By Kathy Orton
I’m rooting for BYU, and not just because I think Jimmer Fredette is one of the most exciting players to watch in college basketball today.
The reason I’m throwing my support behind the Cougars is because the school recently did something few colleges and universities are willing to do these days: It stood by its beliefs.
BYU dismissed Brandon Davies from the men’s basketball team, even though the sophomore center leads the team in rebounding and is a double-digit scorer, because he violated the school’s honor code. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Davies admitted to having premarital sex.
Say what you will about BYU’s honor code, which requires students to live a chaste and virtuous life and abstain from alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and illegal drugs. Those virtues seem antiquated, almost quaint in this day and age. Plenty of athletes at other schools do far worse and continue to play their sports.
But Brandon Davies knew the rules when he chose to play for BYU. He grew up in Provo, where the school is located, for goodness sake. He knew that BYU is America’s largest religious university, that it is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that it has the most religious student body of any U.S. college campus, according to a survey by the Princeton Review. In fact, Davies is Mormon himself.
If he didn’t feel that he could live up to those standards, he shouldn’t have gone to school there.
And just because Davies is a key player on a team that has gone 27-3 overall and 13-2 in the Mountain West Conference, surged to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll and was being talked about as a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, which is unheard of for a squad from such a lightly regarded conference, the school shouldn’t make an exception to those standards.
College is about learning, and all of life’s lessons don’t come in the classroom. Davies has to learn he is accountable for his actions. Too often, because a player can make a jump shot, or hit a fastball, or throw a touchdown pass, we look the other way when he does something wrong because we see the loss of those skills as a greater setback than the benefit of holding him responsible for his mistakes.
Let’s remember: Davies hasn’t been kicked out of school. He just can’t play basketball.
Davies reminds me of Tony Skinn, the George Mason point guard who missed the Patriots’ first-round NCAA tournament game in 2006 because he was serving a suspension for sucker punching Hofstra’s Loren Stokes in the groin during the CAA tournament semifinals.
George Mason was going to the NCAA tournament for the first and only time in Skinn’s career. The Patriots were to play Michigan State, a Final Four team from the previous year. It was unlikely they could beat the Spartans without their senior point guard.
Yet, George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga didn’t make an exception for Skinn, even though in punishing Skinn by denying him perhaps his only chance to play in the NCAA tournament he was also punishing the other players who would be at a disadvantage playing without their playmaker.
I believe in karma, that a person’s actions and conduct determine his destiny. Which is why I believe that because Larranaga didn’t lower his standards and allow Skinn to play against Michigan State he and the Patriots were rewarded not only with a victory over the Spartans but a run that took them all the way to the Final Four.
Perhaps that will be BYU’s fate as well. But no matter what happens, I think the Cougars have already won.