Brigham Young forward Brandon Davies was suspended indefinitely for violating the BYU honor code earlier this week. In their first game without Davies, the Cougars lost by 18 to New Mexico on Wednesday night in Provo. The suspension has already had ramifications on the court and could have a negative effect on the BYU basketball program going forward.
The immediate effect is obvious. The Cougars men’s basketball team was ranked in the top 5 and appeared heading towards a #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. This seemed like a perfect season for the Cougars, with national POY candidate Jimmer Fredette leading the way while becoming a college hoops icon.
For a very religious school that aspires to influence millions of people around the world with the hope of converting them to the Mormon religion, the attention garnered by the men’s basketball team this season had to be a public relations windfall for the school’s mission. With Davies off the team, the potential for a nationally captivating run through the brackets later this month has diminished substantially.
The revenue sports at BYU have been fairly successful over the years. The men’s basketball team is a consistent 20-plus win team, the football team won a national championship back in 1984, and quarterback Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy during the 1990 season. This season the basketball team had thrust the school back into the national consciousness for the first time since those great football teams of the 1980’s and early 90’s.
The coach of the basketball team, Dave Rose, participated in two Final Fours as a player at Houston in the early 1980’s. He’s very familiar with big time college basketball as a player and has elevated the BYU basketball program into a top 20 program during his 6 seasons in Provo.
As a practicing Mormon, he appears to be a perfect fit for the program. But does this great run with top 10 success whet his appetite for more?
The college basketball hiring season is a few weeks away and there aren’t a lot of coaches who win over 70% of their games and run a clean program (is there a cleaner program?). What would Rose be worth to a new member of the Pac 12 conference, Utah?
The Utes have a tremendous history of success in college basketball and are just down the road from Provo. Utah made the Final Four and played Kentucky in the 1998 national championship game. The Utes will be in the major Pac 10 conference while BYU moves to the mid-major WCC conference.
Rose can continue to live in Utah, but pursue greater professional goals as a coach. Could Utah target Rose to replace Jim Boylen and would Rose be open to moving down the road? The suspension of Davies could have Rose considering the Utah job or another job in the next month.
The potential for millions of dollars worth of exposure for the school is on the line with the decision to suspend Davies. Is leaving all of that free advertising that goes with participating in March Madness worth it when the indiscretion is something that is frowned upon by the church but not persecuted by a religion that believes in the tenet of forgiveness? One of the main purposes of BYU is to work to convert people to the Mormon faith.
While a reversal would appear to an outsider as compromising their belief system, would the visibility and message of forgiveness that would be sent have a net positive effect in the end?
In the days before the NCAA tournament begins, the BYU administration will have an opportunity to reinstate Davies to the basketball team. Davies would miss two regular season games and the MWC tournament, most likely costing the Cougars a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.
By reinstating Davies for the NCAA tournament, BYU would be able to draw positive attention to their school and religion by demonstrating the tenets of forgiveness that Mormons live by.
Forgiving Davies for his sins might not just bring positive attention to BYU and Mormonism; it also might help keep their coach in Provo after this season.
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- Brian W.