Few headlines outside Colorado have made mention of the religious discrimination accusations at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There have been serious claims of religious harrassment at the Academy, including a case where a Jewish cadet was told by his fellow cadets - the men and women he would trust his life to in war - that the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus. There are other instances in which non-Christian cadets were explicitly and implicitly told that there was no room for them in the US Air Force. Enough that the Pentagon in investigating whether this discrimination and harrassment was supported by the administration of the Academy. Even if you believe that it is a Christian's role to spread the gospel, surely you have to recognize how weakened America's military would be if it were fragmented by religion - if Jewish and Muslim and Buddhist and Athiest and Christian soldiers thought of their religious differences before they thought of their national identities. This harrassment extended to the Air Force football team, which is also being investigated.
This week, Bobby Bowden, the longtime coach of the Florida State Seminoles, spoke to the Southern Colorado Fellowship of Christian Athletes and told them that "The coach has a responsibility to these boys to try to influence their spiritual life..." and "I want my boys to be saved." Now I know why coaches make millions of dollars - part of their job is to get the football players to accept Christ. Private schools may indeed make this mission part of the job description for their coaches. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Notre Dame or Trinity asked their coaches to shill for Christ. But at a public university, all students have a right to be there and to be involved, no matter their religion. If Bobby Bowden wants to preach, he should do it in a place and time where the people he preaches to do not fear his retribution. By having a power position over his players, he bullies them into religion because he can make or break a player's career. It is akin to forcing people to church at knifepoint. Let Bobby preach his religion to people who aren't cowed by him, who see him as an equal, not a boss.
On a personal note, this revelation absolutely disgusts me. I admired Bowden for his football program while I overlooked the many transgressions of his players. Having heard what he said, I can't help but think of the many scandals his team has faced over the past few decades, including theft and rape and the institutionalized breaking of NCAA rules by his program. Bowden speaks out of the corners of his mouth when he talks about looking after his players. He's not interested in growing them up to be men. He's only interested in winning - in winning games and in winning converts. He couldn't care less about how he does it, and in my eyes, that loses him the rightful title of "coach".