Nearly 20 years after the NFL created the “Rooney Rule” to help its diversity hiring, the West Coast Conference has instituted the “Russell Rule,” its own interview policy to promote people of color, named after NBA Hall of Famer and USF legend Bill Russell.
The conference’s hiring initiative will require each of its member schools, including Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara, Pacific and USF in the Bay Area and beyond, to follow new guidelines when hiring any head coach, full-time assistant coach, athletic director or senior administrator in the athletic department. Specifically, the league announced Monday, the final candidates must include at least one person of “an underrepresented community.”
The WCC has already taken the lead as a trailblazer in diversity, most notably with the hiring of Santa Clara High graduate Gloria Nevarez, who became the first Latin-American commissioner in NCAA Division I history in 2018.
Russell, who went from a backup at McClymonds High to a breakout star at USF and an 11-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, welcomed the chance to promote equitable opportunities in the conference he dominated in the mid-1950s while helping the Dons win back-to-back national titles.
“It is my hope the West Coast Conference initiative will encourage other leagues and schools to make similar commitments,” Russell said in a press release. “We need to be intentional if we’re going to make real change for people of color in leadership positions in college athletics. I’m proud to assist the WCC and Commissioner Nevarez by endorsing this most important initiative.”
Nevarez praised the conference’s leaders for helping make the “Russell Rule” a reality.
“The Russell Rule is the result of the groundbreaking work of the WCC Presidents’ Council and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee,” Nevarez said. “Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player and social justice advocate the nation has seen. He is a champion for change. It is our belief the WCC ‘Russell Rule’ will live up to his legacy. Our goal is that the diversity of our student-athletes is reflected in those that lead and mentor them and provides a holistic and inclusive education during their time at WCC institutions.”
The WCC is also partnering with Dr. Richard Lapchick, a human rights activist and the founder of The Institute for Diversity and Ethnics in Sport. He’ll also play a role in the WCC’s planned antiracism educational seminars.
Men’s basketball is the conference’s most high-profile sport, and currently four of the WCC’s 10 schools employ Black head coaches, including three former NBA players: Pacific’s Damon Stoudamire, Pepperdine’s Lorenzo Romar and Portland’s Terry Porter.
This content was originally published here.