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March 26, 2011

Brandon Davies - A Case of (Im)Perfect Timing

A combined 13 feet six inches, 470 pounds and ten fouls worth of big men were missing during BYU's season ending lost to Florida on Friday. BYU had survived sans Chris Collinsworth for the majority of the season, but the loss of Brandon Davies proved too much to overcome as the Cougars struggled to a 5-3 record in his absence. Whether or not Davies presence could have changed Friday's result is debatable. What can't be argued, however, is that Davie's suspension came at the worst time possible for the BYU basketball team.

But for BYU the institution -- and anyone who still believes in college athletics -- the timing couldn't have been any better.  Whereas Harvey Unga's suspension of a year ago went more or less unnoticed nationally, the media spotlight was focused directly on BYU when they waived Davies from the team. And a chance to prove to the rest of the NCAA that winning isn't everything may be just what college athletics needs.


Two days after BYU kicked Davies off the team for honor code violations, Sports Illustrated published a cover story on the high number of college football players with criminal records. Of the 2010 preseason top 25 teams, 24 had at least one player with a prior criminal record (the lone exception - Rose Bowl Champion TCU). Pittsburgh led the way with 22 players charged, while Stanford rounded out the bottom with only one player with a past record (locally Utah had five players charged, Boise State 16).

The overall message behind the findings? Universities are willing to do anything to increase their chances of winning, including ignoring the past offenses of potential recruits. One anonymous source suggested that coaches purposely avoid learning about players personal histories. "(Finding out about past arrests) could mean that you would lose some talented players," the source said. "Your (athletic director) or admissions people might say, 'No, we can't take that kid after what he did.'" While the nation wondered on the win-at-any-cost attitude of universities, BYU's message of upholding an honor code at the risk of weakening their team stood as a contrast to what most teams are willing to do.

BYU's message was again brought to light in the wake of NCAA violations at Ohio State. Five players on OSU's football had been suspended last winter for breaking NCAA policy. A few weeks after the Davies suspension, it was learned that OSU head coach Jim Tressel had known about the violations during the Buckeye's season and had done nothing about it. When asked why he didn't bring the violations to attention, Coach Tressel claimed that he was trying to protect his players from scandal and that it had nothing to do with maintaining the success of the Buckeye's season.

You know how many people believed that? Zero. Not even his own school paper bought the story, which published an article calling for his resignation. After all, Tressel had been the coach when his previous stars Maurice Clarett and Troy Smith were involved in NCAA infractions as well. The Colombus Dispatch pointed out that of 12 coaches cited for not being truthful about NCAA violations since 2006, 11 had been fired or quit. So naturally, when OSU president E. Gordon Gee was asked if Tressel would receive similar treatment he laughed, "Are you kidding?"

I guess standards probably are a joke to President Gee, compared to the importance of winning ball games. Tressel has led the Buckeye's to back-to-back BCS Championship appearances during his tenure, not to mention various BCS bowl games. Surely maintaining rules are not important compared to garnering those level of accomplishments. Such seemed to be the case at Tennessee, where coach Bruce Pearl remained employed despite having lied to NCAA investigators about a recruiting violation. He wasn't fired until his team lost by thirty in the first round last week. Maybe winning really is everything.

Perhaps that creed is the reason behind one journalist asking BYU coach Dave Rose why he didn't just let the Davies honor code violation slide under the rug. After all, prior to his suspension BYU had reached a number three ranking nationally, sported the likely player of the year winner, and was in contention for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Why, when so many others are prone to break any rule to ensure victory, was BYU willing to ruin their season by supporting a standard that they had made for themselves?

BYU as a program certainly isn't free from error. They've had their share of violations and criminals during their time. But on this occasion with the Davies suspension they did more than just limit the potential of their best basketball team in thirty years. They did more than just uphold what to many seems to be an archaic code of conduct. While most every other team has proven they'll do anything to win, BYU sent a different message altogether.

And they couldn't have picked a better time to do it.


  1. You know how many people believe this? Zero. BYU still sucks.

  2. love this. I think BYU is awesome for sticking with their code.

  3. You know that I agree with you more then any other human being in existence. Well put, Vogler.