They say that as long as teachers give tests, there will be prayer in school. And, as long as there are football games, coaches will pray to win.

Coaches, of course, say they only pray that no one gets injured and that everybody has fun. But when heads are bowed and hands are joined, only God knows what they're really asking for.

Prayer and faith have been entwined with sports all my life. It's always been that way here in the Bible Belt. Nobody much questioned a bunch of players mumbling the Lord's Prayer before the game or taking a knee while the local minister said something about fair play and higher powers.

But there's a line of cerebral sensitivity that some coaches continue to cross, taking religion to the level of unquestioned authority, proselytizing by the potentate.

Sometimes you pray they don't go too far.

Time and place

Last Saturday afternoon, after Clemson beat The Citadel, Tigers offensive coordinator Rob Spence explained his team's improved play by saying, "We prayed this morning that God would breathe some spirit and life into us and that we would have some enthusiasm."

They did. They beat the Bulldogs, 45-17. But they probably could have defeated the smaller military college without the aid of the Holy Spirit.

It brings into question whether coaches at public universities really have the right to invoke their religious beliefs on their players.

Granted, most players at Clemson are probably Christian and see no problem with Tommy Bowden occasionally mandating church attendance or his coaching staff using the word of God as the Thesaurus for their playbook of life and football.

But there's a time and place.

"I wanted us to be spirit-filled when we walked onto that field today," Spence said after quoting the Old Testament about small beginnings. "I just thank God that he provided that today."

Priority list

The insinuation is that God cares about your football team. And that He cares more about your football team than the football team you are playing.

While I'm sure He does to some extent, I truly hope He cares about more important things, like starving people, political tyranny and various wars raging around the world.

All the people on the short end of those ropes are praying to somebody. Which takes precedence?

It's interesting that Bowden and his Clemson staff emphasize religion so much and use it as a recruiting tool on young athletes. Meanwhile, I've never heard South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier even mention religion, one way or the other. Both men, I'm sure, are treated equally in the eyes of the Lord on game day.

The bottom line is that we should leave God out of sports. Give Him a pass. Let Him sit in the press box, be neutral and enjoy the game.

Because in the scheme of all things big and small, the enthusiasm of your offensive linemen is probably pretty far down His priority list.

Honest to God.

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5598.