Honorable Mention for Upholding the Code

Marriott Center at Brigham Young University.

Image via Wikipedia

I know that I am about a week late in jumping on this particular bandwagon, but I have been thinking a lot about what I would say in this particular blog and finally had some time to write it.

Last week news broke about Brandon Davies, a basketball player at BYU, being suspended from the team for having premarital sex. Many people around the country reacted with comments questioning why having premarital sex is so newsworthy among college athletes, and why the player would be suspended for it. Those people don’t understand BYU. Well, without writing a book about BYU and Mormons, let me give a quick summary (I promise it won’t be long…it goes with what I want this blog to be about anyway). After all, I am an alumnus of BYU and I am a Mormon. I think I know what I am talking about.

BYU is a private university. Any school that is private, and those that are public (if they want to), are allowed to create rules that students must live by. BYU has such rules. They are referred to as the Honor Code. What is the difference between the Honor Code and what you might see at other universities? Other universities have codes of conduct that generally relate to public behavior and upholding the law. BYU’s Honor Code is based in religious beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) which happens to own the school.

The Honor Code really is a lifestyle that is lived more than rules to be followed. No premarital sex. No coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, alcohol. No foul language. All of these things that are a part of the church’s doctrine. On top of that, add certain dress and grooming standards and regular church attendance. Most readers by now are thinking that BYU is too extreme and there is no way that you would go there. Right?!

BYU is actually a highly respected school and there are tens of thousands of applicants that are turned away each year. With an enrollment of about 34,000 students, and about a 25% chance of an applicant being accepted, there are plenty of people that are fine with the Honor Code. In fact, it is part of the application and the applicant has to sign in agreement to live according to the code. They know what they are getting into when they apply. Yet many thousands of people still apply. Some of them aren’t Mormon either.

So why do people continue to apply as potential students at the university? For many it is because they want to go to a school that will give them an environment that coincides with their religious beliefs. For others it is because of the academic standards and national rankings within many of the academic programs. For others it is because their parents went there. And then there are the people that just want to go to BYU. It is where they want to study. It is where they want to compete on the sports teams. It is where they want to meet their future spouse. So many reasons. But they do exist and every single student agreed to live the rules.

So here we have Brandon Davies breaking one of the rules, confessing to it, and being suspended from the basketball team. His status as a student has yet to be determined but for now there is no more basketball. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. At the end of the season as Mountain West Conference and NCAA national tournaments are starting. And the number three scorer and top rebounder on the team can no longer participate, putting the potential achievement in major jeopardy. The fallout comments from around the country were interesting to say the least. Many comments I appreciated. Others I ignored.

Some of the comments that I most appreciated came from the sports media. ESPN probably reported the most on the situation, which is understandable since they are constantly reporting on Davies teammate, Jimmer Fredette. From the panelists on Around the Horn (Toni Reali, Woody Paige, Bill Plaschke, Tim Cowlishaw, and Jackie MacMullan) to Jim Rome, to 1st and 10 panelists Skip Bayless, all gave pretty favorable remarks about BYU standing by their rules and jeopardizing the basketball post-season rather than letting sports take higher priority to the honor code. They could have all been really critical of the decision, and though they didn’t think post-season success was assured due to the suspension, they applauded the action.

What would sports be like if more universities did the same? Since the Davies story broke, Sports Illustrated has written an article about the high amounts of criminal activity with college and pro athletes and the lack of punishment that they have to face due to the institutions desire to win. Even today we learn that Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel could possibly lose his job because he knew about criminal activity amongst some of his players, even months before it became public knowledge, and didn’t do anything about it because of the ill-effects it would have on the team’s season.

Some people think that having a BYU style honor code is too restrictive. As a student I felt the same way…about some of the restrictions. For example, I hate shaving. I once showed up at the testing center to take a test and had 2 days worth of facial growth. I was turned away and told to go shave before I could take the test. A rule is a rule. I complied. When I pierced my ear, I was in clear violation of the dress and grooming standards and was told to remove the earring or I would be referred to the Honor Code Office. I stopped wearing it on campus or any other time I was representing the university. I knew before I was talked to that I was in violation. Looking back, I am glad that they enforced the rules with even the smallest of infractions.

And that is what they did in this case. Brandon Davies is not above the Honor Code at BYU. He knows that. He made a bad decision and has accepted the consequences. He could have not confessed until all the tournaments were over and helped BYU achieve the most successful season in the school’s history. Head coach Dave Rose could have kept quiet until the season was over. Even the administration could have looked at it lightly and suspended him for one game or even not at all. Heck, many other universities do it. But they didn’t.

Just a year ago the same thing happened with a member of the BYU football team. Harvey Unga committed the same infraction. He was suspended for a year from the team and school. He missed his senior year and the team did not perform as well as it could have. If you go back over the last few years, you will find examples of other athletes that committed the same infraction, took their suspension, and came back to the team. They could have turned their backs on the team and school and transferred. Instead, they returned because that is where they wanted to be. I think Brandon Davies will do the same thing.

So what effect does it have on the rest of us? Do we learn a lesson of honor and integrity? Do we look at it as an opportunity to make fun of an institution and the religion that runs it? Do we learn that certain things are more important than others and hopefully we can recognize the difference? How about learning that if we make a commitment, we stick with the commitment?

If I were to return to BYU as a student today, I know that I wouldn’t try to challenge some of the rules I challenged as an undergrad student. I am older, and more mature (hopefully), but I also see that not only is the university going to defend their rules and their own integrity, I need to defend mine by keeping commitments I make and honoring the signature I put on the application. And you don’t have to be a student at BYU to learn how important honor and integrity are.

Hats off to BYU for upholding their end, to Brandon Davies for willingly confessing and accepting his punishment, and to all those in the world that – no matter how much they DON’T want to live according to the BYU honor code – are willing to defend the university for not turning a blind eye to an unfortunate and untimely situation. The rest of you have some things to learn about the important things in life.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

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The influence of school pride…

BYU's logo

Image via Wikipedia

I am writing this blog as I listen to the basketball game between Brigham Young University and San Diego State University.  It has been billed as possibly the most important college basketball game in Utah.  Ever.  Since the beginning of time.

BYU enters the game ranked 9th in the nation while SDSU enters the game ranked 4th.  SDSU has not lost any games this year and BYU has only lost 1 game.  Added to all of this, the Marriott Center (where BYU plays their basketball games) is sold out…22,700 people in attendance…and loud each time BYU scores a basket.

By the time I finish writing this blog the game may be over.  But I thought that this game would make a great basis for my newest posting.

I am an alumnus of BYU so I am most definitely hoping for a BYU win.  A win for the Cougars would likely help them move up in the rankings, but even better, it will likely help them improve their NCAA tournament seeding while also putting them in the drivers seat to be the conference champions.  I would love to see this happen.  Not that it hasn’t happened before, in fact it has only been a short few years since the last occurance, but to happen this year could be really exciting as the team actually has enough talent to go further in the NCAA tournament than they have for 30 years.  Any BYU alum would enjoy seeing this.

So the question is this.  Why is it that with the team being so good this year, the MC isn’t coming close to being sold out for each game?  After all, Jimmer Fredette (BYU’s star player…you know you have heard of him and if not, just Google him) will be graduating as will Jackson Emery (BYU’s all time steals leader) who have been impressive in their play this year.  You would think that fans would want to see them play each chance they can.

Is this common at other schools?  And what about at different levels (high school and pros)?  Tonight my high school basketball team played our cross-town rivals.  There aren’t any star players on either team but the gym was pretty packed…on a night where they are competing with the BYU game.

With the two high schools there is still a lot of school pride.  In fact, tonight there was so much of it that there were quite a few police officers in attendance to prevent any potential fighting between students.  They went to the extent of making students from my high school exit from the opposite side of the school as those that were hosting the game.

I am not saying that there should be such high levels of school pride that there is a chance for a fight between competing fans.  What I am suggesting though is that there is too much “bandwagoning” with fans because there isn’t enough school pride.

I know that this isn’t the case in all areas of the country.  You only have to go to Texas to know that school pride runs deep.  I worked for a company in Houston where more than 50% of the employees were alumni of Texas A&M.  If you weren’t an Aggie fan, you heard about it…even if they lost to the team you were rooting for.

Do we lose that spirit once we have left that school?  For some the answer is yes.  For the rest I have the following question: Did you ever have any school pride?  Maybe school pride is something that is only felt by people that enjoyed following the sports teams at that school.  After all, I don’t know too many “bookworms”, “nerds”, or “geeks” that had much school pride…or liked sports.

I can tell you that my school pride is still intact…for my high school and college.  I must admit, the school pride I feel for my high school is mostly because my daughter plays for the sophomore girls basketball team.  But I still enjoy seeing them win, especially against the rivals.  My school pride for BYU?  HUGE!!!  If I could only get a job working for the university…  Oh well, I guess school pride isn’t for everyone.  So for those that don’t have much, if any at all, what do you root for?  What does your association with that school mean?  And most importantly, what is wrong with you?

Oh, by the way, BYU just beat SDSU with a final score of 71-58 and Jimmer scored 43.  There is a lot of school pride in Provo right now.

Just another view from a Palmtree.