A BYU Grad On Brandon Davies, Sex, And The University's Double Standard

The more I think about what happened to Brandon Davies, the more I think it's hypocrisy. I was listening to Jim Rome and he was praising BYU for sticking to its principles. Pat Forde on ESPN was doing the same thing. But it is a double standard. If you're a regular student and you have any sort of sexual interaction, it's private. I know one person — not an athlete — who was referred to the honor code office, and it was only because her roommate told on her. Even if you go to your bishop and announce, "I'm fooling around with a girl," it will rarely go to the honor code office. Most times, guys who are drinking, having sex, smoking pot are not going to confess it, but I have friends who talked to the bishop about that stuff — I did it, myself — and it never even wound up in the honor code office. My hunch would be that another player ratted him out. A married player.

To understand what happened to Davies, you have to understand the purpose of sports at BYU. They're a missionary tool. I think there are certain people in the administration who want to kill athletics altogether. After the 2004 gang rape case, there was talk of doing just that among the Quorum of the Twelve (the church's governing body). It hurt the ministry. That's why they make these guys shave and cover up their tattoos. Michael Loyd Jr. last year had a pretty good tournament run. He's a pretty decent player. But he had this little mohawk, and that's one of the reasons he was forced out of the school. (It came out later that he'd gotten popped for underage drinking.) Despite what Jim Rome and Pat Forde might think, the school wasn't making any kind of serious sacrifice here. 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.

I graduated from BYU in 2001. When I was in school, I didn't know anyone who lived the honor code as it's written down. It's super strict. You can't have a girl in your apartment past midnight. I would guess that the majority of students there are trying to live it. But it self-segregates. There are two worlds. If you're the type of person who's going to break the honor code, you're probably going to live with other guys who are going to break the honor code. Things happen behind closed doors. You know what's going on. Every single place I lived, girls were always sleeping over. I had one roommate who was always smoking pot, always drinking cough syrup. My roommates were having sex with different girls all the time.

I don't know if anyone thought of mistakes they were making as honor code infractions. The honor code exists on the day you sign it, but for a lot of students, it doesn't exist after that. Let's say I'm fooling around with a girl and I feel bad about it. I'd go talk to my bishop the way someone would go to confession. You'd never think about the honor code office. You'd never interact with it. That girl I mentioned earlier, the one who ran afoul of the honor code? She had a guy stay over for the night after a long ski trip. Her roommates referred her to the honor code office. She had to write all these essays. She was put on probation. Four years of BYU and seeing all sorts of honor code violations happen every day — and hers was the only case I know about that got referred to the honor code office. I can't ever remember actually reading the honor code. I'm sure it was part of the packet with all my freshman orientation stuff. But it's just not that big a part of your student life. Maybe that's changed. There's some talk that the honor code office has become much more vigilant now. But that wasn't the case when I was there.

That's where the double standard lies. Lots of people break the honor code and nothing happens. What makes me angry about this is that this kid is wearing a scarlet letter now. If they're really interested in his personal well-being, why make it so public? It's so contrary to what Mormons believe about how you should work out your personal issues in privacy. In this case it's become this big public spectacle. It's one thing if it's criminal. But this should be a private spiritual matter. The other thing that's troubling to me is how quickly they moved on this. That one girl's case lasted months. But the school moved so quickly on this.

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If you go to BYU, whether you're Mormon or not, you have to have what's called an ecclesiastical endorsement. If you're not Mormon, your priest or whoever could sign it. So everyone is in what's called a student ward. There are probably, like, 200 to 300 wards on campus. You'll have regular church services there. But everyone in your congregation is from BYU. People in the community are called to be bishops. These are your confessors, not the honor code office.

The honor code office is like the Kremlin of BYU. They're super-secret. You don't know where their office is. As a student, I didn't know who it was. They're part of the administration, but that's their full-time job. And there are honor code investigators. It's like a secret police. Sometimes we'd talk about that. When you're first there you think, "I could get in trouble for this and for that." But you never do. Eventually, you start to wonder if anyone lives or enforces the honor code.

A BYU Grad On Brandon Davies, Sex, And The University's Double Standard

The only way stuff gets to the honor code office is if some kid rats. Bishops don't refer it. It's rare. We just never gave it a second thought because we knew it'd never end up in the honor code office. I'm not talking about any sort of craziness at all. But you have this list of rules, and they're regularly broken. It's a little different for freshmen or anyone still living in the dorms. When I was there, if you were in a dorm, you could have girls over only on Wednesday night from 6 to 8. It was called open house, and even then you couldn't close the doors to your room. Every dorm has a resident assistant, and his job is to enforce the honor code. But even then, most of the time your RA is an upperclassman, and he probably doesn't feel like ratting you out. And he would try to work things out just between you and him. In a way, you're sort of forced to live the honor code. The dorm rooms are tiny. You've got a roommate. It's virtually impossible for a freshman to screw around, even if he wants to. After your freshman year, though, it's a lot easier because most people don't live in the dorms.

All housing has to be what's called BYU-approved. Theoretically, that's their way of enforcing the honor code. For example, you can't have mixed housing. If they find out that a certain house is really problematic they'll strip it of its BYU-approved status. But the honor code office wasn't proactive when I was there. It's not like they have a spy apparatus. If they did, they could walk out every weekend and in every other door and find a girl in a guy's bed. If I'm Brandon Davies, I'm going, "This is a joke." The public narrative is that you knew what you were signing up for. But there's another side to it. The reality is that regular students get away with it just as much as — if not more than — athletes, simply because when they do run afoul of the honor code, it never goes public.

From what I've heard, they found out about Davies on Monday and made their decision on Tuesday. For them to move this quickly suggests a callous disregard for this kid. Typically, they might study this for two weeks, three weeks, a month, while they investigate and consider punishment. It makes me think — and this is all just speculation — that another player knew what was going on and got so upset about it and so self-righteous about it that either he reported it to his coach and forced his hand, or he reported it himself. It's possible that it was Davies's girlfriend's friend. If the rumors are true that he got her pregnant, perhaps that forced everyone's hand. I wonder how the conversation played out with his coach and the honor code office. They're sitting there thinking, "If we don't do something now, and this comes out later in the tournament, how's this going to look?" They had to think about how to manage their image, about how it would look if it came out that BYU knew about this on March 1 and didn't act on it for three weeks.

I can respect standing by your principles. The part of this that makes me angry is that what happened to Davies isn't what the church is supposed to be about. Like I said, a spiritual indiscretion is supposed to be a private matter. It's one thing if you go to your ecclesiastical leader and say, "I smoke too much pot and I want to quit." It's another thing if the leader of your congregations turns around and tells everyone you're smoking pot. I'd guess there are a lot of people in BYU's leadership feeling very smug and self-satisfied today. This has played out exactly the way they wanted it to.

Anonymous is a journalist who attended BYU from 1997 to 2001.