The National Football League announced Friday an agreement with historically Black colleges and universities to strengthen the career pipeline for minorities interested in front office opportunities. The goal of the program is to provide interested students and athletics professionals “with the proper preparation and skills needed to secure employment in professional football administration.”
Coaches, trainers and scouts from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — as well as other key support staff, including video directors and equipment managers — will have the opportunity to participate in NFL-sponsored educational programs and internships, and will benefit from NFL resources.
“Our partnership with the HBCUs is not only important for our pipeline of qualified individuals at all levels of football, but also to improve the NFL’s goals for diversity and inclusion,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent in a statement. “With our HBCU partnership, we are making steady progress in developing future coaches, officials, scouts, managers, front office personnel and others.”
The partnership will expand the league’s commitment to diversifying its coaching and administrative ranks. According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the league’s racial hiring practices grade was at an all-time high when the last Racial and Gender Report Card was released in September.
MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas said the conference is “elated to continue our partnership with the National Football League, which includes our current officiating involvement, to advancing the NFL’s diversity and inclusion initiatives with a strategic plan to increase diversity in all areas of employment at the league office and the clubs.”
For the students and staff at the MEAC and SWAC institutions, the activities and opportunities in which they will participate will make them more competitive as candidates looking to make the jump to the league’s business office. These include student panels at the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl — which pits the regular season MEAC and SWAC champions against each other in a post-season game in Atlanta —for student-athletes ans sports management students.
“The Southwestern Athletic Conference is excited to partner with the NFL and MEAC to ensure that our student-athletes and students have exposure to superior professional development and the different career contingencies that the NFL and professional sports have to offer.” said SWAC Commissioner Duane Sharp. “The NFL-HBCU Partnership is cutting edge and will allow our stakeholders and respective organizations the opportunity to foster long term relationships that will ultimately increase our visibility from campuses to corner offices. We are grateful that the NFL has taken such a profound stance in recognizing the potential of our student athletes, administrators, coaches and officials.”