Sunday, September 26, 2004

Lewis, Bengals take leading role


Diversity in NFL

By Mark Curnutte
Enquirer staff writer

The NFL has made strides in two years since instituting its Committee on Workplace Diversity.

Five African-Americans, including the Bengals' Marvin Lewis, are head coaches, the most in history.

The league again has 14 black offensive or defensive coordinators on staffs at the start of the season, the same number as in 2003.

And there has been growth behind the scenes in the number of African-American front-office executives and directors of pro and college scouting, said John Wooten, director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that promotes opportunities for African-American coaches.

"There were people with ability waiting," Wooten said. "All the league had to do was open its door."

There were two black head coaches and 12 black coordinators in 2002.

The Bengals have one African-American coordinator, Leslie Frazier, on defense. Alex Wood, wide receivers coach for the Bengals in 2003, is offensive coordinator for Arizona this season.

The Bengals are tied with Indianapolis for having the most African-American coaches on staff - eight - and that number counts head coaches Lewis and Tony Dungy.

Chicago, coached by first-time head coach Lovie Smith, who is an African-American, have eight minority coaches. The Bears' defensive coordinator is Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic.

"We're pleased that we're doing well," said Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, chairman of the diversity committee. "It's an important part of our business that we're giving this opportunity. The rest is up to the coach if he gets the job."

The diversity committee requires that all NFL clubs interview at least one minority candidate for a head- coaching job.

Lewis and Jim Anderson, who was retained as running backs coach, were the two minority candidates interviewed by the Bengals after Dick LeBeau's firing. The Bengals had never interviewed a candidate of color for any of their top three coaching positions until the Lewis search. The NFL and the Pollard Alliance praised the Bengals for following guidelines in their search. The alliance is named for the first African-American head coach in league history (Akron and Milwaukee, 1921 and 1925).

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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