PROVO — In the wake of high-profile honor code cases in recent years involving Brandon Davies and Spencer Hadley, BYU is changing the way it handles such issues with the media and the public.
In the future, instead of responding to media inquiries about the honor code status of a student-athlete at BYU, the school spokeswoman, Carri Jenkins, will only address those questions if it is a matter of public record or if the student-athlete initiates a comment on the situation.
That big announcement by BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe came during a 45-minute question-and-answer session Tuesday with local media. Holmoe fielded questions on a variety of topics at Legends Grille.
An honor code violation by basketball star Davies in 2011 resulted in a season-ending suspension for the player at a time when the Cougars were ranked No. 3 in the country and poised to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The story made national, and international, headlines.
Last fall, Hadley, a linebacker on the football team, was suspended for a few games for what BYU initially called a violation of team rules. Later, the school confirmed that Hadley was under review by the school's Honor Code Office. Photos of him in Las Vegas hit the Internet, and Hadley's suspension received widespread attention.
Controversy also arose over the way BYU dealt with these honor code violations in the public arena. Some questioned why the school would compromise the privacy of a student-athlete.
In recent years, Holmoe, the Honor Code Office, and other campus officials have had discussions about changing the policy.
“It’s led to the point that, as of Jan. 1, when we receive inquiries from the media about honor code issues, we no longer will address them from a campus perspective,” Holmoe said. “There won’t be a campus spokesperson that addresses any honor code issues anymore. There are two exceptions to that. One, if there is something that is in public record. If that shows an honor code violation has occurred, then our spokesperson could talk about that. Or if one of our student-athletes chooses to come public, then we would. But we won’t discuss that anymore. So don’t ask.”
In the future, if a student-athlete violates the honor code and is unable to compete, coaches will likely refer to the situation as a “violation of team rules” and leave it at that, Holmoe said.
“It would just be what the coach determines. A coach could say a violation of team rules or something else, but that’s pretty generic. That’s what I would like to see happen.”
The decision was reached after many discussions about the policy, Holmoe said.
“In the course of a few years with social media and the amount of media, it’s changed. Everybody on campus was supportive of going through the process.”
Asked if he spearheaded the change in policy, Holmoe replied: “I didn’t spearhead it, but I was involved.”
Other subjects Holmoe tackled Tuesday:
BYU officially released its 2014 football schedule Monday night, and Holmoe said he likes this schedule.
"Some people have said it's not as hard as last year, and that could be true,” Holmoe said.
Holmoe said that future schedules will be as strong as the 2013 schedule, “if not stronger," adding that, “We need to get stronger to be able to play that kind of schedule.”
BYU is contracted with several Pac-12 opponents over the next decade, with games against Arizona, Arizona State, USC, Stanford, California and Utah.
“I’d like to continue (scheduling) with the Pac-12 because that’s where our biggest fan base is,” Holmoe said. “Travel is better. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunities to play across the country. I’d always start in the Pac-12, and go from there.”
The Cougars are supposed to play Notre Dame four more times as part of the six-game series signed in 2010. Two games have been played in South Bend, Ind. Two more games are to be played in Provo, although no dates have been set for the remaining four contests.
“We’re in discussions (with Notre Dame),” Holmoe said. “This is kind of a fluid thing. We wanted to play these games. In our discussion, we’re going to play these games, but it may be further out. We’re going to be accommodating to help (the Irish) with their schedule. We have a very good relationship with Notre Dame. I don’t know why in the world we’d try to mess with that.”
BYU does not have a bowl game contracted for 2014 yet, but Holmoe has been working on it.
“I feel really good about where we are,” he said. “But that’s not contracted, so I can’t comment on it. But I think it will be good for our program. I’m excited about the potential matchups. I think when it’s done, it will hit some of the pillars we’re looking for in our program.”
As for future bowls, Holmoe said, “We have an agreement with ESPN that they’re going to get us a (bowl) game. I’m not worried about that. They have a lot of games.”
STATE OF THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM
In 2013, the BYU offense underwent major changes. Coach Bronco Mendenhall hired a new offensive staff, led by offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who shifted to a fast-paced style of play.
Holmoe said he likes the direction of the offense, but he would like to see “more balance," and more touchdowns instead of field goals. He wants to see the offense "enhance the ability to move the chains and score."
Spring practices open next Monday.
Holmoe said that over the past 40 seasons, BYU is tied for fourth in college football in total victories.
POTENTIAL RULE CHANGES
A proposed “10-second rule” is being discussed as a way to limit up-tempo teams.
Holmoe said he is opposed to the proposal, explaining that coaches must “figure out how to play the game under current rules. I can’t see (the proposal) passing.”
As for the proposal making the rounds in college football to give student-athletes a stipend, Holmoe said, "We're prepared to do what it takes to be competitive. We're prepared to make that move.”
He added that he’s concerned that such a change would negatively impact non-power conference schools.
— When asked about building a basketball practice facility at BYU, Holmoe said that creating such a venue is “very important, absolutely. It’s of critical importance for us to go forward.”
He added that it’s key when it comes to recruiting.
"We don't have any final approvals on anything,” Holmoe said of a basketball facility. “We're trying to make plans to go forward with this."
— Asked about the importance of having a “special” football season, like the one in 1984 when the Cougars won the national championship, or in 1996 when BYU won 14 games and the Cotton Bowl, Holmoe replied that such a season "is in my dreams all the time. Hope springs eternal that you're going to have that undefeated season."
— Holmoe said he doesn't think conference realignment is over yet. He believes every conference will eventually have a conference championship game.
— Responding to a question about BYU sporting an alternative uniform sometime this season, Holmoe said, “We will have alternate uniforms this year.”
— Asked if he “likes life” in the West Coast Conference, Holmoe said, “I like it. It is good.” He added that he enjoys the fact that at least one WCC team in every sport is a top-15 program on a national level.