BYU’s Tough Choice: Honor the Honor Code or Play to Win

Posted by David Burnett on March-3-2011 Add Comments

A lot of folks outside the state of Utah are scratching their heads right now, wondering how it is that a consensual act of sex may well sideline a dream basketball season at Brigham Young University.  

For unmarried students at BYU, having sex constitutes a violation of the university’s ultra-strict honor code.

Sophomore center and leading rebounder, Brandon Davies admitted to having sex with his girlfriend and has been suspended from the team for the remainder of the season and pending further review, now faces dismissal from the university.

Until this week, the focus at BYU was mostly on the spectacular long-range shooting of guard Jimmer Fredette, and how Fredette was leading his team toward a legitimate run at a national championship. 

But it now appears the honor code violation may garner even more attention.

BYU was cruising toward a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and had risen to No. 3 in the national polls. Yes, the sensational season of star guard Jimmer Fredette is the primary reason for BYU’s great year, but the solid play of sophomore center, Brandon Davies, played a large part in the team’s success too.  

Without Davies on Wednesday night the third-ranked Cougars were routed at home by New Mexico 82 – 64.

To say the standards are high at Brigham Young University is an understatement. Very few college students at other schools would be able to adhere to all of the clauses in the BYU honor code, which also forbids the use of alcohol, illegal drugs and even prohibits the drinking of coffee and tea.

While school officials will not be specific about what actually happened and would only say that Davies violated the honor code, the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that the honor code stricture that Davies violated was having premarital sex.

The implications for BYU are staggering, not just this year, but for future seasons in all sports. What sexually curious normal athlete will want to come to the school knowing that one amorous misstep will sideline him or her?

I know that many of you are shocked and some of you may be snickering at what seems to be an unreasonable set of moral demands made of students at BYU, but surely every student who goes to BYU knows what is expected of him or her upon acceptance to that university.  

BYU, founded and run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the organization we know as the Mormon Church, has every right to impose these standards on its students.

But on the other hand, I also believe it is fair to ask if it is realistic to expect unmarried students to abstain from sex, when today’s society generally has decided that sex before marriage is no longer taboo or immoral.

I also think it’s a safe bet that Brandon Davies is not the only unmarried student or athlete at BYU to have had sex this year. He is just the most well-known student to have admitted doing so.

This case is not over and all eyes will be on BYU officials who could decide to reinstate Davies, who apologized to teammates and coaches for his honor code indiscretion.

“Some decisions regarding Brandon’s future on the basketball team and his status as a student are yet to be determined,” said Carri Jenkins, a university spokesperson.

School officials will have to weigh the value of the school spirit engendered by the best team in school history and the riches and glory that may come with it, up against BYU’s high moral standards—standards that most of us will never be forced to live up to.

This is not an easy call. Even US Presidents have violated moral codes of conduct. 

Perhaps Bill Clinton could weigh in on this.


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