It still hurts.
It’s been six months since Brandon Davies was dismissed from BYU Basketball’s team just two weeks before March Madness for having premarital sex. At the time BYU was ranked #3 in the nation. BYU fans across the globe (myself included) were starting to hope like we had never hoped since, well, ever. Between Jimmer (Jimmer!!) Fredette, Jackson Emery, Brandon Davies, and a slew of talented role players, we honestly thought we could go as far as the Final Four. And beyond that? Maybe (maybe!!).
And then smack! Everything we stand for was suddenly thrown right in our face. We were forced to confront our ideals and standards in the most painstaking way possible, all the while under the microscope of the national media. We lost our second best player on what was apparently the third best team in the nation, for doing something the rest of the collegiate world calls the number one coolest thing, and just like that our hopes were dashed.
And it still hurts.
Brandon Davies was reinstated last Friday. You may have missed that headline. The national microscope was long gone, as were the hopes of hoops glory we had when he first left the team. Fredette is now in the NBA (technically), Emery is now a private businessman, and BYU is now in the WCC. When I heard the news of Davies’ reinstatement last week I was happy, but admittedly I was also sad. Not for him—to the contrary I am immensely proud of him and the way he has handled all this. But I was sad because I was forced to revisit a hurt that I had suppressed since that infamous early March day six months ago.
Far worse things have happened in this world. Real tragedies occur every day. Hardships far worse have come to people I know and love since Brandon Davies’ “scandal.” But when you’re a sports fan—a true sports fan—you give a part of yourself to the teams you support (Note: Not like a horcrux or anything that serious, but something less creepy. No murder is required …although I wouldn’t put it passed some people in the South.). Their losses are your losses, their victories are your victories. Right or wrong (probably wrong), we do it. So as a BYU fan I felt a portion of Brandon Davies’ pain. All BYU fans did.
Sure it drew a smile from us to see that BYU kept Davies on the bench for moral support (no pun intended) after he was dismissed. It made me downright grin ear to ear when they let Brandon cut down the nets after we won the conference championship. At the time I was accepting of what my school had to do, but that did nothing to lessen the pain.
But time heals wounds (even sports wounds). What’s more is that time offers perspective. This past week as I confronted my sports pains all over again reading about Davies’ reinstatement, I felt something else more powerfully than I ever have before.
As a lifelong fan, BYU alum, and former signer of the infamous honor code, I can honestly now say that the Brandon Davies’ story has brought me more school pride than anything else before it. The National Championship, Ty Detmer’s Heisman, Steve Young, LaVell Edwards, and even The Jimmer might just pail in comparison. Other schools have won national championships. I heard they give them out every year. Heisman trophies: Same thing. Steve Young’s not even the best quarterback in 49ers history. Other coaches have won more than Edwards. And Jimmer wasn’t even taken in the NBA draft until the tenth pick. But the Brandon Davies’ story? That’s all us. That’s who we are, and I dare another school to top that.
We stared sports glory straight in the face, glanced over and saw our morals on trial, and told sports glory to hold on for a minute. Sports glory doesn’t hold on for anyone. You either grab glory around the neck and never let go, or you lose. After Davies’ dismissal, we lost on the basketball court. But we lost with more dignity than any other team I know. In a collegiate athletics world that has all but devolved into a sleazy loop of scandal after scandal, my school stood by its convictions. Independent of literally every other team in the country, BYU took the higher road. And then they took the next higher road, and so on. Agree with the honor code or not, they at least stood by convictions as well as anyone in history.
Does it still hurt knowing that we had a chance and we didn’t get it? Of course. But that doesn’t take away from how proud I am to be a BYU alum. Now I’m not saying my school is perfect, and for all I know we haven’t taken the high road in other instances where we could have. Regardless, we did what we did when nobody else would have (nor would most people have blamed us for looking the other way), and ultimately we are better for it.
I will always think of Brandon Davies when I speak about BYU greats, irrespective of how he does in his Junior and Senior seasons. (I also get a real kick out of knowing that if every other school in the NCAA applied the same discipline as BYU, my team would have won the national championship by about 50 points.)
The same day Brandon Davies was reinstated, rumors were (and still are) swirling about BYU giving up independence to move on to the Big 12. We may or may not go that direction (I’m hoping may), but if we don’t, I can’t imagine a better team to be independent than BYU. And I couldn’t be more proud of them. Unless of course they win tomorrow at Ole Miss. I’d be even more proud if they did that, too.
Bryson Kearl loves BYU, even though his dad and brothers are all Utah Utes. The other thing that makes him very proud of BYU is Humor U.