|March 5, 2011|
|BYU Suspends Star Athlete, Drawing Praise|
|By Greg Hazley|
|Bringham Young University suspended a star basketball player this week for the entire season for violating a school policy against pre-marital sex, drawing praise from several national media outlets as a rare act of discipline against a top athlete.|
The case of BYU's Brandon Davies is a stark contrast to that of Florida International University baseball star Garrett Wittels, who has been allowed to play this season despite a rape charge pending in the Bahamas. The school tried to limit coverage of Wittels, who was chasing a college record hitting streak, and was criticized by its own student media for letting the baseball star play.
"In my youth I was not sober enough, chaste enough, conformist enough, dogmatic enough or decaffeinated enough to have been a very good student at BYU," wrote ESPN's Pat Forde. "But today I am impressed by the school's commitment to its rules, even at a potentially tremendous cost to its basketball team."
The deeply religious school run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints did not dislose the violation of its "honor code," but the Salt Lake Tribune revealed that Davies admitted to having sexual relations with his girlfriend. He later apologized to his teammates.
BYU's basketball team is ranked third in the country. The team lost by 18 points to unranked New Mexico in its first game this week without Davies, a starting forward.
Washington Post "On Faith" columnist Michael Otterson wrote: "BYU is a one-of-a-kind school. But it's not the only school with principles or honor codes. And wouldn't it be a good thing if such principles and standards were so well and routinely enthroned that when they were applied in cases of honor code violations, they didn't generate coast to coast publicity."
BYU's Coach Dave Rose said: "A lot of people try to judge if this is right or wrong, but it's a commitment they make. It's not about right or wrong. It's about commitment."
While most commentary on BYU's decision tended toward praise, the verdict was not unanimous. Several national sports pundits suggested the punishment was too harsh and not worth torpedoing the school's NCAA tournament chances. A journalist and BYU alum told Deadspin.com in a lengthy, anonymous piece that the school is exhibiting a double standard in suspending Davies.
"This kind of politicking is so much more valuable than a Final Four run. BYU can say: 'Look at us. We're not like the rest of the world. We're not like other universities. We stand by our principles.' It's all a part of spreading the faith, and Brandon Davies is being used to that end just like a kid at Kentucky is being used to win basketball games."
Earlier this year, Middle Tennessee University suspended two baseball players facing rape charges, an example cited by FIU student media in arguing that Wittels should have been banned from the baseball diamond.
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