Assistant UConn football coach Ernest Jones fired after telling Hartford Courant, “We’re going to make sure (the players) understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle. That’s something that is important.”
That’s probably inappropriate these days for a state school, although a devout Christian working with some pretty tough inner city boys might think it useful, but a firing offense? Not just a reprimand?
After an uproar in the Hartford Courant, led by that paper’s editor, UConn’s president Susan Herbst explained that she’d reprimanded Jones, and made it clear to him and the head coach Bob Diaco that Jesus has no place on the gridiron. That should have been that, and it mollified the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, usually a prickly, but fairly sane arbitrator of these things:
Gary Jones, director of the Connecticut Regional Anti-Defamation League, said that UConn addressed the issue properly.
“Clearly, this was a mistake on the part of the coach who is now employed by a public university, but we understand that both the president of the university and the coach have addressed the problem and corrected it and we’re very comfortable with the response,” Gary Jones said. “It was a mistake that was corrected. The last thing we want anyone to do is feel like this is a bad person or he had bad motivation. That’s just not true.”
But a reprimand and caution was not enough, and a letter writing campaign by offended citizens did Jones in. Rena Epstein of West Hartford said that she felt “alientated” after reading Jones’ statement; “it sounds like football players who are not Christian might not be welcome at UConn, and would not feel a part of that huddle. ” Certainly she wasn’t alone in her sentiments and feelings of alienation, although it’s unclear whether Ms. Epstein plans on playing for the Huskies herself.
What was Jones hired to do? His coach explained, before the firing:
”It is a great role that [Jones] is an expert at and it is making sure players have a yearlong plan for developing in a myriad of different areas. Let’s just call it social development. It is teaching them about agents; it’s teaching them about drugs and alcohol; it’s teaching them and giving them inspirational stories from people that had adversity and persevered, bringing those people into clinic and lecture. It’s teaching them how to write a resume. It’s teaching them how to do an interview. It’s teaching them how to set a table or eat with a fork and knife properly, and etiquette; a myriad of different life-skills lessons and social development levels that help the players engage. It will also develop for a yearlong plan, a detailed community service plan where we are out in the community helping.”
Nowhere in that job description is there anything about religion, for God’s sake, so it’s a good thing this threat to civilized society has been ridden out of town.