Clemson University

ACLU task force accuses Bowden of imposing religious beliefs on players

CLEMSON -- The state task force for the American Civil Liberties Union has accused Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden of abusing his authority by imposing his religious beliefs on players.

The ACLU's claims were filed in a letter dated Aug. 31, to which the university denied the claims a month later.

The allegations came to light Wednesday, three days into the recruiting period in which coaches can visit prospects.

While no player sought out the ACLU to file a complaint, the organization considering taking action after reading an article in which Bowden described his team's annual event in which players visit a local church, said Steve Lowe, president of the Piedmont Chapter of the ACLU.

Athletic department spokesman Tim Bourret said Bowden, athletic director Terry Don Phillips and university counsel met regarding the letter and agreed that for subsequent trips, the school would not provide bus transportation to the gathering, as it had for just this year. Players would instead be asked to find their own transportation.

Also, athletes whose eligibility is expiring would be asked in their standard exit interviews whether they felt pressured to attend.

"(The ACLU) expressed concern there might be a violation of church and state as well as a player's constitutional rights," university spokesman Cathy Sams said. "The concern was they might feel some pressure to attend."

"From our standpoint, we have resolved the matter to our satisfaction."

In Clemson's responsorial letter, counsel Clayton Steadman cited a letter Bowden sent to player parents during the summer.

Bowden wrote that he strongly recommended attendance but told parents that they or their son should call him directly if the program created a concern.