Thursday, March 3, 2011

BYU Gets One Right

Let me preface this entry by saying that I'm not a Mormon, and I'm not entirely familiar with the details of that particular spiritual path. However, I am aware of Brigham Young University as a prominent private Mormon institution, one with a strict honor code.

How strict? Well, aside from the commonplace ban on such things as drugs and alcohol, BYU forbids its students from drinking coffee or tea. The school also forbids foul language. Between the coffee and bad words, I'd be kicked out within the first week, if not the first day.

BYU also forbids pre-marital sex. Whatever your feelings on that particular subject, BYU is a private school, and as such, has the right to impose this restriction on its students.

This became a national matter on Tuesday, when No. 3 BYU (27-3, 13-2 Mountain West) dismissed Brandon Davies from the team for the rest of the season for violating the school's Honor Code. On Wednesday, it was reported that Davies had sex with his girlfriend.

On the surface, it sounds ridiculous -- kicking the team's leading rebounder and third-leading scorer off the team because he slept with a woman with whom he was in a committed relationship. And in 98 percent of the schools in this country, it would be ridiculous. But BYU, with its Mormon principles, explicitly tells all students -- athlete or not -- that pre-marital sex is forbidden.

So if you go to BYU and get caught having sex, without a wedding ring, then you're at the mercy of whatever punishment the school deems appropriate.

What Davies' departure means for the rest of the Cougars' season is unknown -- though BYU looked lost in its first game without him on Wednesday, an 82-64 loss at home to New Mexico. But the Cougars were in line for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the team had a good shot at making a deep run, if not win the national title.

This suspension could jeopardize that. A lot of others schools forgive far greater breaches of policy, and even law, in order for their star players to stay on the field or court at the most important part of the season -- but not BYU.

Whatever you think of the school, or the Mormon faith, or the BYU Honor Code, the school at least deserves credit for sticking to its values, even if it means ruining what could've been a special season. Davies violated that code, and he deserves to be punished for it -- not because what he did was necessarily "wrong," but because the school made it clear from Day One what the policy was, and he went against it.

If more schools stuck to their standards like BYU, college athletics would be far better off. I'm not saying every school should outlaw coffee or pre-marital sex -- A) it's a Mormon thing, and B) it would be impossible to keep all those 18- to 21-year-olds off each other -- but if a school has a set of rules and standards, it should adhere to them, even when the offender happens to be really good at a big-time sport.

BYU could've looked the other way and let this magical season play out; instead, the school stuck to its guns and punished Davies. No matter what becomes of the Cougars' season, at least the school still has its honor and credibility.

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