Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Eric Bain-Selbo (Director), Paul Fischer, Frederick Grieve

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Academic analysis of sport and religion is still in an early and formative phase. Only in the past fifty years has the conversation of sport and religion substantially been revealed as subject matter for serious academic work. This thesis includes literature from various scholars interested in religion and sport, contemplation on the religious nature of college basketball in the state of Kentucky, and challenges for leading scholars arguing over the notion of sport as a form of religion. The first half of the thesis presents the narrative of the increasingly growing academic debate over considering sport a religious phenomenon. The latter half includes analysis of college basketball in Kentucky and my conclusions concerning the viability of the notion of a religion of sport. All the text is chiefly inspired by—and constructed in relation to—the approach of scholars reviewed earlier in the thesis. This text provides readers with a sense of various arguments on both sides of the discussion of the religion of sport. Secondly, the work encourages consideration of new alternative approaches to discussing sport and religion. This work is intended to provide a challenge to the rigid nature of previous scholarship on this subject. Demonstrating the relative utility of college basketball in Kentucky, through revealing its usefulness to both groups of scholars divided on this question of the religion of sport, proves to be instrumental in exemplifying the complexities within this scholarly debate. This case study also proves to be crucial for legitimizing the suggestions for alternative approaches to sport and religion that are raised within this text. Elsewhere, by emphasizing the significance of definitions of religion, evaluating the utility of the comparability of any observable phenomenon, and emphasizing the diversity among approaches to sport and religion, this text encourages the development of new approaches to research, increased self-criticism, and willingness to extend charity among scholars interested in debating sport as a religious phenomenon.


Other Religion | Sports Studies