FIRST-PERSON: Good for BYU
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--"Adversity does not build character, it reveals it," James Lane Allen once said. The American novelist's observation is spot on. Whether it is a business, organization, institution or individual, difficult times will reveal strength or expose weakness.
Brigham Young University and Brandon Davies, one of BYU's star basketball players, are currently navigating the revealing reality of adversity. While it will take time for depth of character to be assessed, there are glimpses of principle that can even now be seen in both school and player.
BYU announced on Mar. 1 that Davies was being suspended from the Cougar basketball team for the remainder of the season because he had violated the university's Honor Code.
BYU is experiencing one of its best basketball seasons ever and, prior to Davies' suspension, was expected to do well in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. Without their leading rebounder in the lineup, however, many sports pundits believe BYU's time in the postseason will be short.
Many sports commentators have been obsessing over the rule Davies broke and shaking their heads in disbelief over BYU's decision to suspend one of their better players.
"The school essentially tossed away its opportunity to go to the Final Four for the first time in school history," wrote Jeff Goodman, a senior college basketball writer for FoxSports.com who applauded BYU for following its rules.
Reports indicate that Davies was suspended because he engaged in sexual relations outside of marriage. How the incident came to the attention of BYU officials is unclear. What is certain is that Davies confessed to the violation.
Reactions by many sports commentators to Davies' suspension have ranged from snide snickers to gut-busting guffaws. According to many, BYU is just out of touch with the reality of popular culture.
It cannot be stressed enough that BYU is a Mormon institution. As a result, it unapologetically upholds the teaching of its religion. Some 35,000 students attend the school located in Provo, Utah. The vast majority are there because they embrace the Mormon faith.
The BYU Honor Code is a statement of principles that all students, faculty, staff and administration must agree to adhere to be a part of the school. The code is expected to be followed "in daily living on and off campus."
Nine principles make up the Honor Code. They are:
-- Be honest.
-- Live a chaste and virtuous life.
-- Obey the law and all campus policies.
-- Use clean language.
-- Respect others.
-- Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse.
-- Participate regularly in church services.
-- Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards (which includes being "modest, neat and clean")
-- Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.
BYU is serious about the Honor Code. The school is committed to principle -- so much so that when Davies was found to be in violation, it chose to embrace principle over the performance of its basketball team.
"There is no bait and switch here," BYU alumnus and NFL great Steve Young told "The Dennis and Callahan Morning Show" -- a sports talk program that broadcasts from Boston via radio station WEEI. "I mean these guys recruit off of the Honor Code. BYU is very serious about it and for good reason.... These things are just at the very core of the religion."
I find it fascinating to hear sports commentators lecturing a religious private school on how it should conduct its business. I have heard BYU called everything from hypocritical and heavy-handed to cruel and cold-hearted. It is very revealing that a commitment to principle is viewed with such negativity.
I have nothing but respect for the BYU Honor Code. I could not abide by it because I do not abstain from tea and coffee. So, knowing I would have to sign the Honor Code -- and do so every semester that I wanted to attend -- I would simply choose to go elsewhere.
Danny Ainge, former NBA player and BYU graduate, told "The Dennis and Callahan Morning Show" that his brother had attended BYU before he did. He said that his brother was suspended for violating the Honor Code and later left the school.
Ainge said that when he was being recruited by BYU he asked his brother about the school. "If you want to live by the rules," Ainge said his brother told him, "it is the greatest place in the world. But if you don't want to live by the rules, don't go."
BYU does not care what you, me or some sarcastic sports radio guy thinks about its decision to suspend Davies. BYU is going to stick by its principles. Good for them.
As for Davies, his character is beginning to surface and will be on display in the days to come. Reports indicate that he confessed to the violation of the Honor Code. He did so probably knowing he would be suspended. That takes courage.
True character puts principle before performance. While winning is preferable to losing, it is not everything and certainly not worth compromising one's character.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.