Having concluded Gradeapalooza yesterday, I decided to treat myself to a college basketball game. The Mighty Men of Mondoville (currently rated in the top 25 in a couple of national polls) were facing… well, it’s kind of hard to say.
The opponent was College of Faith — Charlotte, and this is where things get bizarre. The “College” is an unaccredited institution that seems affiliated with the equally unaccredited University of Faith in St. Petersburg, FL, both of which appear to be branches of the College of Faith in West Memphis, AR, which was founded by Memphis street preacher Sherwyn Thomas. The curriculum seems to consist of online “lessons” about the Bible, and results in “degrees” in Ministry and Sports Ministry. For this, the students at the Charlotte branch pay six grand per year, or $1000 per course. The Tampa Bay Times reports, from an interview with UoF head football coach and president Anthony Givins:
A little over a year ago, Givins said, he was on the phone with a self-identified street preacher from Memphis, and “he said, ‘Coach, get to a fax machine! The University of Faith has arrived!’ And I said, ‘Wow, I got my own college!’
Anthony Givins, 46, is best known in St. Petersburg as the little brother of Ernest Givins, who played wide receiver in the NFL for 10 years, mostly for the Houston Oilers, and is one of the finest athletes ever to come from the city. The younger Givins wanted to be a professional athlete, too, but he was a reserve running back at a junior college in Oklahoma before graduating with a bachelor’s in physical education from Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska. Then he wanted to be a head coach for a high school football team so he eventually could become a head coach in college. As an assistant coach at Gibbs High School, he applied to be the head coach at Pinellas Park in 2006, at Gibbs in 2007, at Lakewood in 2008, and at Gibbs again in 2009 and 2011. “No respect,” he said.
He is a longtime local gym teacher and an occasional driver’s ed instructor who is an incorrigible speeder. He has filed for bankruptcy. Last fall, while working at Gibbs, he rented a car for Homecoming weekend for two students — he says it was for one of their parents — but the students got pulled over and arrested for having marijuana and no driver’s licenses. School officials said Givins gave them “multiple versions” of the incident and suspended him for three days without pay. Now he teaches gym and driver’s ed at a school in Pinellas Park that specializes in students with behavioral challenges. But in the afternoons and evenings, and on Saturdays, he is the head football coach for the University of Faith Glory Eagles. And his NFL older brother is one of his assistants.
The College has no academic buildings, residence halls, or other facilities. From an NPR report by Michael Tomsic:
What College of Faith Charlotte has is about 60 students, mostly athletes. The closest thing it has to a campus is a small room in a rundown church. Students plop their football pads in a corner when they come here to go over Bible lessons and game tape. The games can be tough to watch. The football team hasn’t scored a single point against another four-year college. It was held to negative 100 total yards in a game this season, an NCAA record. The coach created the school last year. Richardson has worked at high schools in Charlotte and wanted to help young men improve their lives. College of Faith offers online degrees in ministry and sports management. It’s an outgrowth of another College of Faith, an online school in Arkansas, created by Sherwyn Thomas.
[…] Thomas helps creates the online Bible classes, and the schools operate independently. There’s another one in Florida. The degrees are not accredited. College of Faith Charlotte has a religious exemption that allows it to operate without a state license.
The College is somewhat up front about this last part. On the home page, which is long on clip art and the Courier New font, we are informed:
Degree programs of study offered by College of Faith have been declared by the appropriate state authority exempt from the requirements for licensure under provisions of North Carolina General Statutes Section (G.S.) 116-15(d) for exemption from licensure with respect to religious education. Exemption from licensure is not based upon any assessment of program quality under established licensing standards.
Sounds impressive, huh?
But CoFC does have athletic programs. It is best known for its football team, which after two years has yet to score against a four-year college. It also claims membership in the “Bible Belt Conference”, but I can’t find any references to such an athletic conference. It is recruiting a baseball team and cheerleaders. And it has a basketball team, of sorts, and that’s who I saw last night.
There were ten players listed on the roster. Seven showed up, and one (who I know only as Number 13) wasn’t actually listed on that roster. They had no listed home towns — apparently, CoFC is like the Foreign Legion or the Old West — they don’t want to know who you were back in the States. The coach (whose name I never caught) wore a striped dress shirt over a black undershirt, with dark slacks and a wide, white belt, and he chewed a toothpick impassively throughout the game, occasionally calling out plays.
Not that it mattered. CoFC has yet to win a game this season, having been blown out every time. Last night was no exception, as Mondoville cruised to a forty-point win, but only because we slowed things down for the final five minutes. The mysterious Number 13 looked like their best player, but basically, we were watching the small-college version of the Washington Generals. It was bad enough that I didn’t even feel the desire to heckle. I just kind of hoped they had someplace to sleep when they got back to Charlotte.
And that seems to be their gig — along with selling bogus degrees, of course. The various institutions “of Faith” send their sports teams around to get clobbered, in exchange for which, the institution gets a paycheck. They’re called “guarantee games”, and at the higher levels of college sports, the paycheck can be pretty big — six figures or so. One of Mondoville’s old rivals supports its athletic programs that way, serving as a punching bag for big schools.
But of course, I wondered about the kids, who were (I assume) paying to go get pummeled in tiny gyms across the South. And in turn, this led mt to think of the kids at CoFC and its higher-profile brethren at various for-profit institutions across the country, who are also paying for a worthless degree (if they finish) and a chance to get pummeled by the outside world after they’re done. After a bit, the pathos was overwhelming.
On the way out, I saw Mondoville’s athletic director. I asked him when we were going to get a game against Strayer ot ITT Tech, both of which may well be more legit than CoFC. For that matter, my Master’s institution played for-profit, primarily online (but accredited) Grand Canyon U earlier this season.
So maybe all we’re doing is dickering about price, as the joke goes. Still, as someone who has said for years that I’m “in the education racket”, I hate to think that I may be closer to the truth sometimes than I mean to be.
Addendum: The CoFC logo looks like this:
The Facebook page for their athletic programs adds the following:
COLLEGE OF FAITH SAINTS LOGO
Color Orange-Stands for Hope
Color Green-Stands for Prosperity & the Will to make your life better.
The hooded Saint-Remembering Trayvon Martin and others that die for who they are.
God Bless our children[.]
Make of all this what you will.