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Rooney Rule advocate says Seattle Seahawks now 'doing it the right way'

January 11, 2010 | 12:50 pm

As reported by The Times over the weekend, the Seattle Seahawks hired Pete Carroll as head coach -- but not in a dual role as general manager or president. This is significant, because Carroll has always pushed for total personnel control.

I just got off the phone with John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that advocates the hiring -- or at the very least the interviewing -- of minority candidates for coaching and front-office vacancies in the NFL. It's the so-called Rooney Rule, named for Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who helped create it.

Initially, the Seahawks ran afoul of the rule when they offered the job to Carroll without interviewing any minority candidates. Club officials later interviewed Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, clearly to simply check the Rooney Rule requirement off their list. That was widely derided as a sham interview.

Wooten said the alliance advised Frazier to honor the interview request -- even though he knew it was unlikely to result in a job -- because Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke promised not to give full control to Carroll, and to open the GM vacancy to a wide array of candidates.

And, now that Leiweke has done that, Wooten gives the Seahawks high marks.

"Right now they're traveling in first class," he said. "I'll wait to see what they do with this interview as it relates to the GM job. But they've handled it the right way."

The alliance has no ability to sanction the team, but it carries significant weight with the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Wooten said he doesn't plan to judge the Seahawks on who they ultimately choose to hire, but on the process by which they arrive at that point.

"That's all this is about," he said. "The Rooney Rule is not about anything but opening up the field to give minorities that we feel have the ability a fair chance."

-- Sam Farmer