Conference to explore role of Catholicism in college athletics

Author: Arts and Letters


An examination of how Catholicism is played out in collegiate sports will be the focus of a three-day conference Nov. 10 to 12 (Thursday to Saturday) in McKenna Hall at the University of Notre Dame.

“Catholic Identity and the Role of Sport,” sponsored by Notre Dame’s Program in Catholic Social Tradition, will focus on topics such as character development, gender equity and amateurism and include presentations by experts from across the country, two of whom played football for Notre Dame. The conference is free and open to the public.

“Catholicism is a sacramental religion – that is, it focuses on how God is active and revealed in human activity, and one of those activities is sport,” said Todd Whitmore, associate professor of theology and director of the Program in Catholic Social Tradition.

“Last September, Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to `make the commitment to make sports contribute to the construction of a society characterized by mutual respect, loyalty in our behavior, and solidarity among all peoples and cultures.’

“The question for collegiate sport at Catholic colleges and universities in the United States is whether they serve the ends of respect and solidarity.”

The conference schedule is as follows:

Thursday, 7p.m.: “The Twilight of Amateurism: Reflections of a Former Notre Dame Football Player,” featuring Allen Sack, professor of business at the University of New Haven, co-author of “College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA’s Amateur Myth,” and member of Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship football team.

Friday, 9 a.m.: “Do Sports Promote Character Development? A Catholic Perspective,” featuring Edward Hastings, director for the Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development at Neumann College in Aston, Pa.

Friday, 10:30 a.m.: “Catholic Social Teaching, Notre Dame Sports Apparel and the Problem of Sweatshops,” featuring Todd Whitmore.

Friday, 1:30p.m.: “Conversations with my Grandfather: On Gender Equity, Catholicism, and College Sport,” featuring Ellen Staurowsky, associate professor of sport management and media at Ithaca College, and co-author of “College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA’s Amateur Myth.”

Friday, 3p.m.: “Old ND, New ND: The Changing Relationship of Intercollegiate Athletics to the Mission of the University of Notre Dame,” featuring Murray Sperber, professor emeritus of English and American studies at Indiana University and author of “College Sports Inc.,” “Shake Down the Thunder” and “Onward to Victory.”

Saturday, 10 a.m.: “What’s Catholic about Catholic Football?” featuring Michael Oriard, Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at Oregon State University and author of “King Football,” “Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle” and “Sporting with the Gods.” Oriard__was an All-America lineman for Notre Dame in the late 1960s_._

The Program in Catholic Social Tradition is an interdisciplinary minor committed to providing students with a deeper understanding of the social ramifications of the Catholic faith.

Originally published by Susan Guibert at on November 03, 2005.