Jim Rome draws a seven-figure salary each year hosting national, sports-themed radio and television shows. His trademark shtick involves the unleashing of an acerbic, razor-sharp wit to induce laughter from his audience at the expense of prominent sports figures.
But Wednesday morning Rome's trademark sarcasm was noticeably absent, his voice instead characterized by a focused, clinical seriousness at the beginning of the syndicated radio show that reaches over 2 million listeners on more than 250 station affiliates. The first big topic of the day: BYU's suspension of sophomore center Brandon Davies for the rest of the basketball season due to a violation of the school's honor code.
"Credit to (BYU) for not compromising its integrity and selling out for the millions they could've made for a deep run in the NCAA tournament," Rome said. "How many programs would've let a player skate for violating a rule right before the (NCAA) tourney, especially if you're looking at your best season ever? … I respect it. I definitely respect that."
Rome isn't alone in praising BYU's decision to suspend Davies pending a complete investigation. Although many media members and bloggers expressed shock that the No. 3 college basketball team in the country could actually suspend its third-leading scorer and leading rebounder for the rest of the season over a non-criminal Honor Code violation, most coverage of the ordeal has not only been fair but even positive with regard to BYU's commitment to its values. Even if it has been positive, school officials would rather have foregone the attention for the sake of Davies, the team and its fans.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins handled the majority of the media inquiries this week regarding the Honor Code. Jenkins, who said she hasn't been this busy fielding phone calls from reporters since Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at a BYU commencement in April 2007, appreciates the professionalism of the journalists she has interacted with over the past several days even though she wishes this imbroglio had never materialized.
"I'm hesitant to categorize this as positive," she said. "This is really not something that we're seeking, but we are grateful that the media is asking for a response from the university and that they are working very hard.
"The majority of the reporters that I have worked with have been very careful to be accurate in their reporting. We do think that many of the pieces reflect the importance of the honor code here at the university, and have expressed that very well."
Former BYU football player Vai Sikahema is a well-known journalist with plum TV and radio gigs in Philadelphia. Not only has he stayed abreast of the media's coverage of Davies' dismissal from the basketball team, but Sikehema has also had the chance to explain the honor code during several interviews across multiple media formats.
"Nearly every commentator/reporter I've seen or read has been overwhelmingly supportive of BYU's decision," Sikahema wrote Friday in a blog post for the Deseret News. "As you might imagine, as a media personality and BYU alum, I have been sought out for reaction. I've done radio interviews in Chicago, New York, Miami and Los Angeles and with a reporter from Time Magazine. My TV station devoted a segment of our afternoon news yesterday to it, asking me to discuss the Honor Code."
The Time interview Sikahema references provided some of the key material for the article "Is BYU's Premarital Sex Controversy Good For College Sports?" In addition to Sikahema, former star Cougars such as Steve Young and Shawn Bradley also chimed in.
"(Davies) will probably be a better man," Sikahema said to Time. "And that's ultimately what BYU is about, building leaders, building men. If that means missing out on a chance at the Final Four, well, that's what happens."
Kevin Baumer, a columnist at Business Insider ardently defended BYU,
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