Living in Denver and being a Kansas fan, a new theme seems to be emerging with the football teams I keep an eye on. Tim Tebow and Turner Gill are both men with very defined views on faith. Now the topic doesn't seem to be nearly as big with Coach Gill for now as it does currently with Tim Tebow, but either way it made me wonder if this is a help or a hindrance for someone in major college or professional athletics?
Now without a doubt there are many athletes and coaches both professionally and at the amateur level that have very strong conviction and religious views. Few however choose to make it one of the defining characteristics of their public persona. Obviously Tim Tebow is a prime example of someone who has. In doing so, he has become a bit of a lightning rod for fans and media alike to either love or hate. Religion is quite obviously a very divisive topic. With athletes though, how much of that is real and how much of that is a fabrication of journalists who want to tear down someone after building him up? Do fans really care?
Closer to home we have Coach Turner Gill. Coach Gill has been forthcoming with his views and stance on religion and his faith. Unlike Tebow it doesn't seem to define him at the moment, but whether it's players, recruits or parents around the program, his faith is clearly at the forefront of his message. It's what drives his program in terms of the atmosphere he wants to create and the type of relationships he wants to foster. At the moment it appears to be very well received, but then again what recruit or player is going to say "his faith bothers me".
Turner Gill will likely attract and recruit a player that is comfortable with this as by all accounts he is open in the living rooms and on the phones as to what he's looking for and how he approaches life and his profession. Does this pose a problem potentially in the long run? Or are these exactly the type of values you want to present within a program and athletic department?
Maybe it isn't even relevant, maybe in the end the fans don't care, the media won't discuss it and the players will go into it with the expectation. The honeymoon is still in full swing, but this was briefly touched on topic of conversation on message boards and in the media when the Gill hiring was announced. Winning eliminates almost any concern, but if the program struggles or fails to meet expectations is this an area that fans and the media will target much like they have with Tim Tebow?
The topic is certainly out of the comfort zone for many and for that reason it's being left fairly well alone. But, after a couple seasons and things settle in, what if any affect will Turner Gill's strong conviction and faith have on the Kansas program if he succeeds, or to the contrary, if he fails?
Faith and football, faith and sports for that matter, there is always a connection. The question is, how much should be kept private and what are the risks and/or rewards of taking the issue off the backburner and putting it out there squarely in front of anyone and everyone examining you or your program?