Vai's View: Vai's View: On the honor code and accountability

Published: Friday, April 22 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

I fully expect BYU's announcement that Brandon Davies will return to school and play for the Cougars next year to be met with skepticism by his self-appointed advocates at Deadspin — but that is only because they don't understand that accountability and parameters are what will prepare Davies to succeed beyond his playing career.

There was a lot of hubbub last week over the Deadspin article about BYU, racism and the honor code co-written by former BYU professor Darron Smith.

The Deseret News asked me to write a response. I passed. Frankly, I was more interested in writing about my grandson.

Truth is, outside of Utah, this story had zero impact — certainly not on the national scale that Brandon Davies' story did. That's because BYU's decision to suspend Davies was unique and given the circumstances, newsworthy; the story of disgruntled, pampered athletes, many of whom were charged with criminal activity, isn't that ground-breaking, even if cloaked as racism in an attempt to further a story. But I'm not completely dismissing every claim made in the Deadspin story either, which I'll get to later.

I did find it laughable that Smith pleaded on a Salt Lake radio show for African-American former Cougars who had positive experiences to come forward and tell their side of the story. As if he would treat it with equal vigor. Seems to me that the guys who have dealt with the honor code honorably are much more visible and would've been easier to find than the ones with an axe to grind — those who they tracked down for their piece. Clearly, that's not what Smith was looking for. He had a point-of-view, then went about finding stories to fit his agenda.

Pulitzer Prize investigative journalism, this was not.

Curtis Brown and Brian Kehl spoke eloquently on the same radio station regarding their experiences as black athletes at BYU. So would Brandon Bradley, Brian Logan, Jameson Frazier, his father, Danny, Jeff Chatman, Jamal Willis and Kalin Hall, but I'm sure Smith would've pointed out they're all LDS converts. They could've contacted Brian Mitchell, Derwin Gray or Olympic track star Frankie Fredricks of Namibia who aren't. From my era, they could've spoken to Robert Parker, Leon White, Adam Haysbert or Eric Lane, who are also non-LDS.

In 1983, one of BYU's starting corners was John Young, an African-American who transferred from Snow College. John was a Philadelphian who died in a tragic car accident after college. Even now, his Philly family is extremely proud of John's connection to BYU, as are many of the athletes I've named.

Is the honor code office perfect? Absolutely not. Like most things, I think it has evolved. It's probably better now than say, 30 years ago. Especially in dealing with minority students, who in the '70s and '80s were fewer and even more conspicuous than now.

In January 1980, I arrived on the BYU campus for the first time on my official recruiting visit. We were taken snowmobiling and for those interested, skiing at Sundance. We toured campus and sat courtside for a BYU basketball game. We met our player/host at halftime in a small reception room in the Marriott Center, where they had a nice spread of food. The hosts were players chosen specifically because they had a direct or indirect connection to us. My host was a fellow Polynesian who took me to the Star Palace after the game, a popular disco among BYU students in those days.

We capped the night by going to a party at the apartment of another player.

I was surprised to see a keg sitting in the kitchen sink on a bed of ice. People wandered around talking, listening to music, playing backgammon and drinking beer. We were there just long enough for me to see the underbelly of BYU society — one I made a mental note to steer clear of once I became a Cougar. The host of the party was a non-LDS, minority player.

Two years later, I was in the MTC when I was summoned to the main office.

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