Sloan: Baylor's basketball sins
call for repentance but not withdrawal
By Mark Wingfield
WACO–Revelations of extensive improprieties within Baylor University's men's basketball program should not cause the Baptist school to leave the Big 12 Conference, but should prompt repentance and re-examination, President Robert Sloan insists.
In an interview Aug. 18, as further evidence of wrongdoing by former Coach Dave Bliss and perhaps others continued to roll out almost by the hour, Sloan defended Baylor's place in the most competitive ranks of college sports.
Faced with recent dismal records in football and now the complete meltdown of the men's basketball program, some Baylor supporters have questioned anew the wisdom of a Baptist university competing amid the powerhouses of the Big 12, including Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
|"We as an institution have clearly had our failures, and that calls us to repentance. It calls us to re-examination. But it doesn't call us to quit."
“The question is penetrating because I think the Christian faces that question some ways in every day of his or her life,” Sloan said. “How to be in the world and not of the world. How to be salt and light in the world. How not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In previous news conferences, Sloan insisted Baylor, because it is a Christian university, must adhere to higher standards than mandated by NCAA regulations for other schools.
“Here we as an institution have clearly had our failures, and that calls us to repentance,” he said. “It calls us to re-examination. But it doesn't call us to quit. It calls us to hold ourselves accountable because the Lord does, then to recommit ourselves and go back and try again.
“Every Christian faces this on an individual basis. We know our lives are supposed to be a witness in the world. We want others to see Christ in us. Yet we all fail in that–sometimes in large ways, sometimes in small ways.”
Sloan will not allow that Baylor cannot succeed by acting ethically, even if other schools might cheat to gain an advantage.
Life's not fair, he said, and those who try to compete honestly in any undertaking face competition from those who don't play by the rules. That's no excuse for succumbing to temptation, he said.
“The fact that we succumb to temptation–now the question is do we accept responsibility for it, accept the consequences and then by faith try to move on?”
Baylor should no more forsake highly competitive athletics than it should forsake its quest to perform on the highest academic levels, Sloan declared.
“It would be a great mistake for Christians to say, 'We can't take the pressure' or 'We can't compete' or 'We can't participate.' Whether it is research or athletic competition or music, the arts, the business world, journalism, all of the great influencers of culture, we have to be there.”
Two Texas Baptists with different vantage points on Baylor agreed with Sloan's assessment.
Jon Mark Beilue, sports editor at the Amarillo Globe News and a member of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, affirmed that Christian principles should not prevent one from participating in competitive college athletics.
“It's not mutually exclusive in Division 1,” he said. “If you look at it individually, for example, you see a lot of Christian athletes who are quite successful in what they do.”
It is hard for private schools to make it in a conference like the Big 12, he said, but that has more to do with enrollment and resources than faith.
Also, “it's more crucial at a private school like Baylor than it might be at public schools to hire the right coach,” he added.
Likewise, former Baylor regent John Boyd of Amarillo continues to feel strongly that Baylor can compete in the Big 12. Boyd, an emeritus chief justice with the Texas 7th Court of Appeals, served on the Baylor board when the university entered the Big 12.
“I think we can compete, and we can compete well,” he said.
“Nothing good is easy,” he added. “You've got to want to succeed, and I think Baylor can succeed. We've got to realize and emphasize our distinctive.”
That distinctive is being the only private, church-related institution in the Big 12, he said.
“My conception of the aim of Baylor is to demonstrate that being a Christian intellectual is not an oxymoron,” said Boyd, also a member of First Baptist. “To graduate students who are not ashamed of their faith, who know there is an intellectual justification for it. I think there are enough good athletes who would want to go to a school like that.”
And that should be a pull for the right kind of coaches, as well, he added. “Baylor being unabashedly Christian would be an inducement to a lot of people. Coach Morriss (football) made that distinction when he came to Baylor.”
Boyd and others point to Notre Dame as evidence of another Christian school succeeding in big-time college athletics.
The Baptist Standard sought a comment from Notre Dame administrators about how they have accomplished this goal. However, university spokesman Matthew Storin said the Catholic school is “reluctant to hold ourselves up as the ideal, or even a more positive example, when a school is in trouble.”