Liberty University has spent millions building a football program intended to compete in top bowl games in order to raise the profile of evangelicalism. The success of the University of Notre Dame's football program—ranked No. 1 this year—is credited by many with having a similar benefit for Catholicism.
"It would betray our mission (as explained to millions of donors) if we did not strive to build a topnotch football program. This investment will pay dividends for generations because it will shine a light on our mission—to train champions for Christ—like nothing else can."
Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor and president, Liberty University
"The potential benefits of a winning football team are attractive to university administrators. Evangelicals have embraced sport in the name of spreading the gospel, using the formula 'winning = fame, fame = exposure, exposure = souls for Christ.' This is risky, but can be handled well."
Brian Bolt, professor, Calvin College
"Athletic programs can be glorious expressions of God-endowed human creativity and excellence, but they may become dangerous idols. Whether they are worth it depends upon whether they enhance or inhibit a school's particular God-ordained purposes."
Perry L. Glanzer, resident scholar, Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion
"Athletics can be a tremendous way to extend the witness of an institution. But breaking into the upper tier of Division I athletics requires an investment of gargantuan proportions. Unless the entire community is behind the idea, it can be one of the riskiest decisions a college makes."
D. Michael Lindsay, president, Gordon College
"I understand why Liberty wants to move forward with football. However, if I were running a Christian university flush with cash, I would ask whether there are more distinctive ways to develop alumni passions. Can the money be used to fund teaching innovations or tuition subsidies?"
Hunter Baker, dean of instruction, Union University
"A Division I program can produce substantial income. If indeed 'The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,' we can expect that the pursuit of money and prestige through football will produce the same kinds of evils at Liberty that it has elsewhere."
Mike Hamilton, professor, Seattle Pacific University
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.