BYU and Baylor University have more in common than being part of the Big 12 Conference’s future. They’re also two religious schools — BYU is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Baylor is affiliated with the Texas Baptist General Convention — seeking the right balance between football and faith.
Because of their religious identity, each school has been criticized over the years for investing in an expensive sport that glorifies violence, according to Hunter Hampton, assistant professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University. But each remained committed to football and found ways to link it to their religious mission.
“When you look at the role of football on campus, there are more similarities (between BYU and Baylor) than differences,” said Hampton, who studies the links between college football, masculinity and faith.
A key similarity is that both football programs endured many difficult years before finding their footing. School administrators and team leaders have learned to talk about the value of football without any reference to the win-loss record, Hampton said.
“They said that you become a better Christian through your struggles on the football field, and that by submitting to routines and training, your body, your faith, and your life after college are strengthened,” did he declare.
Players would share that same message in their interviews, Hampton added.
“You would have BYU athletes in post-game interviews talking about how the game (taught them) lessons about life and overcoming struggle,” he said.
However, poor seasons made it more difficult to convince skeptical stakeholders that football was worth it.
In recent, more successful seasons, it has been easier to make the case for football programs driving increased interest from prospective students and greater engagement with the wider culture, Hampton said.
“Both schools used football as a recruiting tool for students, not just student-athletes,” he said.
The main difference between Baylor and BYU is that BYU, like Notre Dame, has a national, if not international, fandom that includes people who share the same faith as the principals but who have not attended the institution themselves. same.
“A lot of my Latter-day Saint friends are BYU fans, whether they’ve been there or not,” Hampton said, noting that their fandom and faith are strongly connected.
Baylor, on the other hand, had to work harder to build up their fan base.
“You won’t find Baptists in other parts of the country or the world who say, ‘I support Baylor because of my Baptist identity,'” Hampton said, noting that church structure likely accounts for the difference.
But the fandom is clearly there, and it will grow if the football of Baylor, currently ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press’ Top 25 Pollcontinues to succeed on the pitch.
Hampton believes the interest of both schools in supporting the sport is only growing stronger.
“There has been a constant debate on these campuses about the value of football and questions are constantly being asked,” he said. “But, if there was an answer, it is to invest” even more in these programs.
BYU, ranked No. 21 in the same AP poll, and Baylor face off Saturday night in Provo.