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Oregon State hires Jonathan Smith as new head coach, confirms it complied with state law regarding minority candidates

November 29, 2017
In The News

Oregon State announced Wednesday night that it will hire Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith as head coach. But the steps to get to Smith were different for Oregon State than almost any other public institution in the country.

In 2009, the state of Oregon passed its version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, requiring public universities to interview at least one minority candidate for a vacant head coaching or athletic director role. Via email, Oregon State confirmed to SB Nation that it complied with the state law “as always,” but declined to name a specific coach interviewed during the process.

The law has no penalty if schools don’t comply, and little oversight, but it is legislation on the books. In recent weeks, a national campaign to lobby the NCAA has been launched by multiple members of Congress, spearheaded by Oregon Representative Suzanne Bonamici (who is a co-sponsor of Oregon’s version of the bill from her time as a state senator). NCAA President Mark Emmert responded to Bonamici & Co. with a letter earlier this month.

When Oregon State’s hiring process began, SB Nation posited BYU’s Kalani Sitake and Oregon State’s interim Cory Hall as potential minority names the Beavers could look at for its vacancy. The Oregonian included USC’s Tee Martin, Washington’s Jimmy Lake and Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo as minorities on its list of potential candidates.

Oregon State retained a search firm (reportedly at a cost of up to $200,000) to conduct the search that eventually settled on Smith. Including search firms in the process can make it more difficult for minority coaches to obtain jobs, as explained by an agent to SB Nation earlier this month.