BYU or black and white?

By Bill Neri-Amadeo courtesy of the
Updated: March 8, 2011

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New Jersey—While the nation anxiously awaits the Michigan State at Michigan and Duke at North Carolina games this afternoon, it was news from Thursday that broke on ESPN that has shook the college basketball world and that news was that BYU Forward Brandon Davies had been kicked off of the Cougar basketball team for violation the school’s Honor Code. The violation the young man committed: Consensual sex with his girlfriend.

Now people will tell you that the young man knew the consequences of committing this “Act” when he signed his scholarship and that the Honor Code at BYU is very rigid and the fact that this player’s violation may cost the team a chance to play for the NCAA National Championship and a potential number 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament is not as significant as keeping the integrity of the school. The people who applaud this also will tell you there has been a history of this rule enforcement at the school. The football team’s star running back Harvey Unga “Voluntarily” withdrew from the school after violating the Honor Code on April 16, 2010 after being “Caught” having consensual sex with his girlfriend. Star running back Ronney Jenkins violated the Honor Code twice in 1996 and 1998 and was kicked off the team. The dismissal of Jenkins led him the Northern Arizona where he and his future wife, whom is white, and the one he was having consensual sex with got married.

On the face of these violations, suspensions and dismissals, many in the Christian-Right sect are applauding the school. They say if you break the rules you pay the price. The question I have for everyone is: Do the same rules apply to all and will this affect the future of recruiting at BYU?

Jim McMahon:

One of the icons of BYU football is the famed-quarterback Jim McMahon. McMahon is revered as the signal caller for the historic 1985 Bears Super Bowl Championship team and his chaos off of the field. One such endeavor he did off of the field was his 1986 book entitled “The Bare Truth About Chicago’s Brashest Bear Jim McMahon.” In this book which was authored with veteran journalist Bob Verdi, McMahon speaks about his time at BYU and shockingly, McMahon raves about certain endeavors he partook in some of which include breaking the infamous Honor Code. This leads us to wonder if there were different rules for a while athlete at BYU as opposed to a black athlete. While many will tell you that McMahon was at BYU in the 80’s and it was a different regime running the show, let’s fast forward a few years and discuss another star whom was dismissed.

Ronney Jenkins:

Jenkins was a star running back leading the Cougars to national prominence and potentially a first round selection until he was caught for violating the Honor Code for the second time. The violation cost Jenkins dearly as he had to transfer to Northern Arizona and despite still playing well he went undrafted in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Jenkins made a solid career for himself in the NFL and CFL but never captured the greatness he once had on the fields of Provo, Utah. In an interview with ESPN a year after Jenkins started his NFL career, he gave an interview to ESPN and said he was sorry about what had happened but he was not the only player at BYU who was having premarital sex and it alluded to the fact that it was because Jenkins was having sex with a white woman and he made it clear without signaling out teammates that there were many other players who were also engaging in sexual activities. Jenkins was a target and we gather from the interview that was because of his interracial relationship.

Brandon Davies:

In the player Brandon Davies, BYU loses an athlete that scored 11.1 points per game, got 6.2 rebounds and dished out 1.5 assists. In the man, they lose an even greater asset and in the grand scheme of things, the decision from Athletic Director Tom Holmoe (whom played with Jim McMahon at BYU) may cost BYU a significant trip through March Madness.

Danny Ainge came out on the “Big Show” and stated that Brandon Davies will come back to BYU next season and that he was a great kid. The Celtics President said there are different rules when you play at BYU and it’s not for everybody and that the Honor Code comes from the historic Mormon leader Joe Smith.

Joe Smith:

While we’re not here to bash the Mormon religion or Joseph Smith, we have to remember that this man originated polygamy and he is believed to have had as many as 30 wives. With that being said, not everything written or practiced by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s can nor should be applied today.

The Mormon religion is a respected religion and there are different sects of such religion and you have to go no further than HBO’s “Big Love” to see that there is an array of views on the faith. With that said, if Joseph Smith were alive today, it’s hard to imagine he would condemn Brandon Davies for having premarital sex or drinking coffee which is another part of the credo.

Jimmer Fredette:

In an interview, Fredette looked as if he was almost brought to tears at the fact of losing Davies. While Fredette seems like an upstanding young man, it’s hard to believe that he has never engaged in consensual sex. He is beloved, he is going to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft and he has a cult following. While we do not know about the personal life of Fredette, we have to wonder if BYU’s Athletic Director Tom Holmoe would have taken the same course of action if it was Fredette that was brought up for a violation?

Final Thoughts:

While Tom Holmoe made the final decisions about the fate of Brandon Davies and Harvey Unga, it was Elaine Michaelis and Rondo Fehlberg who shared the position at BYU during the violation of Ronney Jenkins and it was Lu Wallace whom was in charge during the Jim McMahon-era.

While the faces have changed, the code created by Joseph Smith remains the same and it appears that there is never a white athlete that publicly violates the code and gets kicked off of the BYU teams.

At the end of the day, there needs to be a blanket rule for ALL players regardless of race or creed. Brandon Davies did not commit a crime, he has been revered as a good person by the likes of Danny Ainge and while he may have broken the school’s Honor Code, the punishment did not fit the violation. If history is any indication of the way things work at BYU, a white athlete committing the same offense would not have been dealt such severe punishment and if there is a level of racism at the school; that is something the NCAA should look into regardless of the university’s private institution label.

In the college sports landscape we see billions of dollars being made in college football and basketball. We see horrible things happen on a daily basis in an attempt to be number one. In Brandon Davies, we see a good kid who made a mistake and is paying in a tragic way and that is the greatest violation of all.