PROVO — The honor code at BYU found itself under a lot of scrutiny the past few weeks.
Some outsiders scratch their heads over its meaning and application. Late-night comedians have found it an easy target. Some have praised its existence while others believe it needs an overhaul.
The most recent rung on the honor code examination ladder came this week in an article posted on the Internet site "Deadspin."
The Cliff Notes version is this: Sources you would describe as disgruntled or failed athletes believe the honor code is applied with a brush dipped in racism and religious double-standards.
I won't dissect it, defend it or criticize the "Deadspin" piece on The Code.
Intelligent folks can read the Deadspin story, weigh its theme and decide for themselves how accurate or what meat it brings to or distracts from the discussion.
It isn't the first time BYU's honor code has been examined and it won't be the last. I've been monitoring it — and the reactions to it — for about four decades.
If you keep the study of BYU's strict behavioral guidelines in focus, it's really a simple deal.
A school that demands high standards of its students is a good thing.
BYU is not for everyone. If you get on the bus and don't like the ride, get off.
A school that requires athletes to follow the code might be restricting its talent pool, but that doesn't have to be a huge negative.
Assertions that a football or basketball player can enroll at BYU and not know what they are getting into is like an astronaut taking off his headgear in space and claiming he didn't know oxygen wouldn't float his way.
Recruits who don't believe they can keep BYU's honor code should simply stay away — go somewhere else. It will be better for all concerned.
If athletes run afoul of the honor code, there are remedies for them to learn and grow and overcome and stay. There are some infractions that can be serious enough that both parties should separate and call it a failed experiment.
Serial honor code breakers are a no-brainer for expulsion, regardless of race or religious background.
Can BYU handle things better? Sure.
Some say BYU should just leave honor code issues up to ecclesiastical leaders who endorsed the student or athlete. Do away with the honor code office.
Trouble with that idea is that among those leaders there are different approaches, different judgments and various ways each individual handles cases. Some are extremely strict or letter-of-the-law while others are more wired to work things out or discipline with a softer touch.
BYU, as an institution, demands more uniformity to protect itself and its standards. Thus, it needs an office to review cases, determine accountability and make status decisions.
"All are decided on an individual case by case," we are told.
BYU can tweak its media handling of honor code offenders when it comes to high-profile athletes whose absences in a lineup or at practices due to discipline are noticed.
If it is criminal, it is public record. Honor code issues are not public record.
The current BYU policy is to confirm or deny an "honor code review" when the media asks about a name of an athlete. This is done so BYU doesn't look like its hiding anything. I think that is a mistake. It invades privacy and it hurts lives.
Time and time again, this simple give and take is a match to a fuse that explodes over issues that are not news anywhere else. It makes sinners appear criminal and that is not right.
That confirmation is a flare gun setting off the media to go on a witch hunt. It turns a private discipline into a public feeding frenzy.
It shouldn't be a matter of BYU hiding or covering up, but protecting its own process and privacy of students. If you called to find out a student's grades, you'd be denied. It's private. Aren't conduct issues even more private?
Was it a felony, cheating on a test or did somebody get pregnant? The world must know. We think it is our right to know. Well, it's not.
Too many good people who happen to be athletes, are punished far more severely than regular students when they make a mistake because of this policy.
Yes, such scrutiny comes with the territory. But really, think about it. Is creating a circus the right way to handle things? BYU honor code news has now become a local media cottage industry.
It did not exist 20 or even 15 years ago.
BYU might be better served to answer the question of why an athlete isn't on the roster, court or field, by simply saying he or she is taking care of personal issues. Or that somebody isn't there because he or she broke team rules. Period.
Mention honor code these days and you may be a punch line away from having your name on Jay Leno.
History tells us athletes and BYU honor code have been and will always be an issue.
In the '60s and early '70s, nobody in the media really cared. In the '80s and '90s, it became a sore spot, almost a battle between the athletic department and honor code office and the media took note.
In 2004, the last year of Gary Crowton, it became nuclear.
When BYU gets preachy about itself, it in turn draws greater news value when there are failures with athletes and the code.57 comments on this story
Today, it is something different on campus than back in 1975 when the most publicized aspect of it was no long hair or beards.
The code has always been a priority, but today BYU's athletic department feels a greater sense of urgency about it and the administration has never felt a greater appreciation to them because of that.
Many people like to pick and choose anecdotes and stories from respective eras and apply a blanket commentary on enforcement and abeyance.
Unfortunately, if you do that, like Deadspin, Spinzone, or Twilightspin did, it isn't that simple.