By// Jerry Bembry
When the Brigham Young University basketball team landed at No. 3 in the Associate Press’ college basketball rankings on Monday, it didn’t raise many eyebrows. BYU had college basketball’s best record (27-1), best player (Jimmer Fredette), and a legitimate chance to make it to this year’s Final Four in Houston.
When BYU’s best post player, Brandon Davies, admitted the next day, March 1, that he had consensual sex with his girlfriend — in violation of the school’s honor code — all those aspirations were shattered. Davies was removed from the basketball team, and the Cougars were dismissed from the possibility of being a top seed when the NCAA tournament starts in two weeks (in the first game without Davies, BYU lost to unranked New Mexico by 18 points).
Not necessarily the way the school envisioned March Madness.
Had this happened at a school like Northwestern University, where last month students attending a class on human sexuality got to see a naked woman reaching orgasm with the help of a motorized sex toy, Davies and Cougar fans might still be thinking about winning a national championship.
But BYU is different. After Davies finished a standout basketball career at Provo High School, he had scholarship offers from Cal, Gonzaga, Washington and Penn State. But he chose to stay home and play at BYU, and before he ever played his first game two years ago he signed a piece of paper agreeing to abide by the school’s honor code that states:
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code
There are 347 schools that are playing Division I basketball. And I would guess that, given the opportunity to win a national championship, 346 of them might have looked the other way if a student/athlete had a violation that was short of a serious criminal act. So give BYU credit for sticking to its standards.
What could be seen as troubling is how Davies’ honor code violation became public. If neither Davies nor his girlfriend tweeted or updated their Facebook status about their rendezvous, the chances are he was ratted out by a fellow student — or, quite possibly, by a jealous teammate.
This raises two issues. First, Davies decided to “get some” while attending a school where a large portion of the student body aren’t getting any (despite the honor code, it’s doubtful that with a student body of 34,000, that Davies is the only young adult having sex). Second, did race play a role in a place like Provo, Utah, that is 0.46 percent Black and where many people follow a Mormon faith that for years taught that Blacks were inferior and “cursed” by God (it wasn’t until in 1978 when the Mormon Church proclaimed that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.”)
Honestly, I would have been in violation of 80 percent of BYU’s honor code in my first two weeks of college. So I would have never attended a school that had rules that were so strict. But I understand there are some students who want to be in an environment where there is no pressure to smoke, no pressure to drink, and no pressure to have sex after going on a date.
Davies knew what he signed up for, and I give him credit for admitting his violation (short of someone walking in on me in the act, I would have denied everything). Had it happened in a season where the Cougars were just an average team, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.
But this happened in a magical season, at a time when for the first time in 60 years, BYU fans were thinking of winning a basketball national championship.
BYU’s decision is admirable, yet costly. This year, it may cost the school a chance to win a championship. Next year—and the years to follow—it might cost the athletic program a chance to attract student-athletes who might now be inclined to take a closer look at that honor code.
Jerry Bembry is an award-winning journalist and video producer.