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Chiefs complying with Rooney Rule in head-coaching search

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If the Kansas City Chiefs fail to name a minority as their next head coach, it will not be because they failed to follow the Rooney Rule, said the head of a group that works with the NFL to promote diversity.

John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he was "distressed" to hear reports that the Chiefs haven't talked with any black candidates since head coach Herm Edwards was fired on Jan. 23.

"I am very comfortable that the Chiefs are following the Rooney Rule," Wooten said in a telephone interview. "There is no question about that at all. I know of more than one minority candidate that they have talked with."

The Rooney Rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, specifies that NFL teams must give fair interviews to minority candidates whenever a head-coaching position comes open.

Wooten said people had told him that minority candidates were declining to speak with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli because they believe Todd Haley, the Arizona Cardinals' offensive coordinator, was locked into the job.

"I am not aware of one single minority who has turned down the interview with the Chiefs. Not one," Wooten said. "I am aware of several minority candidates who have talked with the Chiefs."

Wooten declined to identify the candidates the Chiefs have interviewed in what has been an ultra-secretive search. Haley, who helped lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl this past season, was reported to be interviewing with the team.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, also mentioned as a possible candidate, said on Wednesday that he would be at the Hawkeyes' opening spring practice in March.

"Unless I get hit by a truck, I'll see you on March 25," he said.

Wooten also said Chiefs owner Clark Hunt interviewed minority candidates for the general manager job before hiring Pioli last month.

"They handled their search for a general manager the same way they're conducting their search for a head coach," Wooten said.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, named after the first black coach in the NFL, was formed in 2003 as a collection of minority coaches, scouts and front-office personnel. It works with the league to develop hiring guidelines and promote diversity, and each year, it submits a list of qualified individuals.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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