Utah Sports Ruckus: For BYU it's about time to raise political havoc

By Nate Gagon

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 22 2014 3:15 p.m. MDT

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (4) fights out of the arms of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days (32) during a game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, October 12, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU was in the news Wednesday for its investigation of allegations that some members of its football team over the years have received “improper benefits” from former director of football operations Duane Busby. While potentially an impactful development, at present this should fall under the “let’s-wait-and-see-the-facts-before-we-over-analyze-it” category of news stories.

There’s actually another BYU story right now that involves more important issues, in the big picture, than whether some college athletes stayed on someone’s couch for free or received minor assistance in other ways.

BYU and its supporters need to be prepared to make news for a totally different reason. They need to be ready to raise a little political havoc in the name of anti-discrimination and equality, if they want to remain legitimately in the business of college sports, and especially college football.

Anti-discrimination and equality are big topics in America right now.

One very recent, very public example is the NBA’s banning of LA Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling, for his remarks about blacks and other ethnicities.

Sterling, however, didn’t get himself banned from the NBA because he was a racist. No, Sterling was banned because the people demanded it; because enough people with influence finally stood tall and said, “We’re not going to stand for this anymore.”

By most accounts, it appears Sterling had been who he is for a long time. The recording that caught Sterling making his racist statements doesn’t appear to even be legal or admissible as evidence in a United States courtroom.

But it wasn’t the recording that got Sterling banned — it was the demand of the people, led and fueled by many people of influence. The punishment was unprecedented. The change didn’t happen because somebody asked nicely — what happened to Sterling came about because people forced the NBA’s hand.

Soon it very well might be BYU’s turn to force a few hands.

In college athletics, BYU, the flagship university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is on the outside looking in right now.

Not only has BYU been excluded from entry into one of the Power 5 athletic conferences — the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12 and ACC — but the SEC and ACC recently ruled that BYU would not even be considered a top-level program for scheduling purposes.

It’s reaching a point where BYU and its supporters need to be ready to stand up and say, “We’re not going to stand for this anymore.”

Can anyone rationally argue that BYU, based on its athletic accomplishments and other applicable merits, does not deserve to be included in the top tier of college athletics?

There is no valid argument against it.

There are 62 college football programs included in those Power 5 conferences. With Notre Dame it makes 63. These five conferences are not only the dominant controlling force in football, but generally are in all college sports. They have the money, the facilities and the power. They are the top tier.

Can anyone make an argument that BYU does not possess a top 60 athletic program or a top 60 football program?

In the Division 1 Learfield Sports Director’s Cup standings, which ranks entire athletic programs according to their on-field accomplishments, BYU finished the 2013 fall sports season ranked No. 11 in the country. Since the inception of the Director’s Cup 21 years ago, BYU has finished the fall season ranked in the top 25 nationally 17 times.

BYU doesn’t just squeak into the top 60 of athletic programs — it is well within the dividing line.

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