How Football Culture Shapes Christian Colleges

Earlier this week, accusations that five Wheaton College football players had brutally hazed their teammate made national headlines. This news marked the biggest football scandal at a Christian school since five Baylor University players received charges of rape and assault. (The incident also led to the removal of Baylor president Ken Starr and head coach Art Briles and the resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw.) While details of the Wheaton case continue to emerge, football’s unique impact on Christian college campuses can’t be denied, said Dan Wood, the executive director of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

“Football leads. If it’s a Christian college, I will tell you it’s the primary sport,” he said. Football is the most physical sport most colleges offer and its position as a fall sport means that athletes often return earlier than other students, a period that reaffirms their status as the center of the campus life, he said.

“Football brings a different culture,” said Wood, who cautions Christian colleges before they add football programs.

“We are putting [athletes] on pedestals,” Wood said. “Sometimes that’s our fault. Sometimes that’s their fault. But nonetheless, that’s where we find them way too often on the Christian campus.”

Wood joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss whether Christian schools have different student-athlete environments than their secular counterparts, the purpose of the NCCAA, and if sports build character—or only reveal it.

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How Football Culture Shapes Christian Colleges
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