Friday, March 4, 2011

Tough Love

What would you have done if you were the President of BYU?

If you haven't followed the story - here is the situation according to ESPN.

Brigham Young University has a winning basketball team that could end up a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, which will bring millions of dollars and national recognition to the University and the basketball program.  The University also has a strict honor code which prohibits, among other actions - premartial sex.  The University suspended a starting player on the basketball team for an honor code violation because he admitted to having sex with his girlfriend.  Is this a big deal?

Yes it is.  Here is an institution staying true to it's ethics and principles and holding it's members accountable for their commitments.  This is a great example of leadership making tough decisions in the short term to maintain the standards of the organization.  This is a choice all leaders face; the choice is never easy.

Too many leaders and organizations make exceptions to rules which whittle away at the intent of the organizational standards and confuse the members of the organization.  BYU took a stand to maintain it's principles and ethics standards despite the impact on the basketball team and the athletic department's budget.  Many college programs would have chosen a different path.

Was it a tough choice for the leaders at BYU?  Given their dedication to certain principles, probably not.

Would it have been a tough choice for you? 

Are there leadership choices where you are taking the easy road instead of making the hard choices?


  1. Two of my daughters have attended BYU schools and they both made the commitment to live by the Honor Code required of all BYU students. In this day and age it may not be easy, but it is any commitment to a high standard builds strength and character.
    Consistency in maintaining your standards is a key element in good leadership. The consequence or penalty for such a violation was already set regardless of who it was or how it might affect the sports program. It would have only been a difficult decision if there wasn’t a commitment to upholding the standards set by the Honor Code.
    The next step in leadership, and I believe the more important step, is the support and counsel to Brandon Davies. He made a mistake and he is paying the heavy consequences for that mistake. He now needs the guidance and support of the same leaders who had to hold him accountable for his actions. There is a way back to the team, but it won’t be this year. Good leaders must be able to hold people accountable for their actions, then teach and guide them to a lesson learned.

  2. To play devil's advocate here (pun intended) the BYU Honor Code Statement is as follows:

    Be honest
    Live a chaste and virtuous life
    Obey the law and all campus policies
    Use clean language
    Respect others
    Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
    Participate regularly in church services
    Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
    Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

    So without knowing exactly how the BYU administration found out, realistically it could have only happened two ways: 1) he told on himself or 2) someone else found out what happened and reported him. If it was the first scenario, then he realized he violated the code (live a chaste life) and then abided by the rest of it by reporting himself. If that’s the case then I applaud Davies for coming clean, accepting of consequences, and I would expect that at some point he will be welcomed back to the team as he has already apologized to the team (6 of which are already married and therefore exempt from that part of the code). I would also congratulate Davies if scenario two happened, but the individual directly engaged Davies (not the administration) and persuaded him to come clean on his own. That to me would abide by the code. However, if it’s the second scenario then the “Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code” was more than likely used as a front to implicate Davies for some unknown reason. This may be a cynical view point, but I doubt the intent of the BYU Honor Code is meant to have every student report potential infractions of the code so that the administration can dole out the appropriate disciplinary actions. If this was indeed the case, then I also believe that the person who reported Davies violated the code because that shows a lack of character, it is not an encouraging act, and could quite possibly have the exact opposite intended effect. Now, again no one knows what happened, but I believe the context is important. Lastly, although I acknowledge that BYU made a very tough decision, one I’m not sure any other Division I college would make, I will reserve applause until I found out how they have handled this situation in the past both with athletes and non-athletes alike. If this is how BYU has responded to similar past transgressions, then fair is fair, but if this was an example setting moment then I hope they achieved their desired results.