Oh, dear, what now? Moments after his Clemson Tigers won the college football national championship Monday night, Coach Dabo Swinney stood on his hind legs and proclaimed “all the glory goes to the good Lord.” Not to some bull-necked linebacker or a pass receiver who seems to carry his own mini-trampoline.
With once-invincible Alabama leaving the stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. thoroughly beaten, 44-16, Swinney was not finished. “You cannot write a Hollywood script like this,” he said, fairly shouting his witness before a national media, including a sizable percentage of non-believers.
“Only God can do this!”
Anybody else struck by the irony? Swinney goes prime-time, live, with his faith, while local school boards fire teacher-coaches for leading a team in prayer. Or, even so much as a moment of silence.
This intensely personal push-pull over religion has a long, long history in sports, including two of the best-known coaches of their time – Frank Broyles of Arkansas and Darrell Royal of Texas.
In my new book Beyond The Big Shootout – 50 Years of Football’s Life Lessons, I point out that Broyles and wife Barbara regularly hosted evangelist Rev. Billy Graham in their Fayetteville home. Graham gave the on-field invocation just before kickoff of the legendary Shootout, Dec. 6, 1969. The Razorbacks privately joked their team was divided by cold beer – the dry Christians from the Lions sitting on bar stools at Maxine’s Tap Room. They were kidding, of course.
Royal and his Longhorns did not pray before games. DKR thought it disingenuous, as if the Steers were asking God for victory, rather than for strength of character and wisdom. Once the Shootout was over, it should be noted Royal led the team in the Lord’s prayer. On national TV.
Beyond The Big Shootout
Hard cover book arrives on or about April 1. Pre-order your copy today.
More than a sports book, this is a long journey into American history … our education system … big TV money in “amateur” sports … Vietnam … the military draft … integration … car wrecks … sweethearts getting married … It’s all in the 300-plus page large format book, chock full of new and period photos, along with original illustrations by award-winning artist Bill DeOre.