Thursday, March 03, 2011

BYU: Don't Lets U Be U

B Yu?
The sports world is a-buzz with the "premarital sex scandal" which seems likely to deprive Brigham Young Univ. of its shot at a wide-open NCAA basketball championship.

The facts are pretty simple:
1) BYU's center Brandon Davies was dismissed from the team yesterday for admitting to a violation of the Honor Code that all BYU students are required to sign and observe;
2) BYU then went out and lost a home game to Univ. of New Mexico, 82-64 (and the game wasn't even that close).

Davies has subsequently admitted that his violation was having premarital sex with his girlfriend, though tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, growing facial hair, getting a tattoo, or not going to church regularly would also have been code violations.

I am somewhat conflicted about the "scandal". First, unambiguously, I have to cheer UNM's crushing of BYU; Davies is the second-best player on his team (after probable Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette), but he was the only one providing the team with some legitimate size and strength up front; without him, the Lobos went right at BYU, and the shaken Cougars folded up. UNM needed the win badly, and I don't want it devalued by Davies' departure--this was the #3 team in the country, even if they'd had a stunning player loss.

Second, BYU has announced it's cutting ties with the Mountain West Conference and going to join the West Coast Conference (Gonzaga, Pepperdine, St. Mary's, etc.) for all sports except football (in which it will try to be "the Notre Dame of the West"). Good luck with that last one: after this, all prospects will be fully warned off from the requirements of Control Freak U. Good riddance!

I will give BYU some credit for failing to exhibit the usual hypocrisy shown by colleges when their athletes violate the rules. At the same time, I'd say they showed a lack of proportionality in their punishment of Davies, the team, and ultimately, themselves. I'm going to pretend that the fact Davies is an African-American, and the ugly history BYU's sponsoring religion, the Church of Latter Day Saints (a/k/a the Mormons) has had with the darker-skinned members of our society, have absolutely nothing to do with the harsh punishment given to Davies. I will acknowledge that Davies chose freely to go to BYU and sign the Honor Code and the strictures imposed on matriculants by the religion (is he really a Mormon? Hard to believe...)

I do have to say something about the Mormon religion, though. It may come up again next year when there may well be two Republican Presidential candidates of that persuasion. Respectable journalists are required to "respect" the beliefs of the Mormons; I am not bound by that. The fundamental beliefs of the Mormon religion include things like: angels came to Joseph Smith, showed him hidden gold tablets and "inspired" him to translate them, then took the tablets back, they're all about a lost race of Jews in North America whom Jesus visited after his crucifixion, that divine inspiration (and a relative excess of women) gave inspiration to the Mormon leaders to permit polygamy, then later, when it was necessary to co-exist with the USA, the same divine inspiration told them to end it, that Negroes were shunned and considered an inferior race until the 1970's, and so on. I know what I'm talking about--I've sat through the interminable Mormon pageant presented annually in Palmyra, New York (site of the Joseph Smith miracle) where they act out the whole story. The beliefs basically require credulity of the highest (or lowest) order.

As a design for living, a "business plan", on the other hand, the Mormons have a very workable model. Clean living, lots of fertility (after marriage only, please), and aggressive proselytizing worldwide has allowed the membership of the church to skyrocket. BYU brings that program to its college, and the church subsidizes tuition heavilyl, in return for which they require all their students to stay with the program (though I think they are allowed to attend other churches of their "choice").

Is it a good deal? I'd go with no; I'm all in favor of students choosing to give up various vices, in order to allow them to focus better on their studies, but I'd also argue that "education" means learning about the world they are going to be dumped into after graduation, and that the commitments students make should be revocable, as they live and learn. Dismissal from the university is too much, I've heard far too much about a "snitch" culture that exists at BYU after the "scandal" broke, and dismissal from the team for consensual sex with another adult also seems too much to me. I wish them a high seeding in the tournament, combined with an early exit, and a similar result in the Mountain West Conference's postseason tournament next week.

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