In the world of college sports, poor behavior amongst athletes on scholarship is all too prominent. Just recently, our own University was put under the public magnifying glass when CBS and Sports Illustrated did a collaborative report that revealed nearly a quarter of the University of Pittsburgh’s scholarship football players had a criminal record.
Unfortunately, in many instances, the pressures of the lucrative sports industry leave schools giving top athletes a slap on the wrist when they deserve jail time. That’s why when a couple weeks ago I heard that Brigham Young University was suspending its starting center Brandon Davies for the remainder of the season, I was shocked.
BYU, who at the time of the suspension was ranked No. 3 in the country, forced Davies off the court for violating the school’s honor code. His crime? Having sex with his girlfriend.
Davies, who was averaging 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds, is a key player for the Cougars, who were trounced by New Mexico 82-64 in their first game without him.
His suspension puts some serious threats in the schools future. If the team were to have an early exit in the upcoming NCAA tournament without its star center, all of the players who have worked hard and obeyed the rules miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to win a National Championship that they may never recapture.
Yet, the school’s alumni have come out strongly in support of the University's decision to suspend Davies.
"Sorry, I'm choking up a bit here," says Philadelphia sportscaster Vai Sikahema, a former NFL return specialist who played for BYU in the mid-1980s. "It's just hard for me to express just how immensely proud I am of my university."
That’s right; proud. Well guess what Mr. Sikahema, I’m proud too. I’m proud of you and all the other BYU alum that have come out in support of your University while the general public has frowned upon it. You have to have a special kind of respect for a school that sticks to its principles.
BYU’s honor code, which requires students to "live a chaste and virtuous life," also says that they must abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse.
Once this honor code was made public, there was a bit of an uproar. Prohibiting college students from sex, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and tea? It sounds tyrannical and unrealistic. But for a school that is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it’s a code widely respected and adhered to by both current students and alumni.
So my question is, how can you defend Davies’ actions? Yes, he’s a college student with raging hormones. Yes, people make mistakes. I don’t think he did anything wrong. I feel sympathy for him and his teammates who will pay the price. But hey, this kid is good. He could have played for a hundred other Division I programs, but he chose BYU. Like 98% of the BYU student body, Davies is a Mormon. Like 100% of the BYU student body, Davies knew exactly what content the honor code contained.
"The honor code is an essential part of your recruitment to BYU," says Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young, who played at BYU from 1981 to '83. "It's not like you find out later — 'Oh, you didn't tell me! I didn't know that!' But there's a spirit on campus that is just, 'O.K., fine, now let's now go have a good time.'"
By suspending Davies, BYU sent a message to the entire college sporting world that was very clear: athletes should be held responsible for their actions just like anyone else.
In fact, athletes’ public exposure should increase their roles as positive representations of both the University and themselves. This year, a Robert Morris University player from right here in Pittsburgh got a four-game suspension after a drunken driving incident. In February, two players from Marshall University were charged with battery over a bar fight; they played in a game the next evening.
Even on the field, players’ have broken common moral conduct and been excused. Two years ago, a University of Florida football player intentionally gouged an opponent’s eyes. He was suspended for a half.
The truth is that Brigham Young University made the right decision; they held a student-athlete accountable for his mistakes and took the correct line of action when they needed to. My only hope is that the rest of the college sports world follows their lead.
All quotes taken from a Time magazine article