Religion and football: Path to NCAA violations?

Who knew religion and football were as inflammatory as church and state?

Over the last week we heard the AHSAA banned Hoover High School from playing a game on Sunday afternoon because, “Sunday is a day of worship.” Also, we heard details about a minister connected with the Auburn football program that one “columnist” believes are suspicious.

These cases highlight how entwined religion and sports are. In the South, it is common to find football players taking major roles in faith outreach programs. You’ll read stories about players doing good things for their communities, leading evangelistic meetings and Bible studies.

It gives the impression that athletes are more religious than the general population. I’m not sure that is an accurate assertion. But, from locker room prayers, to team chaplains we see a great deal about religion in all sports.

And I firmly believe a large amount of the backlash against Jeff Gordon is his outspoken religious faith. For many in this world, there is nothing more annoying than a successful Christian.

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But is there a darker side to the involvement of religion in sports? Could religious persons be co-opted by darker agents to give cover to nefarious NCAA violations?

A regular caller on the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, Shane from Centerpoint, has unleashed a new column listing several allegations of questionable linkages between a pastor and the Auburn football family.

Not surprisingly, most of the links involve money, filthy lucre, Mammon.

Some of the salacious allegations:

• Brother Chette (Williams) lives three blocks from Tommy Tuberville in a $350,000 home that at last check belonged to Auburn’s Associate Athletic Director, Terry Windle.

•According to The NY Times Roberts, in 2003 Williams drew $55,824 in compensation as president for 20 hours work per week. Also, according to Windle, Chette earns a salary from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It’s just a hunch, but I’ll bet Brother Chette doesn’t have a car note.

•None of the officers of CWM are compensated. And the officers include linkages to Pat Dye including Wayne Hall, who was allegedly fired by Terry Bowden because “(Bowden) suspected that Hall wasn’t as devoted to NCAA rules as (Bowden) demanded.”

The column goes on to include a laundry list of other cozy connections within the Auburn family.

Shane raises some interesting questions about the financial arrangements. But questions do not in themselves mean nefarious motives are at work.

Could it be that these men connected with Auburn simply believe religious involvement would benefit the athletes? Especially, as many athletes come from backgrounds filled with temptation.

Of course, it is difficult to ignore Shane’s perceptive analysis that money is a serious temptation to everyone. And temptation doesn’t ignore the clergy.

Shane calls on Tuberville and Williams to address the allegations. But I’d rather hear from past and present players. Players can give us a better picture of what is really happening in a program. After all, who could forget the erudite and persuasive Carnell Williams when he defended the academic integrity of Auburn’s sociology program.