As has now been widely reported, one of the key players (who I won’t name here) on the BYU basketball team has been dismissed from the team for doing something that most college students (perhaps especially athletes) consider to be a normal part of college life (had consensual sex with his girlfriend, according to ESPN). This player was raised in Provo, so he knew what he was getting into at BYU, but that doesn’t make his fate any less tragic for him or his team.
This is, of course, not the first time this has happened. Harvey Unga, a legitimate star of the football team in years past, recently faced the same situation, missing his senior year and changing drastically the fortunes of his team. But this loss hits especially hard for BYU’s basketball team because, unlike Unga’s situation, it comes during the season and at a time when BYU had just achieved the rank of #3 in the nation, was looking to clinch the league title, and potentially make a run at the final four in the NCAA tournament which will take place this month. In other words, the timing of this could not have been worse.
On the one hand, credit BYU for sticking to their guns and (presumably—we still don’t know the full range of the punishment that could be forthcoming) treating all students the same, even if they happen to be a very important athlete on a really good team. On the other hand, one has to question the wisdom of an honor code that results in this kind of public embarassment for a young person and harm to his team when his actions don’t appear to be anything that most would consider to be harmful to anyone.
Please understand that I’m not disparaging the honor coder per se, nor am I saying that exceptions should be made for anyone, I’m merely suggesting that, to most people, this seems like a very antiquated rule, and one that is particularly problematic in its enforcement, because there’s just no way it can truly be enforced evenhandedly.
After all, let’s be honest folks, there are a lot of people who have violated the honor code at BYU in precisely this way (some, no doubt, repeatedly) who were never caught or had a shred of consequences happen to them. The only way one can be caught on this rule is if someone gets pregnant or someone tells. I don’t know how this situation was revealed, but I’m sure there are any number of people close to the team that wish very much that it hadn’t been. It seems selective, even unfair, to enforce a rule just against those unlucky enough to be found out, when it can be so easily violated privately, with no consequences. Especially when the consequences for those unlucky enough to get caught can be so embarassing personally, and so serious to their teammates.
Please don’t quote the scriptures at me, or tell me that the students know what they are signing when they sign the honor code. I know all that. Everyone knows all that. Just tell me how you think this ends up being fair, because I’m not sure it is.