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.

  • Mellie373

    Well said!

  • lucidlotus

    I have been wracking my brain to figure out why, in the name of all that is holy, would facial hair be medically necessary?! I may not be able to sleep without an answer to this question.
    I feel for the horny little beast too. Just like I felt for all the little kiddos that got booted off the Idol tonight. Being young is such a mess of a time anyway to have to be a mess in the limelight must suck balls.

  • jenhug80

    None of us can ever be good enough and the worst of us are those who think that we can be. Poor guy. Show him some grace.

  • MichelleD

    EXACTLY Jules. Double standards abound.

    I really hope he gets recruited to a different school. Maybe if he played ball at a school where condoms were given out freely because the admins knew the kids were going to be having sex, there might have been a different outcome.

    Brandon Davies, I’m with you.

  • dajungsta

    But wait! What about family pressure to attend BYU in the first place?!! I went through all the motions required of me in my religious institution as a youngster because that’s what you did, what was expected of you, and I can’t even imagine what the average Mormon child goes through in this department. Has anyone considered this? What if he said, “Screw BYU!”? This kid has gotten truly screwed on all levels. So not fair.

  • gutterlbp

    My sister-in-law goes to BYU Hawaii and plays on the girl’s basketball team She got in trouble for wearing a pair of shorts with writing on the butt. However, she knew before she applied how strict the school was. Yes, he’s a sophomore, but he did choose BYU.

    After all that, however, I do hope he’ll be able to play again. If his girlfriend is pregnant, the last thing he needs is to be ostracized from school and basketball – two things that will make him and his future family some money.

    -Meghan
    http://big-belliedbeautysguidetodisneyworld.blogspot.com/

  • They made me choose a username

    To those complaining about BYU officials having disclosed the reasons for Davies’ suspension from the team, that doesn’t appear to have happened. All the news reports (including the one cited here) said that BYU wouldn’t specify. The source of the details may even have been Davies himself (various sources say he confessed) or maybe it was journalists or others who intuited that it had to be a pretty major violation and investigated the rest of the details based on that assumption.

  • Pixie

    Ahem…..Amen!

    I too hope this young couple has all the support they need.

  • tuxxie

    Hi Heather– I liked your post…it was very nice.

    The above commenter is correct. BYU did NOT disclose the way he violated the honor code, and they never do (re: those saying it was a breach of privacy). I went to BYU and don’t have a problem with the honor code, just with the enforcers sometimes. For example, I can’t believe that you were on probation for not visiting teaching–I honestly have never heard of such a thing (since when is that a requirement of the honor code? Women technically are only asked to do visiting teaching once every three months anyway–you can give people a call or e-mail the other two. It’s just a way to look out for people and see if you can help them in any way.) Couldn’t you protest that with the honor code office? I’m sure someone with common sense would have listened to you if you were on probation for not visiting teaching. Sheesh…I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve never heard of anyone going on probation for something like that.

    However, the enforcers are not wrong in situations like Davies. They obviously had no choice but to pull Davies off the team if his girlfriend is pregnant–that is an obvious violation and in no way a ridiculous action (like in your case). Anyway, I feel bad for Davies…so do his teammates and his leaders at school. I don’t think the BYU community is lacking compassion. I don’t think they lack in compassion in general. Like all places/communities, there are a few insensitive people, but most are kind and sympathetic.

  • kelp30

    The problem with signing Honor Codes – is that we tend to sincerely BELIEVE we can deal with them when we sign…. The rubber meets the road when we’re expected to ABIDE by our promises.

    I agree with Heather. Regardless of our own worldviews, Mr. Davies signed – then didn’t uphold his end of the bargain…. so BYU did what they had to do – and from their end, whether or not they’ve upheld THEIR end of the bargain in the past, they’re doing it now…

    Is this the end of the world? No. Will Sportscenter make a “sadder but wiser” documentary about this? Probably. Will Mr. Davies have at least one year (and two if he red-shirts) eligibility at another of our nation’s fine institutions? Sure.

    I said a prayer for the child – because this is a hell of a way to enter the world…

  • kelp30

    I want to add something to what I said above.

    Yes – we should give this new family a lot of support – I wasn’t even referring to the pregnancy – just adherence to the honor code….

    At the end of the day, life moves on – and I’m hoping the Mormon Church (should the new family choose to remain in their faith) supports them.

    I grew up in a church that was fairly forgiving of everything – but premarital sex. It seemed there was nothing worse… SO. If a girl got pregnant, she was often required to stand in front of the church and apologize (as if her situation was a sin against the Church) (Personally, I believe situations like this are not ideal – for several reasons – but certainly never felt that the couple sinned against me personally.) The father of the child never had to apologize… Which is perhaps the real hypocricy, although that’s another story for another day.

    Anyway, I resented it then – and resent it now. I am grateful I’m currently in a church that supports, loves, and takes on the new life with the same familial responsibility they take on with babies born to married couples.

    Life moves on – and babies are redemptive.

  • sarah-lucy

    If you click through to the article, BYU DID NOT release the information that Davies got kicked off for having sex. The school would only say that he violated the honor code, but it was not criminal. I wonder where the Salt Lake Trib got the info, it doesn’t say.

    Additionally, although I too have heard the rumor that the girlfriend is knocked up, I haven’t seen any articles that verify that.

  • momofmia

    His girlfriend isn’t pregnant, it was a false alarm.

  • Daisee

    Very well said. My guess is that very soon he will get picked up by another school and can move on and be successful in life. As someone that had a child at 16, it was a very tough and a fast and furious learning experience. My guess he will have to make several life changing decisions in the next few months. He cant change what has happened but he can learn, and grow from this, do what he has to do, & move on.

  • MichaelMD

    A pregnant girlfriend? He’ll be drinking coffee next. You can’t trust anyone these days!

    And Michigan State could use a little help this year.

    Oh, and by the way, are we certain POST-marital sex is okay. Many are concerned.

  • Kelly_M

    I agree! He is a kid. Yes, he had pre-marital sex and now has a baby on the way, but does that make him any less of a good person? Does that make him any less of a great athelete? I understand that there is an honor code at BYU and upon getting accepted there you understand that and are supposed to follow the rules, but do they really believe that all students that attend BYU are following the rules? The only reason, like many have said before, that anyone knows of his actions is because now there is a baby involved. If there wasn’t, no one would know and this wouldn’t even be an issue. Just think, probably more than half of the student body has engaged in pre-marital sex or have drank alcohol, etc. Times are changing [or should I say, have changed]! I hope for his sake and his family’s sake that he will be able to continue on and make something of himself, not just for him, but for his girlfriend and baby as well!

  • Absent Minded Housewife

    I made a comment elsewhere that Happy Valley was less concerned about this kid’s welfare and spiritual growth and more concerned that glory didn’t rain down from the heavens for winning something so temporal as a basketball game.

    I’m not talking media either. I heard it from the saints.

    I had my first in happy valley at age 19. Birth control has a failure rate.

  • Steve in Iowa

    Dan Patrick picked up on this issue on his show this morning. He played an older interview with Jim McMahon where McMahon claims that he was kicked out of the University the day after his football eligibility expired. Patrick says McMahon’s side of the story is in his book:

    http://www.amazon.com/McMahon-Truth-About-Chicagos-Brashest/dp/0446512710/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299250360&sr=8-1

    I’m sure “back in the day” they were a lot less rigid with enforcement. Three decades of culture wars probably reinforces a climate of strictness.

    I hope that the poor kid can rise above this and take care of his girlfriend and baby, too.

  • llavine

    I agree with your post…when someone accepts an Honor Code they are making a commitment to live by it or “suffer” the consequences. In this case the consequences are severe.
    Mistakes and transgressions happen but the University in this case has the upper hand and has to deal with the situation at hand with the procedures that they currently have in place.
    Students have to realize that when they accept the rules they have to abide by them. Sports does teach this doesn’t it???
    I do hope that this player has the support to deal with this unfortunate set of circumstances and can turn it around and learn from it however difficult that is.
    No one can take away his athletic ability. http://www.parentingintheloop.com

  • nnorton

    Heather…I agree. You are the type of person that I strive to be. People fight the battle to be right, but being right does not alwasy make things better. Being right does not always address the issue at hand and that is that couple needs guidance and support. They are too young to have a jaded view on life

  • sally_sally

    “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.”

    This really touched a cord in me. Having gone through a horrific year, wherin I was judged and jeered, I did not have someone who could tell me my life wouldn’t always be this horrifying nightmare and I almost paid the price with my life.

    I sincerely also hope that this poor boy, this poor child, has someone in his life who can help him. Everyone deserves someone in their life who can help with issues such as these. Every. Single. Person.

  • Roliene

    Being a foreigner, from Europe, I am reading the Honor Code thing with a lot of disbelieve. Why not teaching sex education instead?

  • cjmama

    What a great reminder to show compassion before judgment. I like how you combined your compassion with accountability (not blame, there’s a difference). It’s what makes you a good parent and a good person. Nice work.

  • Arugula

    Dude. Your new masthead is scary. Wow.

  • MrsFun

    I hope he gets support and love from friends and family right now. I hope he comes out on top. He’s not the only one at BYU breaking the rules, he’s just the one that got caught. Poor kid :(
    So the lesson here is, when you break the rules, don’t get caught ;) My mom thought I was a good girl…she knows better now.

  • Sassafras Mama

    Amen!

    I so very much agree with what you wrote. We are all of us works in progress and it would help if we could remember that a little more often.

  • dulcinea47

    This is neither here nor there to what your point is, but I have to say it- if losing one player ruins your chances of doing well in the NCAA tournament, you didn’t really have a chance of doing well in the NCAA tournament to begin with.

    Otherwise- totally agree with you.

  • jan001

    ( @lucidlotus – Re “medically necessary” facial hair, I used to have a job where the guys were not allowed to have facial hair, but one of them got a waiver on it because, for some dermatological reason, whenever he shaved, no matter what he used – electric razor, safety razor, even straight razor – he got bad serious ingrown hairs all over his face and neck. I don’t pretend to understand it, but I saw his face with the evidence plenty of times before he got the waiver. It looked (1) gross and more importantly (2) painful, and might have been an invitation to infection. Maybe that’s what the BYU “medically necessary” thing is about…? )

  • erinwelch

    Well said. (Wait, has that been said before?!)

  • crazygracie0514

    I agree with you about honoring the code of BYU. If you break those rules, you will be held accountable and should. Furthermore, when you have unprotected sex (which I assume is the case here), you will also be held accountable. I am sorry, but I don’t feel bad for anyone who breaks rules and them seems flummoxed by personal responsibility and the lack of compassion. I can only assume a lot of things here, but I assume that even as “a kid”, he knew how babies are made? I am sorry that he is now in this position. I would hate for any “young man” to be put in this position, but certainly as a Mormon and as a young man, he knew that he would be held to a certain standards and what the outcome would be if he didn’t. I wish him and his girlfriend luck, but he made a mistake and now has to pay the price. I too hope he has a good network of support, but some of these posts say things like “poor kid” and that is a little much.

  • aldenemdyer

    Heather,

    Thank you for your insight. I am personally aware of how many college athletes are held to a different standard. While the “honor code” at my college was quite different than the BYU code, it still laid ground rules that were very nearly consistently broken by the athletic students. Despite my rather “salty” attitude to most collegiate organized sports, I feel that everyone deserves a second chance. This young man really hasn’t done anything earth-shatteringly different from any other college student; he just happened to get caught.

  • phatbaby57

    So happy to see someone else who gets it. These young stars are kids! At their age I would have been in a corner rocking myself if I was criticized so harshly by…EVERYONE. I agree full heartedly. I hope someone in his life can make him feel a little less worthless because I’m sure the media won’t be providing those services.

  • mdf

    Where did you hear that the girlfriend was pregnant? Radar is reporting that it’s a false rumor and that she is not pregnant. Does this change your response at all?

  • PinayLA

    Good points. Things happen for a reason and lessons has to be learned always.

  • kah825

    i’m a resident of Glens Falls, NY(Jimmer’s hometown) and Jimmer has converted just about everyone to a BYU fan. this has been the talk of the town lately. most people here think the same thing as you…he knew what he signed up for. i feel sad for him and his girlfriend. i just hope the team can come together and support him.

  • Just Jill

    @Roliene – they won’t teach sex education because they feel it would give everyone a green light to start having sex. So rather than educate about it, they stick their heads in the sand and assume it, and its consequences, will never happen. Welcome to Utah, folks! :)

  • mirandajayne

    Socrates pointed out, when condemned to die after being found guilty of breaking Athenian law, that he had long been free to leave Athens anytime if he was not happy with its laws. In this way, Heather is right. Still, I think it is reasonable to consider the moral implications (versus probably benevolent intent) of the BYU honor code, as well as other church interventions. Two of the most sacred beliefs in Mormon doctrine are ACCOUNTABILITY (baptized not as an infant, but at age 8, when one is supposed to be able to judge right from wrong), and AGENCY. These are bedrock precepts of the purpose of the mortal earthly experience in Mormon teachings. The pre-mortal plan that protected and micro-managed everyone from making agency-related mistakes (by not allowing them to make them) was Satan’s rejected plan. All these proximate, temporal, public consequences are a way to game the system by supplanting accountability in the eternal relationship between the moral agent and their God with an institutional code that renders its own justice or mercy on spiritual matters. These are man-made deterrents that, in their spirit and practice, subvert the entire meaning and purpose of mortal agency and accountability that has crucial (and supposedly eternal) implications. I am sure that BYU would much prefer to have a student population that adheres to conduct that is consistent with its teachings, but when they intervene by becoming God’s zealous earthly enforcer, with severe temporal consequences (not on facial hair, but on laws their God has given as being definitive conditions for returning to God’s presence), they subvert the ultimate purpose of moral agency (an eternal process between the accountable moral agent and their God). If this school truly understood and loved the founding principal of free agency, they would understand they must suffer the consequences of protecting it by allowing it.

  • jetame

    I think you may have overstated the amount of judgment going on by the BYU community. At least in this link, the “giant, jeering” crowd seems to be a giant, cheering one. I hope the campus will continue to show love and compassion to him and encourage him to get his life straightened out (esp. if there IS a baby on the way) so he can return and play next season.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/2011/03/06/2011-03-06_brandon_davies_back_with_byu_squad__to_cut_down_nets_after_squad_clinches_share_.html

  • misheru

    First — Heather, very well said, very compassionate.

    Next –
    I’m surprised by the judgmental tone of a lot of the commenters here (not sure why I’m surprised — it IS the Internet, after all). Yes, the kid is 20, and I’m sure he knew what he was doing when he signed on the dotted line. I’m sure he was also aware of the potential problems involved in placing his penis in a female vagina.

    That being said, I am always shocked by certain phrases people say, like ‘birth control IS available.’ Really? For a BYU student? I went to a Catholic college, and when we decided to hand out condoms, we had to put an ad in the paper and people called if they wanted one. The result? A giant box of unclaimed condoms in my apartment, which raised questioning looks during graduation when my family visited. All I could do was shrug and say, hey, it’s college, right? ;)

    A couple in a Mormon institution engaging in rule-breaking, illicit pre-marital sex (I had to use the word illicit, I just love the way it rolls off the tongue. No pun intended.) probably would hesitate to find birth control for fear of being found out.

    But. Even. If. They. Used. Birth. Control.

    So did I. And I got pregnant at 25 years old with my first child. Sure, I was married, so nobody blinked an eye, but it was a shock nonetheless (and we were NOT ready).

    On top of that (no pun intended), a LOT of people have unprotected sex and both do not get pregnant and do not contract an STD. Yes! It is possible! It is not black and white. Sometimes people evade the consequences of their actions.

    Which makes it even worse, because the restless crowds peering into this young man’s private life probably aren’t peering into the lives of his teammates. How many other athletes are secretly relieved to have dodged this bullet, I want to know?

    I’m just saying: you can say “He understood the consequences” all you want, but that doesn’t make life fair, or easy. It’s just another way to judge and be self-righteous.

    Just thought I’d point that out, in my own judgmental, self-righteous way.

  • tiffmoon

    Okay I’m finally de-lurking after reading this blog for 5 or 6 years to say THANK YOU for pointing out the player’s perspective. Growing up very conservative Christian I can’t even imagine how alone this poor kid must feel with his entire community judging him. I feel for him… So sad.

    Also, hi!

  • Ms.Carson

    I agree. People get too wrapped up in the issues and forget the real people for whom these issues are real life.

  • ADoyleLB

    I also think that he knew what he signed up for, and as BYU is a private institution, they can suspend someone for violating their honor code. I do feel bad for his girlfriend who could be judged as the “slut” who got their star basketball player kicked off the team at the start of the playoffs.

  • laura.elaine

    You made my heart all plantonic pitter-pat. I hope so too.

  • mommym

    While I loved your post, I am very frustrated by a lot of the comments made by your followers that are using this subject to particpate in their favorite sport of mormon bashing or religion bashing in general.

    The whole point of the Brandon Davies story, and one that I find admirable, is that he was man enough to own up to his mistake and can now move forward unfettered. A lot of the comments indicate that the school released the private information/details behind the suspension. False. I have been following all of the media, and it was the Salt Lake Trib that was the first to release that the suspension was as a result of premarital sex. All of the quotes and news releases from BYU never once stated any specifics. I ASSUMED from the swiftness of the action from the school, and the fact that it did not involve police, that the suspension must have been due to cheating or sexual impropriety. But is was never specified by the school. Either way, it was heartbreaking and the timing was horrendous. But, it is what it is. Mr. Davies has been surrounded with love and support from his team mates, coaches, friends and family, as he should be. I have heard no disparaging remarks about him in the media or in my day-to-day encounters with others who have been following this story. Mr. Davies did the right thing by coming forward, BYU did the right thing by holding to their honor code (how many other schools would have just kept this quiet for a few weeks and dealt with it AFTER the tournament?) I’ll be honost, a huge part of me wished he would have waited to confess, so he is a better person that I am! I know people love to bash on BYU and their honor code, and the religion that sponsors this school, but by doing so, they are doing the very thing that they claim they hate about the LDS church, or any organized religion: They are the ones judging! I can pretty much guarantee that Mr. Davies will be surrounded with a lot of love and support from the school, his church leaders, his team mates, etc. That is how we do it in the church. That is what I love about the LDS religious community: When the chips are down, and your life is falling apart, you will not meet a more loving community that is quick with a helping hand to lift you back up. It’s scary to expose yourself and your sins, but when you do, true healing begins and you can become whole again and even better/stronger, with a lot of loving friends at your side. “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

  • wermit

    This isn’t as smart ass as it sounds:

    When is facial hair medically necessary?

  • imaynotremember

    Well said and my sentiments exactly.

    He should never be harshly judged either because no one is perfect in this world and it’s very easy to make mistakes but in my eyes God had this plan for him. Now, granted it’s not in accordance with church and school laws, but it’s his plan and the media has been way too harsh on him. They have treated this poor kid like he’s in a murder trial investigation. There’s something to be learned from life’s experiences. And so much to take away and gain from them too. Part of life is mistakes. Part of mistakes is learning to roll with the punches that it can bring.

  • mrstilly

    I agree – well said! I attended a small christian college for grad school and while as grad student things were much more relaxed, they did have an honor code. I imagine it was close to BYU’s for the undergraduate students. I think that if you agree to go to the school, you need to agree to follow the rules and face the consequences if you don’t follow the rules. But the bigger picture, that’s probably being overlooked by most, is that this is a scared kid with a child on the way in the middle of a huge media storm, and also with his future as a student and basketball player on the line. I too, hope that someone is giving him the support and empathy he needs to come through this storm a better person.

  • DisposableWombat

    Right.

    So when I ran this past my daughter, her reaction was something along the lines of, “I went to high school with this useless shred of pitiful man-flesh. It’s about freaking time he was called out for his shite.”

    There followed mumblings about past girlfriends who resorted to abortions, etc, etc.

    Maybe – JUST MAYBE – he really isn’t such an innocent young waif. Just sayin………!

  • lonek8

    can I just ask what situation renders facial hair medically necessary? just curious.

  • apostate

    Nothing says “family: isn’t it about time?” like kicking a kid who’s going to be supporting a baby out of college.
    Says apostate with a bone to grind.