Jesus is my keeper

When we made up our list of colleges where we thought the lovely and talented Casey might get both a good education as well as play soccer, we considered San Diego State University. Although we had heard good things about Coach Mike Giuliano, Casey decided that she didn’t want to stay in San Diego. Fair enough. Now we see that it’s a good thing we didn’t waste our time on SDSU:

Five San Diego State women’s soccer players, including the Aztecs’ top player, Jen Mello, were dismissed from the team this week after clashing with coaches over several issues, including allegations that the coaches pushed religion on players.

The dismissals follow dismissals of two other players in the spring who were later reinstated, plus four brief suspensions earlier this year involving postings on MySpace.com. Others, including the team’s second-best player Erika Sutton, now are considering transferring.

Head coach Mike Giuliano, who just completed his third season at SDSU, and associate coach Mike Friesen, did not return calls seeking comment.

“All the controversies that are happening in this program, in this short period of time these two gentleman have taken over the program, is mind-boggling and they seem to be at the center of every one,” said Greg Strickland, father of sophomore Mariko Strickland, one of the dismissed players this week.

SDSU athletics spokesman Mike May said of the five: “We hope they stay at San Diego State. We hope they remain as students.”

Asked for the reason for the dismissals, May said, “At this point, it’s a coach’s decision, and that’s the way we’ll keep it.

May said those players on scholarship will be allowed to keep their financial aid through the remainder of their tenure at SDSU and would be offered releases if they want to transfer.

Strickland said his daughter was told if she makes any “negative representations to the press” about what happened, they would “take away her scholarship immediately.”

In a letter to SDSU Athletic Director Jeff Schemmel, Jen Mello’s father Gary accused the coaches of “mental and verbal abuse” and trying to “mold them into their vision of the perfect young female with a religious backdrop.”

Gary Mello said the coaches hold religion discussions in team meetings, they question them on whether they are religious and suggest they go to church together. Greg Strickland said the coaches are “very heavy Christians.”

Gary Mello said there are many other issues, including the coaches trying to tell his daughter who her friends should be and that they “care way more about punishing players than winning soccer games.”

“I believe that the bottom underlying theme backdrop is religiously driven,” he said.

Imagine if this had been, say, Steve Fisher’s basketball team and he dismissed several star players because they would’t join in on lockerroom prayers, and then other players started talking about transfering out. That would be headline news on ESPN. But since these are “girls” who need moral guidance and a firm (but fair) hand to become little buttercups for Jesus…eh, whatever.

If this had happened at BYU or Pepperdine or Liberty it wouldn’t be such a big thing, because the students know what they are getting themselves into when they sign their letter of intent with a school with a strong religious affiliation. But this is a public university and coaches Giuliano and Friesen are abusing their authority and this is unacceptable on the taxpayer’s dime. We’re not talking about a political science professor shoving his leftist/Marxist agenda down someone’s throat in a classroom; this is a coach who decides whether you play or whether you sit, and I don’t know too many women who accept a spot on a team and play almost year-round with the intent of drawing splinters for four years because the refuse to accept the coaches’ Lord into their heart.

San Diego is a hotbed for club soccer and, take my word for it, the local soccer mom/soccer dad grapevine is a miracle of modern communication. Last December when the lovely and talented Casey blew out her ACL, we heard from coaches she hadn’t played for in years within 48 hours, as well as an out-of-town college coach who was recruiting her. If what is happening at SDSU is true, Giuliano is toast in this town.

Of course, having just come off of a 6-11-3 season and being the third best college team in town won’t help.

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Yeah. Like I would tell you....