Why is the NFL allowed to use IQ tests during its hiring process?

First, from wikipedia.

Second, I thought using IQ tests during the hiring process has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (Greggs v Duke Power?). Is this wrong or has the NFL, being the powerful organization they are, somehow received an exception? As noted above, every year the NFL gives a 50 question, 12 minute, IQ test called the Wonderlic to potential players who have been invited to their NFL Combine for try-outs. What purpose, one has to ask, do these tests serve other than to embarrass the players when their individual scores are posted all over the Internet? Yep, the scores are already beginning to trickle out. But why are they even there? Why are they necessary? NFL scouts have already watched these potential NFL employees play. That’s why their invited. They have watched those skills in action not only on the playing field, performing those job skills, but have also tested those skills up-close and individually at the NFL Combines, where speed, weight, strength, height, and agility are measured. The football skills are already there and already inspected. It’s hard to see how the NFL gets away with administering these tests as a part of their hiring decisions. I see nothing that’s added in the way of knowledge and it even appears to be illegal.

The idea, or so I’ve heard, is that the teams want to know how quickly (or slowly) the players will be able to assimilate new information and learn an NFL offense. Drills don’t make that any clearer, although I don’t know if the test really predicts anything. Your Wikipedia link says that the same test is administered in other fields. If it’s not illegal for them to use it, why would it be illegal for the NFL? Passing the test (if there is such a thing) is not a prerequisite for being drafted.

  1. The Wonderlic is used as a performance evaluation tool, and not a mandatory minimum for employment. It is not a bar to employment, so it’s not even in the same class as the requirements in Griggs.

  2. The test, as far as I know, is not intended to discriminate, and does not have a disparate impact, along racial lines.

Griggs didn’t outlaw the use of IQ tests, they just can’t be a stand in for racial discrimination.

I’m not sure what “performance” the test is supposed to be evaluating in this context. The “performance,” in my mind at least, is shown on the field not on the paper.

In addition, I disagree on the possibility of there being no disparate impact. Especially if what was reported by Sports Illustrated is actually the case with NFL teams.

"…Teams want quarterbacks to score in the mid-20s and a score in the mid-teens is generally acceptable for the other positions."


As indicated in the player scores and position lists at the wikipedia link, this idea seems to be expressed in the test outcomes of those hired by the NFL at the various positions. Racism hardly ever is overt. If a quarterback, or any other player, has performed on the field under real conditions and at the Combine, what does it matter to the NFL what he has or hasn’t scored on this test? Why is this test even administered by the NFL? What purpose does it serve if not as a covert method to discriminate, especially at certain positions?

Because QBs need to analyze what’s happening on the field quickly and react accordingly? There are plenty of examples of players who were stars in college/the minors who could never perform at the highest level – this is an attempt to weed out some of those players.

The test has been given for years, and the steadily growing number of black quarterbacks in the NFL belies your suggestion that the test is discriminatory. It stands to reason that Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair and numerous other black quarterbacks scored just fine.

Does intellect alone make a great quarterback? Of course not. But if you were about to invest 20+ million in a franchise quarterback, wouldn’t you like to know the guy was smart enough to learn your playbook, read defenses, etc.?

Actually, Sports Illustrated said that, allegedly, McNabb scored a 12 and McNair got a 16 or 17. Not only did they still have successful careers, they were still high draft picks despite those scores. So this thing isn’t a bar to employment. It’s one of a large number of measurements teams use.

Marley – if not a bar to employment at some level and in some circumstances – than why is this a pre-employment rather than a post-employment test?

Or maybe I should say — “pre/post hire”

What purpose would the test serve if administered after the draft? Wonderlic scores are one factor given consideration, and I don’t think they’re given all that muck consideration compared to a candidate’s physical skills.

I have no clue if the test is discriminatory or not, but even if every NFL team had a black starting quarterback, with 4 black backup quarterbacks each, that’s still a VERY tiny sample size to be using as an argument.

I don’t think there’s a legit purpose. Either before or after the draft. That’s my entire point.

Second, if, as you say, “they’re [not] given all that muck consideration” - than what’s the purpose – if there is that legitimate purpose that some seem to see?

In addition, if this test influences the draft, as it would seem to since it is given before the draft decisions - than it at least influences salaries and probably influences employment.

That’s a misleading way to read what I said. The purpose of the test has been explained. I said it’s obvious that other factors are (or can be) more important.

Your own link says that the test has been used for more than 30 years, so it obviously does not exist just to embarrass the players by being leaked over the 'net. And the test’s use in other professions indicates that it’s not illegal.

A little more about the case you cited from Wikipedia:

I don’t think it “disparately impact[s] minority groups” and I don’t think it’s “the controlling factor in employment decision” (I think we’ve proven it’s not that at all), and the skills they’re testing for arguably DO relate to the jobs in question. Thus, the NFL’s use of the Wonderlic test wouldn’t violate the law.

OK - fair enough. I suppose we can agree to disagree. I may be reading you in the wrong way but it seems to be your position that an intelligence test score is a ‘valid consideration’ even after real performance has been shown on the field, in game situations, and individually, at the NFL sponsored Combines. (And I’m giving you the assumption that the Wonderlic is a valid test of intelligence) If that’s the case I guess I just don’t see the evidence for that position. Black arms and Black eyes throw just as far and see just as well as White ones. What I do recall however, and what can make a body suspicious, was reading the rumor that the NBA “needed,” at one time, more White players to help boost attendance. “Business Necessity?” Isn’t that the Griggs standard? OK - a ‘little much’ I agree - but I do think there’s a problem with administering this test. And I do think it’s an artifical block for qualified players for whatever the reason.

Performance in the NFL is vastly different than performance in the NCAA. First, the professional game is much faster, requiring players (especially QBs) to process information and make decisions more quickly. Second, the offensive and defensive schemes are a lot more complicated. A rookie will be expected to learn not only the schemes that his team employs, but also the formations and plays that the upcoming opponent runs. In college, the playbooks just aren’t all that complicated. In the NFL, they are.

What you’re terming “real performance” doesn’t always transfer into performance at the professional level. A draft candidate may be incredibly gifted physically, and that’ll get him through high school and college ball. If a college defensive back has NFL-caliber physical skills and he’s caught out of position in a college game, he can probably make up for it. When he gets to the NFL, though, everybody on the field is an amazing player. When he’s caught out of position at that level, his team is going to give up a touchdown.

The playbooks, formations, and schemes are far more important in the NFL than they are in college. You can watch every game a college player ever played in and run him through as many drills at the combine as you want, but that’s not going to tell you much about how quickly and how well he can learn new stuff. I don’t think the Wonderlic test is really the be-all, end-all of evaluating prospects (neither do any NFL GMs), but it definitely gives you some information that you can’t get from watching tape or running drills.

Hold on there, tiger: by what rationale do you want to keep the rest of the combine?

By the same logic you’re applying here, you should want to dump the 40 yard dash and all the rest. After all, if some player has shown good “real performance,” what’s the need to time him running on a track in shorts?

Wide Recievers and Defensive Backs who played well in college are routinely passed over by the NFL solely because they have slow 40 times by NFL standards; you can catch a hundred passes, but you’ll never get a sniff if you run a 4.7. If you’re going to argue that the Wonderlic disparate impact on black quarterbacks, ISTM you have to also deal with the disparate effect of the 40 on white WRs.

What about players who are changing positions? (Moving from WR to QB, DL to LB or CB to SS) In the aforementioned changes, a player will have to learn a far greater amount of information and in some cases will be responsible for directing their unit on the field and perhaps calling an audible or adjustment in a few seconds depending on the opponent’s formation. In these instances the team will not have film of them performing these actions, nor will any other test at the combine allow them to demonstrate their ability to do so. In my opinion, the Wonderlic Personnel Test gives them some gauge of a player’s ability to adjust to a new position that some would argue requires more intelligence.

Yogurt a collegiate O-Lineman (OT & OG) who historically have the highest scores. :smiley:

So how did the illiterate Dexter Manley make it to the Pros if this test is a gatekeeper of sorts?

Well it’s not quite the same logic for a couple of reasons - the first being that I don’t accept the validity of IQ tests as something indicating intelligence or, if nothiong else, football intelligence.

Second, the rest of the Combine has significance because some top prospects come from USC (Reggie Bush) and have performed against the best of the best – and some top prospects come from Memphis, like DeAngelo Williams, who has performed against the likes of Akron and Central Florida. The Combine, in addition to events like the Senior Bowl, allows better comparisons of physical and football skills for those players who come from these varied football backgrounds. While DeAngelo ran away from CUSA defenders I guarantee you that if he runs a 4.7 in the 40 at the NFL Combine, he’ll drop significantly in the draft.

Look - I also want to add this — the real motivation for this thread is Vince Young, the Texas QB, who was rumored two days ago to have scored a 6 on the Wonderlic. This Wonderlic score was major, big time news on the Internet’s pro football message boards – the consensus there being that this score meant that Young was next to being a ruined man, that Vince would not only fall out of the first round but just might be regulated to those players who are “given an opportunity” or “worth risking a pick.” Given an opportunity? Worth the risk? All after 12 minutes? Young built a career as a elite QB, playing at the highest level of college football. Young finished second in the Heisman voting. Why would 12 minutes of paper answers ruin all of that. All moot we soon find out however since, as of yesterday, it appears that there was some sort of error “in the scoring” of Young’s IQ test (“rumor” has it that he progressively bubbled the right answers at the wrong numbers). So, Young took a second test and scored a 16. Now the consensus seems to be that all is OK with Vince Young’s prospects. A saved man. All based on this 12 minute test. This Wonderlic, it seems to be sent to us by God.

Last, and most important and speaking to ALL of the posts above, there seems to be an underlying assumption in every post – and “assumption” is what it is – since no one has provided ANY support for their conclusions that this test is not only a valid predictor of mental ability but of the sort needed by football players. Here’s a link to a portion of a prior Wonderlic – how is this related to reading defenses or finding receivers or avoiding the blitz? Considering the difference in scores - and the NFL’s stated preferences, this issue of validity becomes important.