BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians will be very busy this week in Indianapolis, Ind., at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’ll be scouting out, what he hopes is, the next era of talent for his team.
Arians won’t be that busy that he can’t pick up an award while he’s there. On Thursday, he’ll be receiving the “Game Ball Award” from the Fritz Pollard Institute.
Arians is receiving this award as a result of the great season the Cardinals had in 2015, and for his commitment to giving minorities opportunities in the National Football League. During Arians’ first two seasons with Arizona (2013-14), the Cardinals were the only team in the NFL whose offensive and defensive coordinators were African-American (Harold Goodwin, Todd Bowles).
This past season, the Cardinals made former Pro Bowl linebacker Levon Kirkland the inaugural recipient of the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship, a program created by the Cardinals to provide recently-retired minority NFL players a chance to gain experience at the highest level of football.
Arizona continued their ground-breaking work by making Dr. Jen Welter one of their seven training camp interns this past season. Dr. Welter was the first woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL, as she worked with the inside linebackers.
Those weren’t the only two instances in Cardinals history where the team gave minorities an opportunity. In 2010, owner Bill Bidwill was honored with the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s Paul “Tank” Younger Award for promoting diversity in the NFL. In 1978, Adele Harris became the first African-American female executive in the NFL, when she was hired as the Cardinals director of community relations. In 1981, Bidwill hired attorney Bob Wallace, making him the first African-American to handle contract negotiations for an NFL franchise. The Cardinals were the first NFL team with an African-American general manager and head coach (Rod Graves/Dennis Green, 2004).
“The Fritz Pollard Alliance is very proud of the support and the relationship we have always received from the Cardinals Football Club for many years,” said John Wooten, the Chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance was created in March 2003, for the purposes of promoting diversity and equality of job opportunities in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of National Football League teams. The Fritz Pollard Alliance works closely with the NFL to develop hiring guidelines for front office and scouting positions, as well as talent development.