GSI Study Analyzes NFL Coaching Hire Trends

Oakland Raiders head coach Art Shell on the sidelines during their game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter at McAfee Coliseum on Saturday December 23, 2006.(Sean Connelley/The Oakland Tribune) (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

PHOENIX, AZ, December 30, 2019 – The Global Sport Education and Research Lab (GSERL) at Arizona State University and the Paul Robeson Research Center for Innovative Academic & Athletic Prowess (PRRC) at the University of Central Florida have published key research findings covering NFL coaching trends in the first of a new working paper series.

The first paper in this series, Field Studies: A 10-Year Snapshot of NFL Coaching Hires, analyzes coaching mobility over the past decade. The new study addresses the question: Where are we now with respect to coaches of color compared to a decade ago?

Rather than exploring the question in the snapshot of a single year, researchers examined this topic across a specific time-frame. The analysis spans a 10-year window, from the 2009-10 NFL season through the 2018-19 season, and covers head coaches, offensive coordinators, and defensive coordinators.

The 10-year review revealed that head coaches of color were hired at older ages, had more significant and relevant playing experience, and did not receive equivalent “second chances.” In addition, when African American head coaches have been fired in the NFL, they have not obtained another comparable head coaching position as rapidly as when compared to white and Latino American coaches.

“Our ultimate goal is to dig deeper with these insights and to catalyze dialogue for how we can work toward a more equitable landscape for leadership in sport across the globe.” – Kenneth L. Shropshire

Director of Research for the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University Dr. Scott Brooks, noted, “Many question the progress that has been made in terms of coaching hires. We prefer to ask what is needed for sustainable, long-term change. One alternative way to think about the process is to focus on the pipeline that allows potential hires to be considered.”

While looking at diversity in coaching and the pipeline is not new, unique data points in this study help reveal the undercurrent of racial/ethnic trends by taking into account age, prior experience, and positions held before and after head coaching.

“We believe this work is complementary to the foundational and ongoing commentaries of Dr. Harry Edwards and the important and groundbreaking work like that of the Race and Gender Report Cards produced by Dr. Richard Lapchick and The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport,” said Kenneth L. Shropshire, CEO of the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University.  “Our ultimate goal is to dig deeper with these insights and to catalyze dialogue for how we can work toward a more equitable landscape for leadership in sport across the globe.”

This is the first working paper in GSERL’s Field Studies series. Future iterations include expanding upon this existing NFL data and delving into other leagues and areas of sport leadership.


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