The Long Version

Retired broadcast journalist. Blogging helps scratch the itch. Recovering exRepublican – Sober and still Conservative.

Posts Tagged ‘Brigham Young University

Brandon Davies: Is BYU’s Premarital Sex Controversy Good For College Sports?

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Back in March I wrote about Jimmer Fredette and BYU’s run to the NCAA tournament.  In that post I mentioned the situation with Brandon Davies, the 6’9″ power forward/center, suspended for the remainder of the season due to an honor code violation.  We later learned that violation had to do with the provision of the BYU honor code referring to living a “chaste and virtuous life”.   Brandon admitted to having sexual relations with his girlfriend.

What followed is, in my mind, a proud moment for BYU and for Brandon Davies.  I could opine about that for pages but I’d rather share an article in Time magazine published on March 4th by a disinterested 3rd party that closely follows my own thoughts and feelings on the situation.  The author, Sean Gregory, articulates well the magnitude of the decision by BYU and the possible ripples that decision could have in college sports in general in the future.

It’s a great read, so I decided to re-post it here with attribution.

Brandon Davies: Is BYU’s Premarital Sex Controversy Good For College Sports?

These days, bad behavior among college athletes is a fact of campus life. Beat up a freshman in a barroom one night and you can be back on the court three days later. Just this week, a Sports Illustrated and CBS News investigation found that more than 200 players on the rosters of 25 major college football teams have run afoul of the law. Nearly a quarter of scholarship athletes on the University of Pittsburgh squad have criminal records.

College athletics is a multibillion-dollar enterprise, and the pressure to win at any cost — including turning a blind eye to player misbehavior — can be overwhelming. That’s why the news this week that Brigham Young University (BYU) would force starting center Brandon Davies to miss the rest of the season for violating the school’s honor code was so surprising.

The team looked like a title contender. BYU is ranked third in the country, and Davies, who averages 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds, is a key player; in their first game without him, the Cougars were trounced by the University of New Mexico, 82-64.

But the most surprising fact of the story is that Davies got booted for behavior that wasn’t criminal. What he did takes place, to put it mildly, every day in colleges across the country: Davies had sex with his girlfriend.

BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which frowns on premarital relations. Davis, like 98% of BYU students, is a Mormon. Upon entering the school, students vow to abide by its honor code, which prohibits premarital sex as well as indulging in alcohol or coffee. “The honor code is an essential part of your recruitment to BYU,” says Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young, who played at BYU from 1981 to ’83. “It’s not like you find out later — ‘Oh, you didn’t tell me! I didn’t know that!’ But there’s a spirit on campus that is just, ‘O.K., fine, now let’s now go have a good time.'”

The judgment on Davies doesn’t come without costs to the school. If BYU fails to advance in the upcoming NCAA tournament without its star center, the rest of the team — young men who worked hard, obeyed the rules and did nothing wrong — miss out on a life experience they may never recapture.

But you have to admire an institution that sticks by its principles. “The expression of love between a man and a woman is sacred, valued at the highest level,” says Shawn Bradley, the 7-ft. 6-in. former NBA player who spent a year at BYU and spent two years on a mission in Australia before entering the 1993 draft. Indeed, many BYU alums say they support the school’s decision. “Sorry, I’m choking up a bit here,” says Philadelphia sportscaster Vai Sikahema, a former NFL return specialist who played for BYU in the mid-1980s. “It’s just hard for me to express just how immensely proud I am of my university.”

He should be. When it comes to athletes and sex, the easy call is to let the jocks slip. On any campus, athletes are visible, and popular, especially when a team is winning. And though it’s probably easier for a student to squelch his or her desires at a place where all 30,000 undergrads are also trying to stay chaste, suppression is still a challenge. “It was difficult for me,” says Bradley, a devout Mormon. “We all have those urges. You’re dealing with hormones, which are out in full force. But you have to stay focused, and put yourself in the right places to protect yourself.”

The willingness of BYU to police poor conduct is sharply at odds with other college programs. At Seton Hall University last season, for example, a basketball player who caused an accident while driving under the influence, causing an injury to the other driver, was suspended for only eight games. This year, a top player from Robert Morris University got a four-game penalty after a drunk-driving incident. In February, two players from Marshall University were charged with battery over a bar fight; they played in a game the next evening. Schools often let athletes off easy for on-field transgressions too. Two seasons ago, a University of Florida football player intentionally gouged an opponent’s eyes. He was suspended for a half.

BYU has every incentive to just slap Davies on the wrist for his transgression. A successful run at the Final Four could generate millions of dollars in television revenues and alumni donations for the school, and the added exposure and prestige can increase applications.

BYU boosters, however, believe the Davies incident could be a selling point on its own, by broadcasting the school’s principled stand on honesty and taking responsibility. Davies himself has apologized to his teammates and took his punishment without complaining. And despite the stiff penalty it levied, BYU also teaches forgiveness. “It’s really a pretty compassionate place,” says Young, a great-great-great grandson of Brigham Young himself. “I guarantee you there’s a huge outreach to make sure that he’s O.K. If I could talk to him, I’d put my arm around him and say, ‘Hang in there, get back on the court when you can, and make it right.'”

Davies may learn a great deal from this experience. “This could be a seminal moment in this young man’s life,” says Sikahema. “Better that it happens at 20, rather than 50, with four kids. He’ll probably be a better man, and that’s ultimately what BYU is about, building leaders, building men. If that means missing out a chance at the Final Four, well, that’s what happens.”

Would any other school pay that price? More than likely, too few would pass the Brandon Davies test.

Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. Keeping Score, his sports column for TIME.com, appears every Friday. Follow him on Twitter at @seanmgregory

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2057184,00.html#ixzz1IaX6AvX9

Open Letter to ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly

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Rick,

Why do you hate on BYU so much?

I admit I’m a BYU fan, a Mormon, and believe it or not, a Rick Reilly fan.  So obviously and without apology my viewpoint is a tad skewed toward BYU, but what is your excuse as a journalist supposedly trained to be the objective observer.  You sound more like a Ute fan in the Tribune comment section.

I’ve read your columns for years and every time I read one where BYU is mentioned the negatives drown the positives.  You’ve said nice things about BYU while in the same breath added a slap.  How many times have you talked about BYU’s football program only to focus on the “age” of the players and the “advantage” it gives them over “the kids” on those other teams?  Of course you never seem to mention the age thing when BYU goes 6-6.

But this time around your keyboard is busy pinging college basketball and Jimmer Fredette.  It appears you’ve noticed the storybook season BYU has had with its star player Jimmer Fredette. But unlike your peers you decide to pick the star player apart and make his and BYU’s accomplishments this season appear insignificant.

It is obvious after reading your piece that you haven’t seen Jimmer Fredette or BYU play basketball much this season.  In fact you lead me to believe you hadn’t seen BYU play at all this year until the Florida game. Really? A sports columnist who only discovered Jimmermania the 3rd game into the NCAA tournament?

If his last game against Florida was the only game you’ve personally watched you’ve missed out on one of the most amazing and fun to watch players in college basketball this year.  He admittedly didn’t have a good game but still managed to put more than 30 on Florida in the face of very good defensive pressure to carry BYU to within one missed free throw of the Elite 8, though you chose to focus on the lopsided overtime period.

If you’ve never had a chance to interview or talk to Jimmer in person you’ve missed experiencing the infectious personality and great character of this young man.

Instead, you decided to join the bandwagon of message board morons slamming Fredette for not playing defense, being a ball hog, and a selfish player.  But if you talked to his coach and teammates you’d know how ridiculous and untrue those accusations are.  Did it ever occur to you that his coach has asked him not to play hard nosed defense because his offense is too valuable to risk foul trouble?  Its called asset protection Rick.  I’m sure you understand that concept.

He IS the Pete Maravich of our day.  Your comparison between Jimmer and Pete obviously wasn’t researched and was simply meant to “turn a clever phrase”, as one blogger put it, in hopes anyone reading it wouldn’t be paying close attention.

If you want to see some stats that might embarrass you and your comparison, go here.

Your attitude toward BYU and in this case Jimmer Fredette, seems almost bitter.  Sour grapes. I don’t know what to call it or how to explain it.  I just wonder why?

The fact that you seemingly consciously chose not to follow this phenom or attempt to watch any BYU games this season leads one to consider that you have a personal reason.  Or maybe you just don’t care about a basketball team out of Provo.  The latter seems odd since the rest of the nation, including your peers,  has had a laser focused on Provo and Fredette since mid-season.  Or perhaps it goes deeper than that and follows a pattern shown by other sports columnists out of that Mecca of “free thinkers” unfettered by religion, in Boulder, Colorado.  Dick Harmon of the Deseret News discusses that theory in a recent column.

If you do have a personal bias toward BYU no one will ever know but you, however your historically consistent negativity toward the Cougars leaves your audience wondering why.  When everyone else in your profession is giving praise and showing such great respect to BYU and Jimmer Fredette, you choose to criticize.

As a former broadcast journalist and news anchor for 15 years I can recognize a hatchet job when I see one.

You’ve written many incredible and inspiring columns over the years Mr. Reilly, but this is not one of them.  This was, as one local sports blogger put it  “a lazy, churlish bit of writing by a guy well past his prime.”  I’m not necessarily in agreement with the “past his prime” bit, but lazy and churlish?

Yeah.

Still, it does occur to me that going against the grain and coming out on the opposite side of the fence in this case has certainly grabbed people’s attention for better or worse and probably given this column more readers than it would have had with a “me too” piece.

Hmmmm, a tactic to create controversy, help pump up readership, and waylay the “past his prime” talk?

Nah.  If you were truly past your prime no one would care.

Just Rick being consistent in his apparent “enmity” for BYU.

Written by DCL

March 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

It’s Peanut Butter Jimmer Time

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I guess it’s time to weigh in on the phenomenon known in the great state of Utah and more or less around the country as “Jimmer Mania”.

Jimmer Fredette is a talented basketball player on the BYU Cougars basketball team. Jimmer’s story is really quite amazing and has been told in media outlets around the globe in recent months and the media in general can’t get enough of Jimmer. It’s that story of a small town kid out of New York state who dreamed of being something bigger than he should ever dream and having the dedication and persistence to actually make that dream come true.  It’s the stuff of fairy tales and bedtime stories.

From dribbling down a dark LDS church house hallway as a pre-teen while his older brother and friends would jump out of the darkness and try to knock the ball away from him to playing in a local prison yard and dropping 40 points on the inmate’s team as an 18 year-old, Jimmer has methodically done everything needed to excel at the game of basketball and now he’s leading his BYU Cougars to a top 10 ranking and probably #2 seed in the NCAA tournament come mid-March.

If that were the end of the story it would be a good one, but this one is a real page turner.  Last week after BYU beat San Diego State for the second time, in front of a national TV audience on CBS, and then moving from #7 in the polls to #3, with talk of a #1 seed in the big dance, the unthinkable happened.  Brandon Davies, a 6’9″ center/power forward and leading rebounder on the Cougar squad was suspended for the remainder of the season for an Honor Code violation.  The BYU honor code is something every BYU student must sign to attend the school.  I signed it as a 30 year old sophomore, married with 3 kids when I went back to school.  It’s clear what is expected and if you break the rules there will be consequences.  Some parts of the honor code carry more severe consequences and unfortunately Brandon broke one of the biggies.

The following Wednesday BYU lost at home to New Mexico by 18 points and it looked like the wheels were going to come off the wagon.  Media from every corner began to lament and scream the demise of the once presumed final four bound BYU Cougars.  But really what did people expect?  Here’s a group of 18 to 24 year olds who just lost a friend, team mate, and important part of their winning ways.  The emotions of hearing that news on Tuesday and then having to play a big game against a team that had beaten you earlier in the season was simply overwhelming in my opinion and the Cougars played like it.  Jimmer still had 32 points but the rest of the team could only manage 34.

The cool thing about all this drama is how the world has responded.  Fans on message boards posting in anonymity were typically rude, crude, and derogatory in their statements about BYU, the honor code, Jimmer, Brandon, and the LDS Church, but the responses from media outlets around the globe were incredibly supportive of BYU and it’s willingness to stand for what it believes in regardless of the consequences for its basketball team and the fame and money that would come to the school had it gone to the final four and beyond.  Chalk one up for the good guys who stand for something and don’t back down because it isn’t the popular thing to do.  But that’s BYU.  It always has been and always will be.

So the saga continues as the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament begins tomorrow with BYU playing TCU at 1 pm.  It will be fun to see how BYU plays without their star center with the spotlight shining hot upon them while the country waits to see if they will stub their toe and falter going into March Madness.  I think BYU will be just fine and will surprise people.  But that story will be written in the coming days and weeks and I’ll be a faithful follower right to the last game!

GO COUGS!