In a nauseatingly self-serving story in yesterday’s Deseret News about the “rise and fall” of the BYU sports program interested me because I felt certain homosexuality, politics, social change and religious beliefs (which of course all overlap) were in play. They are extensively, and unsurprisingly sheered behind the giant Zion curtain. The article opens with “golden age of BYU sports,” then pompously and ironically ends with “the road to independence is a hard one.” So I’ll break it down into a nutshell.
The article equates BYU athletics of the 1960s and ’70s to rock ‘n’ roll of the 1970s and ’80s. It touts many athletic alumni including Jim McMahon, Danny Ainge, Paul Cummings, as well as the Cougars football team, who won conference championships with “boring regularity.”
The story then moves on to the current downward spiral of the university’s sports programs (particularly BYU football): Interviews with former coaches, former BYU athletic directors, players, alumni and an analysis of decades of results reveal a troubling pattern of decline as societal changes, politics and big money stand in contrast to BYU’s commitment to its honor code and religious and educational mission.
Vai Sikahema, a former BYU running back and LDS stake president in New Jersey told Deseret News, “So many trends have worked against BYU, and a lot of them had nothing to do with sports.”
The story proffers those trends as being legal problems, political correctness, conference infighting and even the increased scrutiny wrought by social media. “A lot of us from the ’70s and ’80s would not have even gotten into BYU [today],” continued Sikahema. “The bar has been raised incredibly high.” — referring to BYU recruitment standards being more restrictive.
The self-serving stratagem continues with the Cougars being an independent team (has not been invited into a conference) for several recent years because BYU is “a religious-based school” team and that the Power 5 conference don’t focus enough on “athletic credentials.”
Last year, the school made a push for the Big 12, but to no avail. The article’s accusal reads: Politics and a loud minority entered the scene. More than two-dozen LGBT groups campaigned against BYU’s inclusion in the league, citing BYU’s honor code for prohibiting “homosexual behavior.”
“The LGBT community’s opposition … severely diminished BYU’s candidacy,” wrote ESPN’s Jake Trotter at the time.
This prompted the article’s timeline to go back 20 years, citing two black-cloud events from 1997 (only one is mentioned here): Proposition 8 went on the California ballot, an initiative and a proposed amendment to the California Constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The LDS Church lobbied for its passage, doling out millions of dollars. Prop 8 passed, but ultimately was overturned.
Furthermore, in 2011, the Cougars were overlooked by the PAC-10 conference, and former BYU Athletic Director Rondo Fehlberg said of it, “This has been good old-fashioned religious discrimination masquerading as academic snobbery that legitimizes an otherwise untenable position.”
In summation, the article drivels on demonizing the LGBT community with: BYU has been caught in the cross hairs of several political debates — Prop. 8 and [other] LBGT issues [but] the Cougars have won people over because they aim for standards that are becoming increasingly rare in the high-stakes world of college athletics — to wit: the corruption scandal that has rocked college basketball this year.