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College Basketball Needs a Rooney Rule

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John Calipari is now the head basketball coach at Kentucky. He is going to make an unconscionable amount of money. Kentucky is banking he can rebuild the once proud program there. He is talented, driven, and has a proven track record. Good for him.

Now, it is time to talk about the elephant on the basketball court. There is a serious need for some sort of a collegiate version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule. For the uniniated, the Rooney Rule was established in 2003 and named after Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and head of the league’s diversity committee. The rule requires NFL franchises to at least interview qualified minority candidates for open head coaching positions. This rule has proven to open doors otherwise closed to high caliber minority candidates.

John Calipari was all but handed the Kentucky job on a silver platter without as much as a mention of a minority coach in the sights of one of college basketball’s most storied program. Before Calipari, the target was Billy Donovan at Florida who promptly turned down the overture. That is two primary candidates neither of which represents a minority by almost any definition of the word. I ask, why? Why, when there are clearly qualified minority candidates available, did Kentucky not extend the courtesy?

Tubby Smith, who left Kentucky with more than a little help, and turned Minnesota into a tourney team in two years, already broke the minority barrier at Kentucky. He was successful and had the unenviable task of following Rick Pitino. So, this is not about setting precedent that was not already in place. Kentucky was in a place to not only rebuild its program, but to continue to build bridges for minority head coaches in basketball. And they simply did not even blink an eye at it.

Meanwhile, SEC fellow school Alabama hired its first minority head coach of a major sport by tabbing Anthony Grant (previously successful at VCU) as its coach. Georgia has made a $2 million a year offer to Missouri coach Mike Anderson. (Anderson’s Missouri team ran Calipari’s Memphis team off the court in the tournament this year, you might remember.)

It’s not just about hiring a minority for the sake of hiring a minority. That is ridiculous. It is about providing the opportunity to bright, proven, successful coaches who are also minority candidates.

Alabama’s move to hire Grant was not only important because of his racial identity, but because he was because the man can coach basketball, takes an interest in representing his university with class, and works to make sure his players take advantage of the educational opportunities. Anderson was widely criticized when he left UAB for Mizzou and he has quickly instilled discipline and class in that once troubled program.

I stand amazed at how little attention this is getting in the mainstream media. I suppose winning is everything. Equality be its victim.

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About J. Newcastle

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    See, I don’t know. If the rule, like you said, is to give minority coaches opportunities, and you say UK and Alabama both gave those opportunities to people (and Georgia wants to), then the rule would only serve to punish Kentucky basketball, and in hiring Gillispie they suffered enough.

    Look at basketball in the MAC. They have eight black head coaches and four white head coaches. And most of them are first-timers who were given the job in the last three years or so.

    I would say college football needs a minority hiring rule before college basketball (after the rumors I heard about why Auburn wouldn’t hire Turner Gill), but I’m not a fan of such rules.

  • Andrew J. Stivers

    You can’t be serious.

    This has nothing to do with race. Calipari has the resume and charisma to handle the job at Kentucky–end of story. Why even bring race into this?

    They interviewed no other candidates, Calipari was clearly the man for the job and they went and got him. One can hardly make an intelligent case for such a rule while bringing only one data point into your post. This is simple statistics and I resent these smear tactics.

    Andrew Stivers

  • Jay Skipworth

    Suss,

    That is a good point and looking back, I wish I had broadened this to include college football as well. However, I do think my point is valid in spite of the hate Mr. Stivers has for it.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    The numbers in college basketball are slightly less shitty than they are in college football. What’s wrong with talking to some people? No one is saying John Calipari isn’t “qualified” for the Kentucky job or that Kentucky can’t ultimately make that decision.

    I’m not a fan of the rules, either, but all someone has to do is run the numbers and I don’t like that, either.

  • George

    He is in KY’s view (and lots of others), easily the best person for the job. End of discussion. It’s offensive that you would play the race card here.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “The numbers in college basketball are slightly less shitty than they are in college football.”

    Actually no. In January Fox Sports said 28 percent of Division I programs had a minority head coach. That also includes more than half the ACC. In college football it’s a single-digit value out of 119, which is, what, 6 percent?

    There could be more black head coaches in CBB, I guess, since I’d say about two thirds of players are black. But the discrepancy between the two revenue sports are quite noticeable.

  • gdubyarice

    I am a Black man and I resent the the insinuation that we (Blacks) need a non-Black to make a rule for us to advance. The problem lies within the Black community. If we sent our best and brightest to be educated by and play for Black people, we could solve the problems ourselves and turn every Black coach into a “coaching genius” and instantly create a de facto “Rooney Rule”.

  • Jay Skipworth

    gdubyarice, I appreciate your point of view. The fact that minority coaches usually have to go so above and beyond to even get a look is ridiculous, in my opinion. I can’t argue that Calipari was not a good prospect; he certainly was. It’s the matter of how the search went that I think harkens the need for a closer look.

  • Brandon

    Throwing out the race card here is offensive to everyone involved. To Kentuckians for implying that they are racist despite having a black head coach for 9 years and to minority coaches by dismissing their abilities and demanding they receive special treatment. Tubby Smith didn’t need your patronizing help. I doubt anyone else does either.

    The fact is that Kentucky is an elite job and it demands an elite coach. Tubby Smith is the only minority coach that is in the elite ranks… and guess what? He already coached at Kentucky.

    You said, “It’s not just about hiring a minority for the sake of hiring a minority. That is ridiculous. It is about providing the opportunity to bright, proven, successful coaches who are also minority candidates.” So you want to force someone to interview an unqualified minority coach for a job he will never get in order to what? …humor him? …fill some arbitrary quota? THAT is ridiculous.

  • Not a Kentucky Fan

    Wow! I had hoped the journalistic equivalents of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson had finally gone away. This type of journalism is irrelevant. You may as well have asked why women, asians, or kangaroos weren’t considered for the job.
    Fortunately, the days have passed when one can make issues out of race where none exists. Does anybody really think that had Calipari been a 3 1/2 dwarf that he would not have been offered the job? It is fantastic that we are at an age where meritocracy trumps demographics. Well, fantastic for some. Apparently, when a writer hasn’t the depth or intellectual ambition to opine about a relevant topic, such an age is distressing.
    It is comical to see some desperately clinging to issues of the past in order to maintain any relevance whatsoever.

  • Jay Skipworth

    Aye, aye, aye. Thanks for reading, Not a.

    First of all, this is an opinion column. So, the “objectivity” of journalism does not apply. It is not a news story. It is my opinion about a situation. I do not expect many to agree with me and that is okay. I realize this is a radical idea.

    Second, my real name is signed to this as you will find with all my other work here. You lecture me on journalistic integrity and then use a fake name to sign it. This isn’t a message board like Rivals or something. At least, not from where I sit.

    At any rate, thank you again for reading. I am proud to say we live in a country where the discussion of opposing viewpoints is still a right and I am thankful for it.

  • http://whizball.blogspot.com Aaron Whitehead

    I don’t think Jay’s “playing the race card” here. He’s pointing out an unfortunate reality in college coaching. You can certainly argue with his proposal, but it bothers me when people get hammered for playing the “race card” when all they’re doing is making an observation.
    As to the subject at hand, the college game is so wound up with trustees and community glad-handing that I just don’t know if a rule would make much difference. I live in Kentucky, and it would have taken an armed militia to hold back the pro-Calipari movement. The state came to a standstill as it was while negotiations were going on. I’d hate to imagine the response if the Calipari announcement were delayed even another day or two because the school was forced to “play the race card,” so to speak.
    And congrats on the WSJ.

  • Jay Skipworth

    Thanks, Aaron. My sources in Lexington and Memphis said almost the exact same thing you wrote about how the city was at a standstill, for different reasons though.