We all know soccer can be a religion to its many fans around the world, but a line gets crossed when religion is used to mold a soccer team. At a public university.

Over at TBogg, he highlights a recent situation at San Diego State University where four players were thrown off the team, including their best player, due to disagreements with the coaches. Religious disagreements. The San Diego Union-Tribune has more:

In a letter to SDSU Athletic Director Jeff Schemmel, Jen Mello’s father Gary accused the coaches of “mental and verbal abuse"? and trying to “mold them into their vision of the perfect young female with a religious backdrop."?

Gary Mello said the coaches hold religion discussions in team meetings, they question them on whether they are religious and suggest they go to church together. Greg Strickland said the coaches are “very heavy Christians."?

Gary Mello said there are many other issues, including the coaches trying to tell his daughter who her friends should be…

Of course, the university doesn’t want something like this in the press, so…

Strickland said his daughter was told if she makes any “negative representations to the press"? about what happened, they would “take away her scholarship immediately."?

Ah yes, the scholarship as weapon. If you read the complete article, apparently two other players were dismissed in the Spring. Now, one or two players off a team would be considered eye opening, but more often than not due to player/coach differences and often because the player has an attitude problem. But SIX?

TBogg rightly notes that this has nothing to do with the beliefs of the coaches, but rather the inappropriateness of trying to use religion to mold the girls in their worldview:

If this had happened at BYU or Pepperdine or Liberty it wouldn’t be such a big thing, because the students know what they are getting themselves into when they sign their letter of intent with a school with a strong religious affiliation. But this is a public university and coaches Giuliano and Friesen are abusing their authority and this is unacceptable on the taxpayer’s dime. We’re not talking about a political science professor shoving his leftist/Marxist agenda down someone’s throat in a classroom; this is a coach who decides whether you play or whether you sit, and I don’t know too many women who accept a spot on a team and play almost year-round with the intent of drawing splinters for four years because they refuse to accept the coaches’ Lord into their heart.

Exactly. How could a coach even think that this was appropriate? First, did they really think that EVERY girl on the team was religious? And even if they were, that they were all Christian? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with players who wish to pray together before/after matches, etc. You see it all the time in professional sports and nobody thinks twice about it. But you don’t see the coaches leading team wide prayer circles on the sideline. The article makes a reference to the coaches telling players who their friends should be. You can bet there probably was pressure as to who the BOYfriends could be too. Which is surprising as ANY soccer coaches knows, talking or even joking about a players boyfriends and they’re, er, off field activities can have unexpected results.

Of course, the university can’t be shocked about this. As the article noted, the coaches came to SDSU from Westmont College which a handy Google search reveals:

Westmont College is a Christian Liberal Arts College located in Santa Barbara, California.

I think they may have missed that they had moved to a public university. Here’s hoping the girls find better schools to transfer to since it seems like the University is circling the wagons. I just hate it for the 2nd string player who is Jewish or Muslim and just wants to play soccer and isn’t likely to have coaches beating down their doors.