The University of Minnesota apologized on behalf of its Goldy Gopher mascot for making fun of a prayerful opposing player last weekend.

A YouTube video shows the Penn State defensive end Jerome Hayes kneeling in prayer and the mascot taking a knee in front of him. "We have reiterated to Goldy the importance of exercising appropriate religious sensitivity in the future," he said in a statement. Penn State won 20-0. (h/t Eric Gorski)

Other accounts of faith and sports have appeared in several outlets recently, including USA Today's recent coverage of Messiah College's stellar athletic program. With less than 3,000 students, the Christian school in Pennsylvania has an undefeated Division III women's soccer team that is ranked No. 1 and a No. 3 ranked men's soccer team). Last season, both soccer teams and the softball team won NCAA titles, not to mention past national championships.

[The women's team sings] more Christian songs in raucous harmony, laughing, singing and bonding all at once. The white cinder-block walls seem to reverberate, as if at a tent revival, until the women switch gears and end with the sweet, solemn I Love You, Lord.
And here the secret of their success is plain to see: Each wears a game face with joy on it.
"As Christians, we are asked to believe some pretty strange things that just defy logic, like Jesus was born to a virgin," athletics director Jerry Chaplin says. "If we can believe those things, how hard is it to believe we can win a national championship?"

Brady's article on Messiah coincides with the release of Tom Krattenmaker's book Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers and column in USA Today. Krattenmaker writes that some Christians, like college football star Tim Tebow, send a message that can be offensive to people. "If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one—which their creed boldly states—everyone else is wrong."

After Krattenmaker's column, News-Press columnist Sam Cook called for a separation of church and sports. "I don't know how many more 'God bless' comments I can stand from the 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback [Tebow]. Religion - except for the 'Hail Mary' pass - has no place in sports."

Cook dislikes how religion distracts from the game, such as Scripture under Tebow's eyes.
"Plus, his under-eye markings do more than cut glare. They serve as a prompt to television announcers - who then gush over Tebow's off-field accomplishments."

Krattenmaker takes a similar critique at athletes who point to the sky to give credit to God after some victory. "Anyone who watches pro and college football or follows the drama of the baseball playoffs can't help but notice something else that often competes for our attention amid the passes, pitches and home runs: religion."

"Players point skyward to the Almighty after reaching the end zone or home plate, star athletes voice thanks and praise to their savior after a big win, and sports heroes use their media spotlight to promote the Christian message. (See University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his eye-black, touting Scripture.) These are the outward signs of a faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture."

How do you react to open expressions of faith in sports - Are they admirable, cliché, commendable, distracting, something else?