NEW ORLEANS -- We all know that Brigham Young University made national headlines a couple of weeks ago when it dismissed center Brandon Davies, one of its best players, from the team for having premarital sex.
Sweet 16 question of the day: How many players would the Florida Gators, BYU's opponent Thursday night, have eligible if Florida forbade sexual relations?
Chandler Parsons, Florida's Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, just shook his head and laughed when I asked him the question Wednesday at the pre-tournament news conference. Later, when I asked him again to give me a percentage of UF players who have had premarital sex, he would only say, "We don't share that information."Florida coach Billy Donovan was asked how hard it would be to lure players to UF if he had to tell five-star recruits they couldn't have sex if they signed with the Gators.
Donovan, too, dodged the question.
"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "I'll pass on that one."
I even asked Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley how many players on his old lacrosse team at Hobart (N.Y.) College would have been eligible if premarital sex were prohibited. Foley, too, took the fifth.
Translation: The Gators, along with most every other elite program in the nation, wouldn't have enough athletes to play solitaire if they had to play by the same rules as BYU. Here's all you need to know about the difference between the basketball programs at Florida and BYU. A few years ago, the Gators had a player, Matt Walsh, whose girlfriend was a Playboy Bunny. BYU players aren't even allowed to read Playboy or risk violating the part of a BYU honor code that requires students to live a "chaste and virtuous life."
I know, I know, hearing the words "chaste" and "virtuous" in association with college athletics, these days, seems almost laughable.
Auburn and the NCAA allowed Cam Newton to keep playing and to lead the Tigers to a national championship despite the fact that his father tried to sell his son's services to the highest bidder. Newton ended up winning the Heisman, which should have been recast to show the guy on top of the trophy with his hand out instead of his arm out.
Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel admitted to covering up NCAA violations by his players and has been allowed to keep his job. Tressel claims he covered up the violations to protect his players, but really wasn't he just trying to protect his winning percentage?
Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl was allowed to coach all season despite the fact that he broke NCAA rules and lied to NCAA investigators in the aftermath. UT only decided to fire him after he was blown out by 30 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If Pearl had advanced to the Final Four, who out there thinks Tennessee would have still fired him?
This is why BYU advancing to the Sweet 16 is so remarkable and so refreshing. Here's a program that enforced a rule that many believe is archaic, theological extremism. Seriously, how long would any of us have lasted in college if we had to live by the "no premarital sex" edict? Sadly, I would have probably been eligible up until my junior year -- not because of my high moral standing but because of my lack of game.
How easy would it have been for BYU to do what all other big-time institutions of higher earning would do -- sweep Brandon Davies' transgression under the rug and keep right on rolling toward a national championship? It's not like he beat up his girlfriend; he had consensual premarital sex with her. Still, he broke the honor code and BYU administrators did not bend the rules just because he is a star athlete. They suspended him for the rest of the season. If this had been an SEC football program, he might have been suspended for the first quarter of the spring game.
"I do understand and I respect the fact that it's hard for others to understand," BYU coach Dave Rose said when I asked him why Davies wasn't allowed to slide. "But our players and students at BYU are committed."
In contrast to coaches like Tressel and Pearl, Davies did not lie when he was asked about breaking the honor code. He now wears street clothes and roots on the Cougars from the end of the bench. He has accepted his penance and apologizes profusely for "letting my teammates down."
Maybe he did let his teammates down, but in the process Brandon Davies and BYU accomplished something that is almost impossible to do these days.
They lifted college athletics up.