Jeff Benedict: Once in honor code trouble, Van Noy almost didn't come to BYU

The only reason the star is a Cougar is because he desperately wanted to be one

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12 2013 8:05 a.m. MDT

Kelly Van Noy was heartbroken. Her son’s arrest was all over the news in Reno. Juvenile arrests are supposed to remain confidential. But a reporter found out that the city’s top athlete had been charged, and the news spread fast. Friends and neighbors were talking. Plus, it looked as though all hope of her son attending BYU had been dashed.

While the Van Noys waited for Mendenhall to call back, other coaches who had seen the news of the arrest on the Internet started calling the house. “Kyle had coaches call him after the arrest and say you come here and you can play right now,” said Kelly Van Noy. “That is appealing to a seventeen-year-old kid. So is not having to face the music and not being on a campus where you feel judged and all they know about you is that you are the kid who got the DUI.”

Mendenhall went to see athletic director Tom Holmoe. They put together a scenario where BYU could still honor Van Noy’s scholarship. He’d have to agree to sit out the 2009 season and go a full year without violating the honor code. At that point, he’d have to get the endorsement of an ecclesiastical leader who could vouch that his personal life was in line with BYU’s standards. In other words, he’d have to live the honor code for a full year — whether at home or on campus — before he’d be eligible to be a student-athlete.

Holmoe was convinced Van Noy would never go for it. “That just doesn’t happen,” Holmoe said. There were too many top schools willing to overlook the DUI and play him immediately.

Mendenhall agreed. But he was also convinced that he would not be helping Van Noy by glossing over the arrest and making an exception to the rule. Besides, what message would that send to the rest of the team?

They took their proposal to BYU’s dean of students, Vernon Heperi. He signed off. Then Mendenhall called Van Noy and told him his options.

The prospect of sitting out a year had not entered Van Noy’s mind. He had every intention of starting as a true freshman. He wanted some time to think it over.

Later that evening Mendenhall’s phone buzzed. “I’ll do it,” Van Noy told him. “I’ll sit out a year.”

“I honestly don’t know what made me say yes to that,” Van Noy said. “But I did, and once I gave my word, I was committed to it.”

The next day — February 4, 2009 — when BYU announced its recruiting class for 2009, Mendenhall read off Van Noy’s name. Then he brought the media into a private room and read them a letter Van Noy had written the night before: “This past weekend, I received a DUI citation, which will delay my arrival. I know that I have disappointed you, my family and friends. You have my firm commitment that I will do what it takes to earn back your trust and be part of BYU’s winning tradition.”

One month later Van Noy went out with friends. They had alcohol. It got late. Van Noy didn’t go home. He ended up on a park bench on the streets of Reno, where he fell asleep. The next thing he remembered was waking up to police sirens and flashing lights. Scared, he took off running. Officers gave chase. Trapped in an alley, Van Noy shrugged off an officer and broke free. Then from behind he heard the clicking of a Taser gun. He dropped to the ground. Before he knew it, he was in police custody for a second time in a one-month span, this time cited for eluding an officer.

He was not charged with an alcohol offense this time, however. And when the authorities considered his juvenile status and the fact that he was already facing DUI charges, they opted not to bring a second case against Van Noy. Charges were dropped. And this time the local press did not find out. Under Nevada law, the report in the second incident was sealed. Fortunately for Van Noy, no one would find out about his second arrest, especially not Coach Mendenhall.

But Van Noy was uneasy. Mendenhall had given him a second chance. He felt he owed it to him to come clean, even though he knew that would likely end his football career at BYU before it started.

He talked to his parents and decided to fly to Provo and confess to Mendenhall.

“Up until that point I didn’t want to be helped,” Van Noy said. “But suddenly I felt like a kid who needed help. I wanted help.”

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