Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Jomills H. Braddock II

Second Committee Member

Marvin P. Dawkins

Third Committee Member

Carolyn A. Eberhardt

Fourth Committee Member

Donald Spivey


African American underrepresentation in positions of power within the intercollegiate and professional sports hierarchy continues to be a major concern among the media, professional sports organizations, and academic researchers. Although African Americans dominate the rosters of college and professional football teams, they remain grossly underrepresented in the management ranks. In 2002, the NFL designed a diversity plan that is commonly referred to as the "Rooney Rule" in order to increase the recruitment of African-Americans in head coaching positions. This dissertation is based on an examination of the impact of this policy in fostering diversity in NFL hiring patterns for the pre- and post- Rooney Rule eras. The study's objectives were (1) to examine the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule in increasing the hiring of African-American head coaches and (2) to identify and describe the factors and mechanisms that function to either enhance or impede mobility for minority candidates. To achieve these aims data was compiled from a variety of archival sources, including NFL and news media records. Furthermore, an integrative theoretical model was developed to assess the previously overlooked factors, particularly job authority, affecting mobility for minorities. The results revealed that the Rooney Rule has been effective in increasing the number of African-American coaches interviewed and ultimately hired as NFL head coaches. However, it was also found that there are more factors that impede rather than enhance mobility opportunities within the management ranks of the NFL. The integrative theoretical model predicted that race would play a role in a candidate receiving consideration for and being hired for a high authority, high power job. It was concluded that the factor that predicts mobility the most, as assessed by hiring, is authority level; which is the area in which African-Americans are underrepresented, thus leading to decreased chances of being interviewed or hired. Analyses indicated that African-American coaches are found in the less powerful coaching positions, are offered fewer interviews, and are hired less frequently; providing support for the argument that race continues to be important in the connection between leadership and selection for management positions.


Authority Level; Discrimination; Stacking