NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- With the threat of a lawsuit looming, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced Thursday he had appointed Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney to head a committee designed to improve the league's hiring of blacks to coaching and front office posts.
The announcement was made after the second and final day of the NFL's fall meetings.
"This has been a very sensitive issue for me, dating to my days as a lawyer before I became NFL commissioner in 1989," Tagliabue said. "I believe we have put together a strong group of people in the committee that will help identify a worthy pool of candidates for coaching and front office jobs."
Two of the league's highest-ranking black executives -- Baltimore Ravens vice president of football operations Ozzie Newsome and Atlanta Falcons chief administrative officer Ray Anderson -- will serve on the committee with Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, general managers Rich McKay of Tampa Bay and Terry Bradway of the New York Jets and four owners, Arthur Blank of Atlanta, Jeffrey Lurie of Philadelphia, Pat Bowlen of Denver and Stan Kroenke of St. Louis.
The group will hold its first meeting within two weeks to outline hiring proposals.
"The right thing is to get more minorities involved and we have to do a better job," Rooney said.
The need for Tagliabue to form this committee may have been inspired by attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri, who recently proposed the "Fair Competition Resolution" and threatened to file suit against the NFL if more minorities are not hired as coaches and front office personnel.
Herman Edwards of the Jets and Tony Dungy of Indianapolis are the league's only black head coaches.
The plan by Cochran and Mehri would reward NFL teams with extra draft choices for interviewing a racially diverse group of candidates for coaching and front office jobs and strip draft picks from teams that do not interview minorities.
NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw, who is black, scoffed at the plan Wednesday.
"It's ridiculous," Upshaw said.
In 1980, the NFL had 14 black assistant coaches, none of whom were offensive or defensive coordinators. Now the league has 154 black assistants, including 12 coordinators.
The NFL Thursday also pushed back the starting times of the AFC and NFC championship games on January 19 to 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. EST. Those games had traditionally begun at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
"The changes will further expand our potential audience for the championship games," Tagliabue said.
The Sunday wild card and divisional playoff games also were moved ahead 30 minutes to 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST.
Last year, the NFL moved postseason games into prime time with a Saturday wild card and divisional playoff game starting at 8 p.m. EST.