Knudson: Perception Now BYU's Biggest Rival
By Mark Knudson, The Mtn. InsiderMarch 4, 2011
Brigham Young University has a dilemma.
No, it’s not whether or not to punish basketball star Brandon Davies for violating the school’s long-standing honor code. Based on the fact that the code is in place and that Davies – a Provo native – knew it well, it’s S.O.P. for the sophomore center to be penalized for violating it. You can argue that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, but when a student athlete like Davies knows the rule inside and out, it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for him when he breaks it.
And yes, there’s that nasty little issue head coach Dave Rose now has in terms of how to fill that hole in the middle of his highly ranked basketball team with Davies gone for the duration. What looked like a potential Final Four team now has a serious flaw heading into the Mountain West and NCAA tournaments.
But the much larger dilemma involves the bigger picture for BYU moving forward. Had Davies been a lower profile athlete, on a non-revenue sports team or a hoops team that was hovering around .500, then this story/issue would be no different than similar stories that involved other athletes at BYU who've violated the code and paid the price for doing so. It would have been news for a day or so and then pretty much faded away.
But coming when it does, late in the season, and involving a team that was ranked third in the country before the story broke, this becomes huge news. National networks led with the story. They told the entire sports viewing nation, with the hint of a smirk, that a star basketball player was suspended for having sexual relations with his girlfriend. That was it. Sadly, this headline is all that the vast majority of potential BYU recruits are going to read or hear. Most won’t bother to delve deeper into the story and few will bother to examine all the facts and determine that the school did the right thing in this case.
Instead, the headline, and how it’s used against BYU by rival recruiters, is likely to dissuade many prospects from going to school in Provo.
We’ve become callous to the often times very serious off the field/court indiscretions of college and professional athletes. DUIs. Sexual assault. Gun charges and worse. It’s hard to pick up a sports page and not read something about an athlete somewhere getting into serious legal trouble. We don’t get offended and we barely bat an eye at this stuff anymore. So when something that the vast majority of the sports fans and prospective collegiate student athletes find commonplace and inoffensive like this happens, and it costs a player a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, then the repercussions don’t fall only on Davies, but on the BYU athletic programs as a whole.
You have to give the school credit for strictly adhering to the code regardless of the repercussions to their top five basketball team. There was no hypocrisy involved here. The code is the code and they aren’t going to modify it to fit the needs of an athlete. That’s refreshing.
But the question moving forward is can BYU remain an athletic power and still maintain all the elements of this honor code as it’s currently written in the 21st Century? Remember, they are recruiting nationally against power programs that don’t restrict a young man’s social life. There’s no way around it and a big hurdle just got a lot bigger.
BYU’s larger dilemma is a result of the perception that the Davies issue creates.
So whether you agree or disagree with the LDS stance is not the issue. The issue is will BYU be able to have its cake and eat it too as they try to go “national” with their sports teams. Can they find a way to be both a school with the highest moral standards possible and a school with a powerful athletic program – powered by testosterone driven young men?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and BYU – with the honor code in place – has found a way to be an athletic power up to now. But there’s no denying that the Brandon Davies episode just made the job of each coach at BYU that much tougher.
See all of Mark Knudson's blog entries HERE