Words. Eitan Tye
After a program-defining win at San Diego State, the BYU men’s basketball team, owners of a stellar 27-2 record and first place in the Mountain West Conference at the time, looked poised to capture a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. With the National Player of the Year in point guard Jimmer Fredette, and a No. 3 ranking in the country, fans in Provo were preparing for a run deep into March. Suddenly, however, the best team in the 136-year history of the Mormon school seemed to evaporate overnight. Forward Brandon Davies, the Cougars’ leading rebounder and third leading scorer, was dismissed from the team for violating the university’s honor code.
After incessant attention and speculation from the national media, sources within BYU revealed that Davies engaged in premarital sex with his girlfriend, a direct infringement upon school rules. Immediately, countless sportswriters and fans across the country voiced their astonishment, stunned at how a university could sacrifice its chance at a championship season for one player’s such seemingly harmless behavior. Others came out in defense of BYU, finding it refreshing that, in the words of ESPN’s Pat Forde, “BYU isn’t willing to subordinate its principles for victories.”
Nonetheless, everyone seems to have missed the central development in Davies’ suspension: How the BYU players and coaches have proven themselves true teammates, and rallied around their suspended star. Unlike so many other schools in today’s college basketball, whose teams are made up of several talented individuals simply playing together on the same court, the Cougars have displayed an unyielding bond with one another.
Even in the face of a probable season-crushing suspension, the BYU players and coaches have refused to break this attachment, rejecting the temptation to ostracize Davies or criticize him in any way. In fact, when BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe first learned of Davies’ suspension, he rushed to embrace his embattled player and assure him that the university would be there to support him in the wake of his dismissal.
“The first thing we did was put our arms around [Davies],” explained Holmoe in a March 3rd press conference. “Our No. 1 thing then, now and in the future is going to be to look out for his best interests, to be able to make sure we can help him along the process of getting him back with the team and getting back on track to achieving all of his dreams.”
In addition, numerous BYU players expressed public support for their teammate, refusing to let the Cougars’ decline in the rankings cloud their view of their teammate. Fredette, perhaps the player who stands to lose the most from Davies’ suspension, was one of the first Cougars to publicly stand up for his teammate: “Brandon is one of our good players, and he is like a brother to us, family. We just held our heads high and told him it was OK, that it is life, and you make mistakes, and you just got to play through it.”
Despite the compassionate reactions of the BYU players and coaches, Davies’ decision to admit his mistakes and seek the forgiveness of his teammates may be the most remarkable of all. Instead of abandoning the Cougars and attempting to transfer, as many college athletes do when they find themselves suspended from their current program, Davies has stayed true to his Mormon values and done everything in his power to repent for his actions.
In an era when college players stay in school for only one year, and coaches sometimes abandon their moral ideals to remain victorious, BYU has shown that it is not only willing to hold its athletes to higher ethical standard, but determined to exemplify what it means to be a true team. As Jay Drew, a journalist who covers BYU for The Salt Lake Tribune, put it, “The Cougars have shown how unified this team is, and when they say they really care about one another, they mean it.”
In the end, although the BYU players might not enjoy the dream season they were hoping for in 2011, they can take solace in their support and understanding of Davies’ indiscretions, and can take pride in calling themselves true teammates.
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