Brandon Davies, BYU Basketball and the Honor Code

Brigham Young Cougars NCAA Logo'd Executive Cufflinks w/Jewelry BoxIf you follow college hoops at all, you’ve likely heard the story: Brandon Davies, the third highest scorer on BYU’s team, was kicked off that team on Monday for honor code violations (supposedly for premarital sex with his girlfriend). Up to that point, BYU was having a fantastic season. We were ranked third in the nation, and it looked like we had a shot at being a 1 seed when March Madness begins in a few weeks.

Last night, we lost at home by 18 points to an unranked New Mexico.

Was it all because of Davies’ absence? No. He was often in foul trouble when he was playing, so it’s not like we’d never been on the court without him. But just look at what happened to Tiger Woods’ game after all the personal troubles he had came to light. To expect a team to continue to play at the top of its game after such a big blow is unrealistic. They were bound to have issues.

How do I feel about BYU basketball right now? Prouder than ever. As much as I’d love to see BYU go to the Final Four or win the national championship, I don’t believe it should do it by compromising its standards. The school has an honor code–a strict honor code. No alcohol, drugs, coffee, tea, sex, beards, long hair (for guys)–it can seem like a pretty random mish-mash of rules to an outsider. But it’s a private religious institution, and it’s up to them to set their rules. All those rules have some basis in Mormon theology or practice. Having gone to BYU for seven years, I know the ins and outs of it pretty darn well. And I support it. (Though no beards? That was a bummer. I stopped shaving the day I graduated from BYU, and I’m happy to say I haven’t shaved since.)

It’s the Honor Code. It’s well known, everyone has to sign it every year, and you know what the consequences might be if you break it. BYU couldn’t do anything differently than what it did once Davies told the administration what he had done. To do so would have gone against everything the university stands for. Karl Maeser, one of the founders of BYU, is famously quoted at BYU as having said this about the honor code:

“I have been asked what I mean by “word of honor.” I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I might be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first.”

(In fact, there’s a stature of Maeser on campus, and students regularly draw a chalk circle around it as a joke, referring to this quote.) BYU takes its Honor Code very seriously. It’s an inherent part of the institution, because BYU views itself as being primarily a religious school. You pray before every event (including football games). I’d often be required to sing church hymns before each class. You’re not allowed to take a test in the testing center if you’ve got a 5 o’clock shadow even. You go to BYU knowing full well what you’re getting into. If you think it’s too nit picky, don’t go there. (Even with all these requirements, it’s a school that’s very difficult to get into. I always was annoyed at people who complained about the rules too much while they were at BYU. They were taking someone else’s spot–someone who really wanted to be there, rules and all.)

How do I feel about Brandon Davies right now? Extremely proud of him, too. To turn himself in after doing what most of the world these days wouldn’t even bat an eye at–and then publicly being apologetic about it and accepting the consequences. That takes guts. I wonder how many basketball courts would be empty during March Madness if only virgins were allowed to play. I feel bad for Brandon that he has to go through such a public scrutiny about something that should be a private affair, but that’s spilled milk at this point.

What will happen to us in the tournament? Does it really matter? We’ll do what we always do–play our best, try to win, and do it according to BYU’s standards. When so much of college sports these days is focused on not getting caught, to see an institution do this to itself at the height of its program . . . I find it inspiring, though I know a lot of people have been saying it’s stupid.

Maybe that’s why I went to BYU.

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