Clemson Coach Addresses Religious Critics
DABO SWINNEY: “ALL FAITHS WELCOME” IN TIGER FOOTBALL PROGRAM
Clemson University head football coach Dabo Swinney publicly responded to allegations that his program has engaged in “unconstitutional behavior” by promoting Christianity at the expense of other religions.
Clemson is a taxpayer-funded school … although its governing board is technically in violation of the South Carolina constitution’s ban on lifetime appointments.
Anyway … Swinney’s program has drawn fire from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that fights to preserve the federally prescribed separation of church and state.
According to the organization’s complaint Swinney appointed a team chaplain, scheduled team devotionals and provided transportation for players to Christian church services, among other offenses.
“Christian worship seems interwoven into Clemson’s football program,” the organization stated. “We are concerned that this commingling of religion and athletics results, not from student initiative, but rather from the attitudes and unconstitutional behaviors of the coaching staff.”
The organization called on Clemson to “immediately stop team prayers, sermons, bible studies and ‘church days’ for players and train staff about their First Amendment obligations.”
This week Swinney addressed the allegations in a statement issued by the University.
“I have recruited and coached players of many different faiths,” he said. “Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character.”
Swinney added that “I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith.”
“I am proud of the great success we have had in developing good players and good men at Clemson,” he continued. “We win at the highest level and we graduate players who excel on the field and in life because of their time in Death Valley.”
Swinney – who recently inked an eight-year, $27.5 million contract extension – has posted a 51-23 record in five-and-a-half seasons as Clemson’s head coach. Since hiring Chad Morris as his offensive coordinator prior to the 2011 season, Swinney’s teams have gone 32-8 – including a 2011 conference championship victory and a 2014 Orange Bowl win over Ohio State.
That success has been tempered, however, by a five-game losing streak against Clemson’s arch-rival – the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.