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Bill Russell backs the ‘Russell Rule’ to help improve diversity hiring in college athletics

Bill Russell hopes more NCAA conferences commit to interviewing minority candidates for vacant leadership positions in athletics.
Bill Russell hopes more NCAA conferences commit to interviewing minority candidates for vacant leadership positions in athletics.CHIN, BARRY/GLOBE STAFF PHOTO

Bill Russell added his name to a newly-implemented rule by the West Coast Conference that will help to promote more diversity in college athletic department hirings.

The “Russell Rule,” the first of its kind to be adopted by a Division I conference, stipulates that each school in the WCC must include a minority candidate among its final choices for any vacant position.

“It is my hope the West Coast Conference initiative will encourage other leagues and schools to make similar commitments,” Russell explained in the WCC’s announcement. “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.”


Gloria Nevarez, the first Latinx Division I commissioner, received particular praise from Russell.

“Proud of the West Coast Conference and Commissioner [Gloria Nevarez’s] commitment to meaningful change,” the Hall of Famer tweeted after the announcement. “Honored to contribute to [the West Coast Conference] in this groundbreaking diversity hiring commitment. Who’s next?”

The rule was unanimously passed, and is part of a wider “We are Committed to Change” (WCC) platform.

Other parts of the platform include expanded anti-racism educational resources, an expansion of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, and a pledge to help facilitate greater civic engagement.

Added to this, Dr. Richard Lapchick, the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), will help develop an annual report card to ensure that WCC institutions continue to support the platform. The yearly summary will be titled the “Russell Report,” according to the conference’s statement.

Russell, 86, was once a student athlete playing in the WCC when he helped the University of San Francisco win back-to-back college basketball national championships in 1955 and 1956. Before Red Auerbach managed to draft him for the Celtics, Russell led the “Dons” as one of the most dominant college athletes of his era.