Presbyterians Today

FEB-MAR 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 27 S ports encroaching on Sunday worship. Controversies over kneeling versus standing for the national anthem at football games. Praying before the big game. Americans are passionate about sports. But where does faith come into play on the playing field and in the pew? When it comes to faith and sports, Marcia Mount Shoop has some thoughts. She, a former athlete who is now a pastor, and her husband, John Shoop, who spent his career coaching college football, have seen firsthand that often in sports the Jesus playbook — which calls for treating others justly — is tossed aside. And when it comes to the local church and the tiring complaint of secular sports cutting into the church's Sunday school program, Marcia Shoop sees a larger problem that is not being addressed: the problem of not addressing the question "Why are sports chosen over church?" An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Marcia Shoop was in the world of big-time sports for more than 20 years. Before that she was an NCAA track and field and cross-country athlete. In 1995, she married John Shoop, an NCAA athlete in baseball and football. They met while studying religion at Oxford University in England. John was considering a coaching or ministry career. He chose the former, because coaches had the biggest impact on his life, Shoop said. After John had brief stints as a volunteer coach at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and as a graduate assistant at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, the Shoops, in Marcia's words, "got on the fast train." At 25, John was hired as a quality control coach for the Carolina Panthers, making him the youngest coach in the NFL. The Shoops went from the Carolina Panthers to Chicago to Tampa Bay to Oakland — and then in 2007 back to college, where John was an offensive coor- dinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). In the third year of his stint at UNC the Tar Heels became the focus of an investigation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The investigation began because a football player received what the NCAA called improper benefits. It resulted in the UNC football program receiving a post- season bowl ban for the 2012 season, a loss of 15 scholarships and three years' probation. probe that encompassed the bas- ketball program. Despite reports that hundreds of students, many of them athletes, took fake classes at UNC, the NCAA concluded that no academic rules were broken and no penalties would be imposed. Addressing the issue of so-called "paper courses," the NCAA Division 1 Committee on Infractions report, released late last year, said: "The record does not establish that the courses were created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to solely benefit student-athletes." In John's last big-time job, as offensive coordinator for Purdue University's football program, the Shoops increasingly became advo- cates for players. It was at Purdue that they began to learn more about traumatic head injuries in football from engineers at the university. Marcia invited athletic officials to be part of an event where concussions and sports justice could be discussed with an eye toward solutions. But Purdue wanted nothing to do with the forum, she said, because a film that emphasized players' rights, The Business of Amateurs, was going to be shown during the event. The Shoops were also openly sup- portive of the Ed O'Bannon antitrust case in which the former UCLA basketball player and other athletes filed a class-action lawsuit over whether NCAA Division 1 basket- ball and football players should be compensated for the commercial use of their names, images and like- nesses. In 2015 a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that certain NCAA rules violated federal antitrust law. But a year later the Supreme Court denied petitions by both O'Bannon and the NCAA to review the case. The Shoops also publicly sup- ported University of Missouri football players who threatened to strike after troubling racial incidents occurred on campus in November 2015. The players demanded that university President During the investigation, Marcia and John had serious questions about how the university and the NCAA were treating the black football players under investiga- tion. They say the UNC compliance officers and tutors told these players to not talk to anyone — and not to get lawyers. But Marcia began to write about the experience, in a blog series, "Calling Audibles," that helped tell the story of the NCAA investigation at UNC. After the football coaches, including John, lost their jobs, the NCAA investigation at UNC mushroomed into a seven-year Why do we shrug our shoulders as if faith and sports have nothing to do with each other? - Marcia Mount Shoop

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