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Race and Coaching Hierarchy: An Analysis of Hiring and Firing in the NFL

Research output: Working paper



Despite its best efforts, the National Football League (NFL) has long been criticised for its lack of minority leadership amongst its teams. Recent hires (and non-hires) have only served to heighten this criticism. To assess this, we use a new, rich and unique dataset to examine the relationship between race and coaching hierarchy in the NFL. Our results indicate that young, experienced and well performing coordinators are likely to be promoted to Head Coach while older and poorly performing coaches are more likely to be fired. A coach’s race does not seem to play a role in either promotions or firings. In the post Rooney Rule era (post 2003) however, black coordinators are marginally more likely to be promoted than previously. Black Head Coaches on the other hand, are neither more nor less likely to find a job at the same level. The Rooney Rule has been successful to the extent that teams now consider (and ultimately appoint) equally skilled black coordinators to Head Coaching jobs, despite our evidence suggesting that equally skilled black coordinators had always been available.