A few weeks ago I was unsure of what sports team I should follow for the next little while. The Steelers had lost the Super Bowl, the Raptors were losing every game, and at the time, the Leafs appeared to have no chance at making the playoffs. I always liked college basketball, and I always like an underdog, and at this point one team jumped above the pack. The Brigham Young University Cougars led by Jimmer Fredette, won game after game, as Fredette, a slow white guy, never seemed to miss a shot. Actually, I don’t know how slow he is. I’m making the same mistake people always make with white basketball players; I’m assuming he’s not athletic. Which is great for me as a fan because it then makes me feel like perhaps if I work hard on my shot, someday I can be a pro basketball player.
For the past few weeks, all was good. I followed BYU from afar, ready to hop on their bandwagon when March Madness started. They won game after game, jumping all the way to #3 in the National Rankings. That is until this Wednesday, when a disturbing story came out. BYU suspended leading rebounder Brandon Davies for, “an honor code violation.” At BYU students have to sign an honor code in order to go there. It includes no alcohol, coffee, or premarital sex amongst many other rules. It then came out that Brandon Davies got suspended for the season for having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Reporter after reporter praised BYU’s principles. I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth along with many questions. Why would anyone want to go to BYU? How did the school find out about what Davies does in his own bedroom? Why was he suspended with no investigation? Does BYU have the principles everyone says they do and was this suspension justified?
The reason people want to go to BYU is it is the most prominent Latter-Day Saints, or Mormon university. 98% of the students, including Brandon Davies, practice the religion. Why anyone who isn’t a Mormon would want to go is a question I can’t answer, although I would have to assume they hate themselves very much. Another question I can’t answer is how the school found out, although the rumour is someone told on Davies. If I were at BYU and found out who told on Davies, I might want to drown them in coffee and report it as an honor code violation. The honor code also talks about honesty and integrity and I don’t know how tattling on someone for behaviour that doesn’t harm anybody fits in. The reason there was no investigation is because when questioned, Davies confessed. I’m sure this suspension certainly taught him that honesty and integrity are rewarded.
Now whether the suspension was justified seems to be the question people have the most trouble answering. Pat Forde on ESPN.com wrote a very well written article on how even though he didn’t agree with what them; he respected BYU’s principles. I question whether BYU has these lofty ideals and principles they are claiming to have. When I look at Brigham Young the school’s namesake, I see a polygamist who banned African Americans from important positions within the church. Interestingly, the faith banned polygamy because Jesus Christ appeared in a vision to Church President Wilford Woodruff, saying it should be done. Interestingly the Church was under public pressure from the United States government and as a result of the ban, Utah, the place where BYU and the Mormon Church are headquartered, became a state. It was a great stroke of luck for the Church that Jesus changed the law when it became politically expedient to do so. In 1978, the Church was expanding to South America but was having trouble with the fact that black people couldn’t be priests, or even attend temple. In Brazil it would be tough to determine due to everyone having mixed descent. Just then God appeared and informed the Church that discrimination had to stop. Throughout its history the Mormon Church has had the good fortune that whenever it became convenient, its prophecy changed.
Now that it’s been established that the Church may be willing to put convenience ahead of principles, let’s take a look at how the suspension of Brandon Davies might be convenient for Brigham Young University. Initially this was a tough question, until a Rabbi inadvertently provided me with an answer. He was telling a group of Jewish kids about how we had to resist the temptations of a modern day university, and to sleep in separate dorms from the opposite sex. As much as I disagreed with the Rabbi it dawned on me that he was the type of man BYU was looking to appeal to.
The point of college sports is to increase the university’s prestige and money. For instance, a school like Kentucky is therefore motivated to win at all cost as winning grants them prestige and money from their supporters. BYU exists to promote Mormonism and Mormon values. For BYU one of the best ways to promote themselves is to make a bold declaration about what it cannot condone. I can’t think of a better way to do this than suspending Brandon Davies. A school named for a racist bigamist was now willing to declare a young black man immoral in front of the world.
So, this suspension was not justified or principled. If BYU really wanted to be principled and help Davies they should have made this a private matter and have given him counseling so he could follow Church practice. Unfortunately for the young man, this Church followed a pattern of putting itself above its congregants and promoting itself at all costs to its people. In their own way, BYU used sports for its own gain, which is the same thing all other schools are criticized. Now the entire country knows about a college student’s indiscretion and he is humiliated. The Church’s only principle is to do whatever is best for them. In the end, I may cheer for the basketball team. I will not support this unprincipled administration.