With the Super Bowl looming, and Christianity Today putting out a big “sports issue,” it’s time to weigh in with a church-historical take. Yes, this one’s on college sports rather than pro sports. But hey, March Madness is just around the corner.
And yes, I can do a history riff on anything. That’s one of the fun things about being a historian.
(Note: this story was originally posted on Christianity Today’s website a few years back, when a scandal involving Baylor’s basketball program had just hit the front pages)
Muscular Christianity’s Prodigal Son, College Sports
In the wake of a basketball scandal at a prominent Christian university, we take time to remember the Christian roots of college athletics
Inappropriate payments and academic fudging on behalf of college athletes. Rampant performance-enhancing and recreational drug use. Cursing, furniture-throwing coaches. Medically questionable practice regimens that may have contributed to players’ deaths. The past decade has not been kind to college sports.
Texas’s Baylor University has been pursuing a very public quest to become America’s “Protestant Notre Dame”—a top-ranked research university with an explicit Christian commitment. But recent revelations of drug use and under-the-table scholarship payments in the athletics program, on the heels of a basketball player’s tragic death, are currently distracting everyone’s attention.
Other than the fact that this scandal is occurring at a Christian school, this feels like “old news”—sadly familiar in the big-money world of Division I college sports. But it may lead the faithful to ask a new question: Should a Christian student think twice before getting involved in high-profile college sports like basketball or football? What kind of values will he or she learn in that setting?
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this question would have been unthinkable. Why? Continue reading →