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NCAA scandal spurs warnings against sports idolatry by David Roach

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PLANO, Texas (BP) — Amid news of an NCAA basketball scandal involving alleged illegal payments to recruits, two Southern Baptist-linked high schools known for producing elite players have underscored the need for a God-focused perspective in athletics.

“Hopefully, that starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ…. Then we can use Him and His standards as our barometer,” Conrady told Baptist Press.”We’ve got a couple of young men that are being actively recruited” by college basketball programs, said David Conrady, boys basketball coach at Prestonwood Christian Academy, a ministry of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. “I expressed to them [that] it all starts with your foundation of what you believe in.

Prestonwood Christian Academy won its sixth consecutive state championship this year and has sent players to NCAA schools like Kentucky, Arizona, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Prestonwood alumnus Julius Randle plays for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.

The New York Times reported Sept. 26 that federal investigators have made public a series of complaints alleging efforts by college basketball programs and their corporate sponsor to secretly send money to recruits and their families. The complaints also allege bribery of assistant coaches at four universities to send players to certain financial advisers once they turn professional.

Conrady, who has coached at the college level, said the emphasis on money and winning at all costs among some college programs tempts coaches and athletes to commit the types of ethical and legal violations alleged by the federal investigators.

“Nobody woke up a couple of days ago and said, ‘We should start doing some of these things that are not in the best interest of the student athletes or the institution,'” Conrady said. “When the focus changes from what the original intention was and it turns to winning only or getting distracted by the money,” that leads “to people trying to find shortcuts to success.”

Yet fans should not assume all major college basketball programs violate the rules, Conrady said. “I can promise you that a lot more than not are doing things the right way,” he said.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor Evan Lenow wrote in a Sept. 27 blog post that the NCAA scandal suggests “sports has become a form of idolatry in our society. What else could drive coaches, players, families and major corporations to participate in criminal behavior?”

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