Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team


The Columbus Dispatch has recently reported that Ohio State's new football coach, Urban Meyer

                will offer optional Bible studies and chapel services for the players, Meyer said. His faith is an important part of all parts of his life, including his coaching career.  Meyer said the optional services he’ll offer players at Ohio State will be nondenominational Christian. But he said he would tell the young men that if they want to worship a different way, he’ll “certainly cater to that as well.”

Hmm.  The whole concept of a state university official conducting religious classes for his students in a way that is certain to affect their performance as university athletes bothers me a great deal.  Skipping over the arguable violation of the separation of church and state, there are other problems beside the purely constitutional one.  I'm a Professor of Law at The Ohio State University.  If I started holding classes in my home for my Commercial Law students on "Atheism and Its Philosophy," and the students knew it would affect how I treated them in class (even if I said otherwise), I'm certain that frowning University officials would quickly be knocking on my office door.  Apparently Urban Meyer is not held to the same standard.

Urban Meyer, former University of Florida head football coach (where Tim Tebow was one of his greatest players), is a very devout Catholic, and however "nondenominational" these Bible studies are claimed to be they're going to have that far right bent to them.  These Bible studies are going to be largely about Jesus, of course, and Jews, whose version of the Bible does not include the New Testament, are not going to attend.  How Meyer will "cater" to Jews and Muslim football players is not explained.  And what of the "young men" who don't want to worship at all?  How will Meyer treat them?
Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer

Suppose you are an 18 year-old Ohio State player, newly recruited to the team, and you come from a family of atheists.  When the famous Urban Meyer puts his arm around you and asks if you've "found Jesus" and want to attend the coach's Bible study and prayer groups, what will you reply?  If you smile and say, "Sorry, coach, but I don't believe in that stuff," you'll soon be very familiar with sitting on the bench, and the scholarship you've been granted will shortly be at risk.  Go along, get along, or get out.

Of course it's not just the atheist students who'll be more or less forced to give in and pretend to a Christianity they don't feel, but all of the student athletes who have no strong religious beliefs one way or the other.  And that's exactly what Meyer wants: bring them under the tent, expose them to Jesus, put them under tremendous pressure to conform (or else), and hope that they'll thereby become saved in the eyes of the Lord!  Halleluiah!

This is all of a piece with the very successful penetration that evangelical Christianity has had in placing chaplains on almost all of the professional football, baseball, and basketball teams in the United States (over 100 of them).  As is appallingly detailed by Tom Krattenmaker, a religion writer for USA Today and Salon who wrote the 2009 book Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks Into Pulpits and Players Into Preachers, these teams all hold prayer sessions and Bible studies for the players, and those who do not join are made to feel like second-class team members.  Jews have been sternly informed that, alas, they are going to hell unless they convert, and some have been advised to explore the Jews For Jesus organization.  Their chaplains preach the straight conservative evangelical line, and have resisted the idea that other religions are of equal value.  The players who conform are proud to parade their love of Jesus before the cameras, celebrating in his name when touchdowns are scored or World a Series is won, and giving him credit for victories (but, of course, never the blame for losses). 


This leads to other problems.  The Columbus Dispatch ran an article in the Sports section this past week that began like this:

In a scarlet and gray world, a lavender shirt sticks out.

And that’s the point, said Ohio State football’s new director of performance, Mickey Marotti. In putting the Buckeyes through the first winter conditioning program under coach Urban Meyer, he has made the lavender shirt the wardrobe of a loafer on the field, in the weight room, at the training table or in the classroom.

“You don’t want to wear those,” senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said yesterday.

So far, he hasn’t. Not many players have been identified as lollygaggers. 

               “It’s week five, the guys are training really hard, they’re buying in to what we’re feeding  them,” Marotti said.

It never occurs to Marotti, of course, that some of his players might actually be gay or that even the straight ones often have gay friends and relatives who would be very offended by this form of humiliation.  The Bible, in the view of evangelicals, clearly consigns homosexuals to eternal torment in hell, and obviously they're such lavender sissies that none of them could possibly be football players of any worth.

Coach Mickey Marotti

This article caused me to send a "Letter to the Editor" to the Dispatch:

So Ohio State football's new director of performance makes players who are loafers on the field, in the weight room, etc., wear a lavender shirt to embarrass them ["New strength coach a colorful motivator," Feb. 13, 2012]. Does he also use anti-gay slurs when referring to these slackers or is the shirt's color enough to send the same homophobic message?

Douglas Whaley
Dublin, Ohio

So far I haven't heard whether the Dispatch is interested in printing my letter, and perhaps it's just as well if it doesn't.  I don't need to have my condo burned down because I had the temerity to criticize Urban Meyer and his Christian coaches.

Postscript (March 6, 2012):

When a gay organization at Ohio State sent Coach Meyer (whom I've been informed is a devout Catholic) written protest about the lavender shirt, he responded in writing that the color of the shirt would be changed.  Some of the "Comments" below doubt that the lavender shirt was meant to be a gay slam.  If you Google up "gay lavender" you'll see that the connection is obvious.  In Columbus, for example, the gay "Yellow Pages" are called "Lavender Listings."  The football players clearly got the message—they called it the "Queer Shirt."

Postscript (August 24, 2012):

For the latest episode in this story see my post "Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team," dated August 24, 2012, http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/08/update-urban-meyer-and-non-christian.html

Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
"An Atheist's Christmas Card," December 23, 2011
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/08/update-urban-meyer-and-non-christian.html
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?” October 17, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


  1. And just what will our beloved University do about this pro Christian/anti Gay coach. I bet I can guess. They'll wait to see how many games he wins next year. If it's over 10 then they won't do anything. If its less than 7 they'll launch an investigation and fire him (regrettably). If it's 7, 8, or 9 they'll launch an investigation and take action (or not) once the results of the next year's recruiting class are in. In the mean time, it must be awkward for Gordon Gee (himself a Mormon) to be around Meyer. Bet they don't talk much theology. I wonder what President Gee would have done if strength coach Marotti had made slackers wear 'special underwear' as part of their punishment.

  2. I must have missed when the gay community adopted lavender, pink or any other basic colors as thier individual property?

    When I see lavender, I don't think gay. I would associate it with more of a womens fashion choice than mens, which I suspect is a more reasonable assumption as to Meyer and Marriotti's practice.

    Do you think it's mysogynistic to imply that the players are playing "like a girl"? I suppose it is, though the women who are worried about that seem to

    But what is troubling is your assumption that lavender means gays and vice versa. I have had openly gay friends that (gasp!) eschew pastels in thier wardrobe. They wouldn't ever veiw themselves as "sissies". Some even played football.

    Not sure how you can criticize stereotypes when you seem to want to hold on to them like intellectual property.

    1. Just copy this link into your browser.


      If you've never heard of the word lavender being associated with LGBT issues then you either don't really have any gay friends or are being intentionally obtuse. It's cool that you want to express your opinion but please just try not to make stuff up and expect it to carry any weight in a discussion.

  3. Wow.... you are OUT OF YOUR MIND creating issues where there are none....

  4. I just....I just don't know what to say about this whole article. Some people just need to be outraged, I guess.

  5. How does it feel to wrote something that was proven total bunk? Must make you feel like apologizing?

  6. I find it fascinating that the people who scream and moan about inequality and other witchunts are generally the perpetrators. Use OSU football if you want, but this is simply another article bashing religion. Not your most original work, I'm sure...

  7. Most Christian coaches I know at the collegiate level offer some sort of Bible study to their players, and it's nothing like a class; it's basically a discussion and study of the Bible. In addition, the version used would probably be the NIV, not the KJV (not very many people use the KJV anymore, just a fyi). When he says he'll cater to other ways of worship (I'm assuming as much as you are), I'm guessing he means to different types of Christian worship at his meetings. Christianity is a completely different religion than Mormonism, Islam, or Judaism, so why would people from these other religions come to a Christian meeting?

    If you think it would affect performance, I'm sure that Urban is as big of a competitor as anyone, and he'll put the best 11 players on the field no matter what.

  8. Another leftist law professor how original. First off Coach Meyer is a Catholic, secondly it is TIM Tebow, not Tom. UofF is also a state run institution and there was no problem with Coach Meyer there. Of course the leftties in our society want to cram athiesim down our collective throats, but are intollerant of others beliefs. Just as they are intollerant of the beliefs of anyone that do not believe the gays should be welcomed into our society.

  9. If you think Urban Meyer cares more about a student -athlete's religious affiliation or belief system than putting the best players on the field, you're crazy. It's up to individuals to decline invitations to participate in religious activities to which they do not ascribe.

  10. Who gives a fuuuuuuck! Go Bucks!

  11. Seriously? Lavender shirt = offensive to gays. Get over yourself. It's just a way to distinguish players who aren't giving 100% in practice. You must be one paranoid dude.

  12. You embarass Ohio State's law school. In this day in age, you are actually going to put forward the argument that a segment of people "owns" a color? If someone told me this story, without my having read it, I'd never have believed it true. THere are football teams that dress the quarterback in a green jersey at practice so he won't be hit. As an Irishman, should I be outraged that these teams are suggesting Irish weakness with this practice?

    I also find your writing so typical of the extremists. You throw out a fact that is, in and of itself, quite harmless and then you project something outrageous on an individual. Case in point: Coach Marotti uses the purple shirt; you then in your letter to the Dispatch ask rhetorically if he will also be using anti gay slurs. In other words, you accuse a person you don't know of being a ranting anti gay bigot. No wonder you taught law - you would have been a complete trainwreck in a courtroom.

    I won't even go into your rant on Meyer's bible study course. As has been pointed out in other comments, your credibility is shot when you call Meyer an evangelical Christian when he is not (excellent research counsel). Can't we just assume that the Ohio State players are big boys and can take care of themselves? If they don't want to attend to the study, they don't have to. If Meyer is any kind of football coach (which he has proven in the past), he'll play his best players whether they're Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Scientologists, atheists or they worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  13. You atheists have taken the freedom of religion and changed it in your heads to freedom from religion. The intent of the freedom of religion clause has been hijacked. Freedom to worship anywhere and anytime and any religion. As long as the state does not endorse it it should be ok. Urban Meyer offers a voluntary bible study. His belief is that Christ is his savior. When he promotes a voluntary bible study or prayer, it is his personal offer. Not an offer of the state or sponsored by the state. It is offered by Urban Meyer, the individual. So the problem with our society is the whiners who dont want any religion, anywhere.

  14. Atheists as well as homosexuals are the most intolerant. inconsiderate people. As a Christian I am expected to be tolerant of a lifestyle whether I accept it or not. Yet my beliefs and my lifestyle is always challenged. Coach Meyers is not forcing anyone to attend or participate in these functions. It is evident that no one is being penalized for not participating. The are playing for a National Championship. If you want to practice atheism, then do it with the same freedom I have to exercise my religion. Unfortunately, I don't have enough faith to be an atheist. If I don't agree with a lifestyle I have that freedom as well. Let Coach Meyers teach these young men morals and standards. If they find that in the Lord Jesus Christ then more the better. With my beliefs I feel comfortable in dying. Do you?

  15. I'm wearing a lavender shirt right now and my boss, who is gay, hasn't hit on me yet.


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