UConn president slams football coach for putting Jesus ‘in the center of our huddle’
- Running backs coach Ernest Jones said players could “love the God that [they] love.”
- Jones emphasized that he would work with players from several Christian denominations.
- UConn President Herbst wrote in her op-ed that school officials cannot promote a religion as part of their work.
The president of the University of Connecticut (UConn) publicly condemned a football coach who encouraged his players to put Jesus “in the center of our huddle,” in an op-ed published in The Hartford Courant.
Ernest Jones, the running backs coach for the UConn football team, also serves as director of engagement where he attempts to promote civic virtues, provide mentorship, and schedule community service events for the team.
Jones has come under public scrutiny after statements he made in a January 11th interview with The Courant, where some claim he crossed a line by making pro-Christian statements.
“And we're going to do things in our building, fellowship, non-denominational type things, players, coaches. We're going to make sure they understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle, that that's something that is important,” said Jones.
“If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships then you better understand that this didn't happen because of you. This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That's going to be something said by [Uconn Head Coach] Bob Diaco. That's something that's going to be said by Ernest Jones. That's who we are," he added.
Jones said in the interview that his players would be able to “love the God that you love,” and stressed he would be working with individuals from a variety of religious traditions.
UConn President Susan Herbst published an op-ed in The Courant, in which she agreed with a previous letter to the editor from alumna Rena Epstein, that criticized Jones’ statements as being exclusive to other faiths.
“But it should go without saying that our employees cannot appear to endorse or advocate for a particular religion or spiritual philosophy as part of their work at the university, or in their interactions with our students,” said Herbst.
“This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field. Our athletic director and coach Bob Diaco agree wholeheartedly with me, and have made this clear to their staff,” she added.
A spokesman for UConn said Herbst’s op-ed is the university’s official position on the matter.
The Courant reported earlier this week that Gary Jones, a spokesman for the Connecticut chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, said that while they feel that Jones made a mistake, they think it has been properly handled.
"Clearly, this was a mistake on the part of the coach who is now employed by a public university, but we understand that both the president of the university and the coach have addressed the problem and corrected it and we're very comfortable with the response," Jones said.
"It was a mistake that was corrected. The last thing we want anyone to do is feel like this is a bad person or he had bad motivation. That's just not true."
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