Wherein I actually approach the subject of sports

I’ve been asked by countless readers if I’d weigh in on the story of BYU suspending Brandon Davies from the basketball team (which earlier this week was ranked No. 3 in the country) for violating its honor code, one that prohibits consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, premarital sex, and also reaches far into a student’s wardrobe (no tank tops for women) and whether or not men can have facial hair (only if it is medically necessary).

Ahem.

Is this honor code draconian and idiotic and totally unrealistic? Of course it is. But more importantly, is BYU a private institution? This is significant because it takes the previous question, crumples it into a tiny ball, and throws it out the window. BYU has complete control over its enrollment qualifications. And agreeing to adhere to that honor code is DRILLED INTO YOUR SKULL when you apply and get accepted to attend.

I graduated from BYU, so I lived this first hand. I never drank alcohol or smoked cigarettes or had premarital sex the entire four years I attended that school. In fact, whenever I thought I had taken foreplay with a boyfriend too far, I’d feel bad enough about it that I’d go to my bishop and confess my wrongdoing. And it was a wrongdoing according to that honor code I agreed to live by, even though no clothes were ever removed and I never saw a naked body part.

When I heard that Davies had been suspended for violating the honor code, my initial thought was, well, finally they are holding the athletes to the same standards as regular students. Because there were all sorts of rumors and stories in the early nineties about football players getting away with all sorts of unsavory behavior and never even getting a slap on the wrist. Remember: I got put on academic probation, WITH A 3.95 GPA, because I didn’t do my visiting teaching, because I wasn’t living up to the absolute letter of that honor code.

But over the last day or so I’ve been struck by something else… the BYU community is devastated. This year’s basketball team is one of the best in the school’s history, and they had a great chance to do well in the NCAA tournament. While I know that BYU had the right to kick him off the team, and actually agree with the fact that they did so, I can’t imagine what he is personally going through right now.

Yes, he made a mistake. And according to reports, that mistake was getting his girlfriend pregnant. So not only has he let down his school and his community, and most importantly himself, he has a pregnant girlfriend. That’s a whole other hornet’s nest of complications.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that you can argue all day about honor codes and potential championship titles… you can say, well, he deserves it! Don’t go to BYU if you can’t handle the rules! And you can make valid points on every level and side of this issue.

But none of that really matters, at least to me.

Because he’s really just a kid. A sophomore, for crying out loud. And I really hope he has someone in his life right now who can make him feel a little less judged by this giant, jeering audience, someone who can make him feel like life will not always be this horrifying nightmare.

  • KatieKat484

    Well said! Thanks for addressing this.
    All anyone was saying today was that BYU is crazy, and how did they find out he broke the honor code. NO ONE wondered how he and his girlfriend were handling this, and that chances are, if BYU found out about it, it’s because a baby is involved.
    Prayers/happy thoughts/support to him and his girlfriend.

  • ExSchutz

    I can’t believe that some people think you’re a heartless witch.

  • kacyd

    Heather I agree with you 100%. Poor kid (which is what he is) I would have to guess that BYU suspending him is heavy on his mind but I’m sure his girlfriend and child are first…I have told my daughter “once you start making adult decisions you can’t go back” I of course didn’t listen to my own advice as a teenager either

  • montana mommy

    is the kid mormon or a non-mormon recruit? i’m guessing byu recruits out of the religion for sports teams and that’s asking a lot from a kid to understand that aspect. but yes, i agree, i hope he has support from friends and family to get through this.

  • Daddy Scratches

    When you’re all rational and sane and understanding and compassionate, it makes you seem less like a crazy, heartless, misguided heathen. Please stop it.

  • John Dickerson

    Lovely. Well said.

  • durvy

    I agree 100% with you. They have the right to suspend him, and he knew the rules.

    But, as you said, the larger implications are about what his life is going to look like after this incident.

    And, just as an aside, it drives me crazy that athletes so often get special treatment from universities (and from society at large, to be perfectly honest). The athletes at my university (UC Davis) got to register for their classes first, a full week before anyone else even saw the open courses list. And we pay pro basketball players $28 million a year. What?

  • kristanhoffman

    I’m not saying the guy doesn’t deserve some consideration, but getting one’s girlfriend pregnant is the consequence of a choice. Or more likely, a set of choices. Choices that I wouldn’t say were made by “just a kid” — and I’m sure they don’t consider themselves as such either, when they are making those decisions.

    So I don’t really consider him a victim… (Not to mention, he may be able to transfer to another good basketball school and continue his career there.)

    To be clear: I am glad you’re pointing out that he deserves to be treated as a human being instead of a piece of sports equipment or religious agenda — truly, I am! This is surely a difficult time for him, and I feel bad about that.

    I just think, as a human being, he’s not completely blameless either, and it would be doing him a disservice to say, “Oh, you’re just a kid. Let the adults handle this and make it all better.”

    (Which is NOT necessarily what you’re saying! It’s just a slippery slope, you know?)

  • KellyW

    WOW! Heather…you nailed this one! It is so sad and I hope everyone will behave as Christian and compassionate as you!

  • mostlyjen

    It really sucks that the Honor Code Office can pull you off your team and humiliate you before they even investigate, which is obviously the case since he’s still in school. I heard Coach Rose was devastated and tried to fight the swift action of the Honor Code Office. Anyone who has been a BYU student (I worked for the Office of Student Life) knows they have way too much power.

  • sandi

    AMEN Sister Armstrong!

    Bless that boy’s heart!

  • ooji

    Thank you for saying it that way.
    It’s what we would all want for our mormon relatives that try to live up to such an often unrealistic standard.

  • Caroline Starr Rose

    I really feel for this kid and his girlfriend having to live this out on the national stage.

  • HalfAss Krissa

    And bless his heart. Not to mention there’s a girlfriend in the mix whose life is forever changed as well. Then there’s that whole baby thing. What a way to get started in life.

  • Fitz and the Dizzyspells

    Well said. Poor kid.

    The only one happy about this situation is probably Charlie Sheen who is now sharing the attention of that jeering mob with Davies.

  • Draft King

    Davies is not a kid — he’s an adult. He may be a young adult, but he knew the extreme rules in place for BYU students when he signed up to attend the school. Now he must live with the consequences.

  • zoobie

    My problem with the whole thing is that the school and coaches publicly announced details of such a private matter. The girlfriend’s going to be known as the slut who got the big star kicked off the team. I believe the school should have left it at “honor code violations” because of not just the girlfriend’s privacy, but their unborn child’s as well. Doesn’t the student himself have academic privacy rights?

  • bugsydav

    I agree, everyone should be held to the same standard!

  • nikkistrick

    I went to a school with an honor code – not the kind that cares about whether or with whom you have sex, or whether you have a beard, but the kind that cared about cheating, lying, and in general being a dick. A number of people ran afoul of it – even accidentally – and those people were punished. Does it seem like a lot? Yes. Does it seem like a tragedy when it happens to you or someone you love? Yes. But it’s the objectively right thing to do. Part of the point of an honor code is that you have a responsibility to the community, and the community has one to you – that the consequences are so far-reaching in this case just really hammers that one home.

    I, too, hope that he has someone who can tell him that this doesn’t define who he is. It’s about what he did. That’s all. But it’s gotta be especially hard when the consequences are so far-reaching, and I really hope that they don’t paint up his girlfriend with a scarlet letter and then allow him back into the fold like he’s forgiven.

    Oh, and RE: the violation should have been handled privately – YES. That there’s an element of public shaming going on here is what’s particularly distasteful.

  • Cass

    Heather, I can finally agree with you on something about current events!

    I’m struck by some of the comments that say that no one has cared about what the kid and his girlfriend are going through. That is one of the first things I thought of. Of course the media misses out on the whole compassion thing. Unfortunately, this is an issue that any LDS person must go through. We agree to live by certain rules and, inevitably, we WILL break them. And we will have to live with the consequences. But we shouldn’t judge each other. I just feel bad for everyone involved. It really does just suck, that’s the only way to describe it. Everyone did what they needed to do in this situation, as unhappy as it is.

  • ChickWhitt

    You are just one example of many of people who no longer practice a religion and are yet the nicest people I know.

  • meg_7

    You are so right in everything that you said. And to everyone who said, he isn’t a kid, he deserves what he gets:

    Yes, he made an adult decision, and yes he was aware of the potential consequences of that decision and will have to deal with those – there will be no one to come fix it for him, there are 3 lives involved now, at a minimum. But he is also still a kid. Growing up is a process, and just because you turn 18 doesn’t mean you suddenly know everything and are held to the same standard as someone who is 25, 30, 35, 40, etc. He made an imperfect choice, which most 20 year olds, and most people for that matter, do, and is now dealing with the consequences. Unfortunately for him, he is dealing with them while under national media attention – so as Heather said, I hope he has someone in his life to reassure him that at the very least, the attention and scrutiny will pass, and he can focus on living his life and dealing with the consequences of his actions.

  • bubbytoots

    Totally the right angle to take on this one. I agree with you one hundred percent.

  • JaneDoe930

    I attended a private southern baptist school that had a strict honors code (dress code, curfew, no drinking, sexuality.) I signed up for it and they helped me out greatly with school so I was glad to obey the rules while they paid for me to attend.

    Something I always found very sad was when a female freshman would inevitably get pregnant and rather than do the Christian thing and do what we could to help her out, she was always sat down and in one way or another told she was expected to withdraw and get out of the dorms. Gay students were also not allowed to be openly gay or they were forced into counseling or forced to withdraw.

    But again, like you said…you sign up for it. There are tons of schools and private schools don’t shy away from the rules that come with being a student.

  • Kelly_09

    @montana: this article on fox sports said that he was an LDS kid and knew what he was getting into when he decided to attend.

    Here’s the link: http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/byu-honor-code-dismissal-of-brandon-davies-deserves-praise-030311/?GT1=39002

    I personally think that the school should have respected the privacy of him and his girlfriend and their families. They didn’t have to get specific in the media about what happened.

  • Paulla

    Heather, I think you should write to the guy and tell him what you said here. Who knows, you might be the one person who could talk to him, as a former mormon… someone who understands both sides. I feel for him too. I grew up in a very oppressive Christian environment, and I got pregnant at 19. Oh the horror! Though I’m still a Christian, I’m no longer part of the judgmental witch-hunt people. My heart goes out to those who are hurt by them.

    And btw, my son is now 23 and wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing. :)

  • americanmom8

    I am Mormon. I don’t judge him or his mistakes and I think the majority wouldn’t. He made a mistake. We all do. Life deals us challenges and we deal with them the best we can and go on.

    I wish more colleges and pro sports would adhere to their rules as well as BYU does.

    It doesn’t matter what the “rules” are, it only matters that you agreed to adhere to them and chose not to. Deal with the consequences. This is something our society struggles with!!

    I hope that he can get through this and get on with life. A hard lesson to learn but he is young and with a good support team jump back into life!!!
    Good luck!!!

  • mommy.me.to.little.b

    :-) This was wonderfully put.

  • ashiashay

    You make a lot of very valid points, Heather. I have to say though, when you accept a high-profile position (big player on a successful, Division I sports team) you also have to accept ALL of the responsibilities that go along with that. He is probably feeling pretty bad about his choices right now, but birth control (for both parties involved) does exist.

    Regarding his playing again, I think the rule is that he’ll have to sit out for a year (if he chooses to transfer schools) and then be able to get back on the court.

  • Booeybubbles

    Very well said! Hopefully the couple can find mentors to help them through this time.

  • jenwilson

    Yikes. I can’t imagine what he’s going though. It would be hard enough to go through all of that in itself, but with national media attention as well? Pretty brutal.

  • Natalie

    For those few who keep saying he isn’t a kid, but an adult, I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time around 19-year-olds lately. Yeah, legally, he’s an adult. But a 19-year-old is very much still a kid in a lot of ways. I’m 33 and when I think back to how dumb I was at 19, I’m honestly shocked I survived.

    No where in this post do I think Heather was necessarily asking us to view him as a victim, but instead to show a little compassion. His personal life is literally being broadcast on a national stage. Getting a girl pregnant at 19 must seem like the worst thing that could ever happen. He’s dealing with that situation x100 because of his rank in the college sports world.

    Great post, Heather.

  • nyrican67

    Girl, that was so well said. While I am with the “he knew the rules” camp, i am also with the “geez, he’s just a kid” camp. As the mother of a 23 year old who has made some very good AND some very bad choices, i really just want to wrap my arms ’round his neck and tell him that he will recover and it’s gonna be alright. I really do hope that he has someone to talk to. How many mistakes have we made that we wish we could take back?

  • jumanjijuice

    I got put on standards probation for cusing on a parking ticket. Can yo imagine what life is like for the two of them on campus or anywhere in Provo right now? I wish I could buy Brandon and his girlfriend some slurpees and give them a hug. Could someone research that for me. please?

  • melinda sue

    i was not expecting to agree with you. and i do. 100%. thanks for weighing in.

  • Fifi Coon

    Amen Sista!! Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes the Mormons forget that……….

  • Just Jill

    As a huge University of Utah fan and recovering Mormon myself, I hope the Utes pick him up… We have no standards here, and we sure as hell can use him!

    All jokes aside, I sincerely hope the best for him, his girlfriend, and unborn baby.

    Good post, Heather, thank you!

    p.s. GO UTES!

  • Im Not a Trophy Wife

    That’s why Catholics are “allowed” to drink. It can be used as an excuse for a multitude of indiscretions..

  • kaptaink

    Wow. Great post. I don’t know anything about this hullabaloo, but your take on it made me want to give you a hug. And that boy and his pregnant girlfriend a hug.

    Hugs for everyone!

  • ljschrenk

    Maybe he didn’t make a mistake, a few years from now this could be the best thing to have happened to him. He might not feel ready to have a kid and unsure of his future but 10 years he will hopefully say he wouldn’t change a thing!

  • Big Mo

    Why doesn’t the honor code make Jimmer get a haircut?

    PS. Go Lobos!

  • preppypitbull

    You’re awesome. That is all.

  • jan001

    I’m in the Actions=Consequences camp. I might be more sympathetic if this all happened because he showed up for practice after going a week without shaving or something like that, but he knocked up his girlfriend. Is there something in the BYU code he could have done that would’ve been WORSE? I guess if they’d been stoned when it happened, or if they were robbing a liquor store when it happened…?

    Someone mentioned his privacy as well as his girlfriend’s. Presuming they’re both 18 or older, I don’t think they have any in this particular situation, at least nothing the school is required to protect. They’re legally adults.

    This is a modern day version of, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the (BYU) kitchen.” And, at the risk of coming off as horribly uncharitable, another one that goes, “If you’re gonna be stupid, you’d better be tough.”

    I do hope this works out as well as it possibly can for all concerned. They took a gamble a jillion people take every day, but they had a whole more to lose. And then they did.

  • tdotjen

    well said.

  • Meluhu

    I disagree with you on this. What ends up happening is that he gets publicly shamed for getting his girlfriend pregnant and his private life gets aired for all of Utah, etc. to see. In regards to the point that it was his “choice” to sign on to the team, who knows what his options and circumstances were when he was choosing which school to go to. His options may have been limited in ways that others who choose to enroll are not.

    I’m not sure how down LDS kids are in general with the idea of dissent, but this could potentially be used as a productive opportunity for other kids at the school to speak out against an intrusive and oppressive policy. But when people shame him instead of standing with him it precludes that happening.

  • mommica

    Word.

  • Helen Tarnation

    Uh…I can’t stop thinking about the last sentence of the story from your link…”ran the floor well and gave the Cougars length and size inside.” ???

  • PixelFish

    Blech. The WhyBeYou Honor Code made my life hell for a year and I didn’t even go there. It’s not just a matter of “Don’t go to BYU” if you can’t handle the rules. I went to Ricks College (the last few years it was still Ricks College and not BYU-Junior) and had to abide by the exact same honor code, and at the time, it wasn’t a problem. A year later, I returned to Utah, and as I was in the process of slowly sliding out of the LDS church, I realised that it would be a Bad Idea to go to BYU and went to UVSC instead. So what was the problem?

    The problem was I lived in Utah County–Provo itself–and ALL the frickin’ housing that was anywhere not completely sketchy made you “abide” by the honor code. (See, all the apartment complexes wanted the cash cow of BYU students, but at the time, to get the approval of the BYU Housing Authority or whatever its called, you had to guarantee all renters were following the stupid Honor Code.) I literally could NOT get housing that wasn’t waaaay too far or peopled by crazy people without getting slapped with the goddamned Honor Code requirement.(I was carless and the UTA was, and may be for all I know still is, laughable as a transit option.) If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have sicced the ACLU on them for tying housing to a specific set of religious beliefs and conduct. (Keep in mind, I wasn’t drinking, smoking, or even having *OMG* sex. I was a newbie heretic.)

    Anyway, the long and short of it is, I had a landlady and roommates who pretty much cudgelled me with the honor code every chance they got. My art was forcibly censored by my landlady–who sat me down to have a chat about how my roommates said it didn’t obey the honor code. (Cuz figure drawing with nekkid peoples? OMG.) I was lectured about not me, but my friends smoking….ON THE STREET (public propery! hello!) and threatened with eviction. Most ironically, my landlady threatened eviction over a piece of art that won me second place in the Ricks College yearly art show.

    Hopefully things have changed in Utah Valley in the last 15 years. But at the time, it was hell on earth…and not one I could choose to do much about since I couldn’t afford to move.

    So, yeah, sorry I’m cackling at the expense of the WhyBeYou fans who are suddenly shocked at their teams’ loss. I really feel bad for the kid though–nobody should have that sort of thing made public without their consent. Anywhere else and it would be no big deal.

  • The Dalai Mama

    This is so tough. I really think that religion is a personal thing and that any church/college shouldn’t be regulating what someone does in their personal life. It is up to him and all of us to make our way based on our own personal beliefs.

    I’m sorry this had to happen to a 19- maybe 20-year-old. He is a kid and there should be some middle ground. Why not probabtion and a 3 game suspension. Kicked off the team? Really.

    That is just sad. I hope he knows he isn’t alone.

  • Jules