The president of the University of Connecticut is taking issue with a member of the school's new football staff saying "Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle."
Ernest Jones, hired as a running backs coach and director of player engagement, told The Hartford Courant that players and coaches will do "fellowship, non-denominational type things" in their building.
"We're going to make sure they understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle, that that's something that is important. If you want to be successful and you want to win, get championships, then you better understand that this didn't happen because of you," he was quoted as saying in a story published over the weekend. "This happened because of our Lord and Savior. That's going to be something said by Bob Diaco. That's something that's going to be said by Ernest Jones. That's who we are."
UConn President Susan Herbst responded on Tuesday by saying all students must feel welcome and that employees at the public school cannot appear to endorse any particular religion.
In a letter published by The Courant, Herbst writes: "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, or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field."
She says Athletic Director Warde Manuel and new head football coach Bob Diaco agree, and have made that clear to the staff.
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UConn Athletics spokesperson Mike Enright said the purpose of Jones' position is to "build men of fiber, character and good works."
Enright said Diaco has received several emails from fans and supporters expressing concerns over Jones' comment. Diaco responded by assuring fans organized religion would have no role in the football program.
Diaco and Jones both come to Connecticut from Notre Dame, a private Roman Catholic university.