Friday, March 4, 2011

Morality, Mormonism, And The Disposable College Athlete.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm a strong proponent of paying college athletes in revenue generating sports. These guys make lots of other people rich, but are one blown knee away from finding themselves back home, unemployed, and living in their mother's basement. We all know that one guy from our home town who was supposed to make it to the league but never did. Except for a meaningless degree, these players often have little to show for their efforts.

On the other hand, if a player knowingly and blatantly violates team or school rules, he deserves nothing. It would be silly to assume that these kids are all saints. The police blotter and sports pages are littered with college athletes whose off-field problems made them liabilities to their schools. From stealing laptops, to date rape, to drug dealing in the dormitory, there's often an unsavory side of big time college athletics that needs to be weeded out. Most schools, however, are all about winning (no Charlie Sheen), and bend all sorts of rules to accommodate troublemakers. If a guy can score 20 a game, who cares if he might have cheated on a test or three? Just win, baby. It's the American way!

All that said, I'm a bit uneasy about this latest development at Brigham Young University.
BYU's dreams of a deep run in the NCAA tournament may have taken a major blow Tuesday when the third-ranked Cougars dismissed starting forward Brandon Davies from the team for the remainder of the season.

The school cited a violation of the school's honor code in announcing the move Tuesday evening. Davies, who grew up in Provo, had started 26 of 29 games for the Cougars and averaged 11.1 points and a team-leading 6.2 rebounds.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore was instrumental in helping contain San Diego State's forwards in the Cougars' 80-67 victory over then-No. 6 San Diego State on Saturday.

School officials said they became aware of the honor code violations Monday. His future with the team and the university has not yet been determined.
As you might expect, there's more to this story than initially meets the eye.
The girlfriend of Brandon Davies, the BYU forward who was kicked off the team for having pre-martial sex, has been revealed.

According to RadarOnline, Davies' girlfriend is Danica Mendivil, a freshman on the volleyball team at Arizona State University. A family member reportedly confirmed that she is Davies' girlfriend and that she is not pregnant.

BYU announced on Wednesday that Davies was dismissed from the team for violating the school's honor code. Later that evening, it was revealed that he was suspended after admitting to having sex with Mendivil.
I'm conflicted about this one. Yes, the school has a code of conduct, based largely on the Mormon religion. But Davies (to my knowledge) isn't Mormon. His girlfriend doesn't even go to the same school. Should the same rules of morality apply to him? I dunno.

I've been to Provo, and actually did some work at BYU once, many year ago. Contrary to public opinion, I found folks in Utah to be very welcoming, and generally good, friendly people. Sure, I got the occasional wayward look, probably because black people simply aren't a common occurrence there (I counted about 5 the entire week I was in the state), but nothing outwardly hostile like I've experienced in the deep South, or for that matter, the Northeast.[1] Some are undoubtedly going to make this a race issue, but I don't think those rules apply here. Davies (who grew up in Provo, apparently) should know more about Mormonism than most brothers, and certainly was well versed in the school's code of conduct before deciding to enroll there. There's really no excuse for what he did. Rules are rules.

You could probably argue that the school might have been a bit more discrete in handling this, rather than announcing to the world that Davies had violated a moral code of conduct (!), and I'd probably agree with you. But again, rules are rules.

With star guard Jimmer Fredette on the outside and Davies on the interior, #3 ranked BYU is having their best season evar (!) and was primed to go deep in the NCAA tournament before this. Kicking their best big man off the team probably means a quick one and done come March Madness. So for sacrificing wins in the name of principle, I suppose we should actually give BYU some credit. In the hypocritical world of college basketball, that's no small deal.

Question: Was Davies unfairly dropped from the team, or are rules rules?

[1] Massachusetts, despite its progressive image, certainly has its share of non-progressive people.

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