Up until the other day, I had never heard of Brandon Davies. I am guessing that most of you, along with the rest of the country, had not heard of him either. However, all of that changed on Tuesday.
Brandon Davies is a sophomore at Brigham Young University and he used to be a key member of the men’s basketball team, emphasis on used to. On Tuesday, Brandon was dismissed from the team for a violation of the university’s honor code. When this news came out, it was only notable for the fact that he was a member of one of the top rated teams in the country. I would venture that most people assumed the violation was of the type that unfortunately seems to pervade most levels of athletics these days, some type of criminal or otherwise marginalized behavior. This story has since garnered much national attention as the true nature of his violation has come to light. By reportedly having sexual relations with his girlfriend, Brandon ran afoul of the honor code (by not “being chaste”.)
While this makes the story more (pardon the pun) sexy for the news media, the fact that a university was willing to dismiss an important player in the middle of arguably their best season ever was infinitely more fascinating to me. Too often, we hear about men (and occasionally women) behaving badly while the coaches, administrators and executives who supervise them turn a blind eye, at least until the season is over, the championship is already won or until all of the key participants in the Faustian play have moved on. Deny, deny, deny. Maintain “plausible deniability”. You ain’t trying if you ain’t cheating. However, for once, the “honor” part of an honor code was upheld, even in the face of the “Big Game”.
Impressively, the honor code was probably upheld in multiple small ways leading up to the university’s show of honor and integrity. I assume that BYU does not have the rooms of every single student bugged, so the university probably did not find out of their own accord. Presumably, someone else found out, then passed the along the information, which then probably moved up multiple levels of the chain of command. How much did each of those links of the chain struggle with the decision to pass along the information? Did they have doubts? Sleepless nights? How much was each person tempted by the siren song of March Madness? What would you have done with the information? It’s not like he broke the law. Maybe this could wait until after the season. Then again, maybe each link in the chain was so firm in their faith that this was not really a decision at all. I like to think I have a good amount of faith and I am pretty sure I would have at least taken pause at the seriousness of the decision.
As a Chicagoan, I also wonder if BYU is learning a lesson from previous excursions into the limelight. In one of life’s more ironic turns, Jim McMahon (a rebel’s rebel if there ever was one) was a star quarterback at BYU back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. While the Cougars were excelling on the field, their star quarterback was reportedly flaunting the honor code at every turn. However, it wasn’t until the very end of his career that the university started to care about that. Only after his senior season (and all of the fun and glory that came with his tenure as the star) was the Punky QB was suspended and then expelled from the university. This has led to much friction between the university and one of its best football players of all time, as McMahon feels that the university used him just as much as he used them. Although, apparently the frost is thawing a bit as McMahon has apparently enrolled in classes again so he can complete his last 10 credit hours. While this may be a ploy on both their parts, (McMahon gets his degree so that he can now be rightfully inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame and BYU can not look so foolish by having one of its best players in the College Football Hall of Fame but not its own) the fact that a middle ground is being reached seems to be another step in a positive direction. And it would appear that this time the university is trying to live up to its own honor code.
All of us, fervently religious or atheist, individual or university, are a work in progress and honor is not about the big, earth-shattering decisions. Honor is about doing the right thing, when it is quiet and dark and no one is paying attention.