Friday, March 4, 2011

Big Bravo for BYU

In Weight Watchers, we get a Bravo sticker for accomplishments such as making smart food choices or not putting on too many pounds on vacation. I'd like to give Brigham Young University a big Bravo for what in this day and age is a rare and gutsy decision: declining to sacrifice its values in favor of sports glory.

The college benched starting center Brandon Davies for breaking the school’s honor code by having premarital sex with his girlfriend. It was not an insignificant decision from a sports perspective. BYU is the third-ranked basketball team in the country and has a legitimate shot at a #1 or #2 seed in the tournament. But benching their center is going to make it a lot more difficult for them to compete with teams in the major conferences, meaning they could easily go out in the first or second round. BYU officials knew this and chose to suspend Davies anyway. Good for them.

At a time when colleges are reluctant and often refuse to suspend players accused of heinous crimes as sexual assault, it’s refreshing to see a school willing to buck the trend and bench a player for what was a consensual activity simply because it violated the school’s standards.

As much as it pains me to admit, Syracuse University is not immune to this trend of protecting their student athletes. Jim Boeheim famously defended Eric Devendorf after he was suspended for harassing a female student who accused the then-Syracuse shooting guard of hitting her. Devendorf was a key player on SU’s run at a Big East title that year so of course Boeheim thought the suspension was too harsh. I doubt Devendorf’s victim agreed.

BYU is getting a bit of grief in some circles, particularly from those who believe that the school’s values are stuck in a 1950s ideal of America. But I think school officials should be commended, not ridiculed for their decision. As they say, it’s easier to stick to our principles when there is nothing at stake. But for BYU to stick to its principles when a national title is within its grasp is admirable. I wish more schools, including Syracuse, would show the same courage.

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