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Vai's View: Vai's View: Brandon Davies' return to Cougars sparks dialogue

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 11:55 a.m. MDT

Brandon Davies from BYU

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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Wednesday was media day for BYU basketball. Some saw the post-Jimmer era as merely a red herring for the most pressing issue — Brandon Davies' return. A few left disappointed that Davies chose to remain silent on the issue of his dismissal last spring for an Honor Code violation. He was reinstated for fall semester but has yet to speak publicly about it.

A bedrock of crisis management is getting out in front of the story, being transparent and accessible to the media.

If I were consulting Davies — and I'm not — perhaps I would've suggested he do a one-time, put-it-to-rest press conference. That may come from me being a media guy, or the fact that my life is an open book and I've never been in crisis mode.

But given the nature of Davies' situation, I'd also defer to him, just as BYU coach Dave Rose is doing. After all, he is NOT the CEO of a company that spilled oil in the Gulf or the world's best golfer — one who has a fiduciary responsibility to the companies that he endorses — running over a fire hydrant in his SUV as his wife wields a 9-iron.

Davies is a 20-year-old college student who apparently violated one of BYU's non-negotiable, immovable honor codes. It probably happens less at BYU than other places, but it happens. Difference is, Davies is a star player on the BYU basketball team and his indiscretion came at the exact time when his absence would attract the most attention. What was BYU to do? Wait until after the NCAA Tournament to avoid publicity, as some suggested? BYU did what it is duty-bound to do. The school dismissed him from the team.

Davies was still invited on road trips, but it wasn't to maximize publicity for BYU when cameras took the obligatory cut-away shot of him sitting on the bench in khakis, shirt and tie looking on wistfully. BYU did so to keep him connected to his teammates and his support system. There was no calculating how it would be perceived or debated among the fan base or the media. The rules are as clear as the consequences at BYU.

Certainly, the university, its board of trustees and many of us as alumni found it refreshing and even pleasantly surprising that so much good will was heaped upon the school for its stand. But I understand enough of how its trustees work to know that they aren't motivated by that, nor are the administrators. They're motivated only by seeing that our young people can recover from their mistakes and move on, hopefully choosing to return and resume their studies. I know that from personal experience, having sat in front of the Standards Office as a freshman for beating up an offensive lineman who picked a fight with me. As a local church leader, I've also worked with BYU in helping violators re-enroll after being disciplined. Many don't return and worse, some leave disgruntled and angry.

In the 30-plus years I've been associated with BYU, I've known many who violated the Honor Code and watched with interest how they've responded.

In every single case where someone has not accepted responsibility, they have failed miserably. Conversely, in every case where one accepted full responsibility, they've managed to move on to lead productive lives. It's uncanny.

I'm thrilled Brandon Davies chose to return. Even happier for him that he fully accepted the consequences, difficult as they were. It speaks volumes of him, his mother and all those who had a hand in raising him.

All of us who have worn BYU silks understand the responsibility that comes with being a Cougar — that the same bright lights that are usually adoring, can also be suffocating.

Davies has fulfilled his obligation to the satisfaction of his coaches, the university and I hope to his ecclesiastic leaders, therefore the Lord — though that process may take a little longer. If he had been dismissed for academic reasons, would the media be clamoring to hear from him on how he's going to study harder, go to class earlier and take better notes? Probably not.

So what's he gonna say about his personal failings that will satisfy the media's insatiable right to know? Though they'll never admit it, perhaps those who want him to speak hope that he'll open fire on BYU and how they must've exploited him and his situation. I don't know how Davies feels about BYU. Just based on his actions, he hasn't placed blame on anyone but is doing what so few in his shoes, his age, would do — accept responsibility.

Here's what my colleagues in the media don't seem to know or understand about how the Honor Code process works — addressing the media is NEVER a condition of reinstatement. Not even for a star athlete.

He owes nothing to the media. This wasn't a media-related issue. It was a private matter. True, he's a public figure, but he's not a politician, he's not a professional; he's a student-athlete. It's none of our business. Since he's chosen, at least for now and perhaps the foreseeable future, not to discuss it — we should respect that.

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