If BYU offered shares of stock in its athletics program, I would sell immediately. The university’s chances of attracting highly sought-after non-Mormon athletes just took a major hit.
On Wednesday, March 2nd, Brandon Davies, a highly-prized, 19-year-old, 6’9” sophomore member of the Brigham Young University men’s basketball team, currently ranked 3rd in the nation, was dismissed from the team for the remainder of the year for violating BYU’s Honor Code. What warranted this action against such a highly-prized student-athlete during a banner year for BYU basketball? Poor behavior by NCAA student athletes is not uncommon. Was Davies accused of cheating on a test? No. Committing a felony? No. Fighting with another student? No. Drinking alcohol on school grounds? No. Selling drugs? No. He did nothing more than admit to having sex with his adult girlfriend. Consensual sex. That’s it.
BYU currently is ranked third in the nation, but the removal of Davies, who this year averaged 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, likely will have a devastating affect on the basketball team’s chances of winning the upcoming NCAA tournament. Hours after the announcement of the dismissal, the team proceeded to lose to New Mexico State by almost twenty points (82-64). According to Jeff Goodman, of Fox Sports, that resulted in a flurry of comedic Twitter activity, including the following comment: “Brandon Davies is the only BYU student scoring tonight.”
The relevant portions of the BYU Church Educational System Honor Code state the following:
Brigham Young University... exist[s] to provide an education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That atmosphere is created and preserved through commitment to conduct that reflects those ideals and principles. Members of the faculty, administration, staff, and student body at BYU... are selected and retained from among those who voluntarily live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Observance of such is a specific condition of employment and admission.
As a matter of personal commitment, faculty, administration, staff, and students of Brigham Young University... will... Live a chaste [i.e., celibate if unmarried] and virtuous life...”
According to reports, Davies knew what he was getting into when he signed on with BYU. First, he grew up as a Mormon and, as such, was well aware of the strict Mormon lifestyle. Second, those student-athletes who are considering attending BYU are made well aware of the terms of the Honor Code during the recruitment process. Each student must meet with a Bishop in the Mormon Church and then someone called a Stake President. At that time, the terms of the Code are made very clear by both individuals. Finally, all students must sign annually a certificate acknowledging that they have read and agreed to the terms of the Honor Code.
To most of us, some portions of the Code, including those that ban caffeinated beverages, ban alcohol, and forbid swearing, may seem silly, harsh, and perhaps even counterproductive. Debating the issue of whether the Davies dismissal is right or wrong, however, is 100% pointless. In the end, Davies entered into an agreement with BYU and breached a portion of that agreement that BYU deemed critical. It’s Contracts 101.
The Code has been in place for many years, and, despite its existence, many BYU athletes have survived its terms and/or evaded capture. Some have even gone on to have great careers at the next level, including NFL quarterbacks Steve Young and Jim McMahon, as well as NBA great Danny Ainge. That said, times have changed, and the Davies incident is a major wake-up call to those athletes who are considering attending BYU and perhaps thought that the terms of the Honor Code would not apply to them. It will be interesting to see whether BYU can continue to recruit non-Mormon athletes from a society that, socially, is drifting further left and is more accepting of once-taboo things such as gay marriage, pre-marital sex, coffee, and tea.