patterns over the past decade, from the 2009-10 NFL season through the 2018-19 season. We found that the number of head coaches of color has gone up and down over the years since the Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003. In the seasons included in our analyses, 14 coaches of color were fired from head coaching positions, and 12 were hired. In the 2009-10 season there were five African American head coaches in the NFL. In the 2018-19 season there were eight head coaches of color, seven African American and one Latino. However, these numbers do not tell the full story. Based on the data, there are no trends for Latino, Native, or Asian and Pacific Islander American coaches because there has been one or zero of each. There were no Latino American head coaches in 2009, and there was one from the 2011 season to 2019 season. There are no Native American or Asian and Pacific Islander American coaches, nor have there been in the history of the league. Overall, head coaches of color are hired at older ages, have more significant and relevant playing experience, and do not receive equivalent “second chances”—when African American head coaches have been fired in the NFL, it has been more difficult for them, as compared to white coaches, to obtain another head coaching position at the same level.
About Global Sport Institute
The Global Sport Institute is where diverse disciplines converge to thoughtfully examine critical issues impacting sport, and how sport impacts others. As a cross-disciplinary enterprise, the institute’s efforts are integrated throughout the entire university — from engineering to sociology, to the athletic department and beyond — rather than within a single concentration. With an emphasis on expanding research, sharing knowledge, supporting innovation and advancing education, the institute’s mission is to use sport to create positive change throughout the world.
About Paul Robeson Research Center for Innovative Academic & Athletic Prowess
Established in 1998 by C. Keith Harrison, Ed.D., the Paul Robeson Research Center for Innovative Academic & Athletic Prowess at UCF provides students with research opportunities to cultivate a better understanding of diversity and inclusion in sports. The center’s mission is to bridge the gap between academic and athletic identities. By empowering students to build research theory, create empirical data sets and contribute to high-quality publications, the Paul Robeson Research Center for Innovative Academic & Athletic Prowess at UCF prepares students to be practitioners in their desired career fields.