Oregon State coach Jerry Pettibone supports a new NCAA rule that prohibits players from kneeling in prayer in the end zone following a touchdown.
Pettibone, a born-again Christian with strong religious beliefs, said he understands the intent of the rule, which prohibits players from drawing attention to themselves by a pre-arranged, orchestrated act.
“I also tend to think that most people, when they pray, it’s a private thing, not a public thing,” he said.
Liberty University, the Baptist college Jerry Falwell founded, filed suit in Lynchburg, Va., Thursday challenging the rule.
Liberty University asked U.S. District judge James Turk to block the NCAA from penalizing teams whose players pray on the field beginning with Saturday’s games.
“This stadium is a public place. Why should you - the NCAA tell me where I need to pray?” said Liberty coach Sam Rutigliano, a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with the university and four football players.
The NCAA this season will strictly enforce a 3-year-old rule that bans players from removing their helmets, taunting the crowd or opposing players, posing or dancing after touchdowns or big plays.
Pettibone said while some players may feel they are glorifying God by kneeling in prayer after a score, the act draws as much individual attention to the player involved as does the Heisman Trophy pose.
Pettibone said, “you can pray on the sidelines and nobody is going to say anything about it.”