After only about a month in the position, University of Connecticut assistant football coach Ernest Jones reportedly stepped down recently. While neither he nor the school have publicly commented on the cause of his departure, some recent statements he made regarding his Christianity have caused some to speculate that there might have been a correlation.
In an interview with a local newspaper shortly after accepting the position, he expressed his belief that “Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle.”
A devout believer, Jones made it clear that he believes any success on or off the football field is directly attributable to the Lord, indicating head coach Bob Diaco echoes his belief.
“If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships,” he said, “then you better understand that this didn’t happen because of you.”
Subsequently, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst made a statement to the same newspaper clarifying the school’s position regarding Jones’ comments.
“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,” she said, “or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field.”
A few short weeks later, Jones announced his resignation, a development Diaco described as merely “coincidental.”
He called his assistant’s decision “a shock,” explaining Jones “took a week and deeply reflected with his family,” ultimately choosing to “focus on private family matters and pursue other opportunities that facilitate and suit his family.”
While taking care of one’s family is commendable, the timing of his announcement – especially after such a short tenure with the school – strikes many as suspicious. Such mistrust is unfortunately justified, considering the icy reception outspoken Christians often receive on American college campuses.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC (Creative Commons)