BYU Doesn’t Publicize Players’ Mistakes, Media Does

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“Long ago.”

According to BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall, that’s when he dealt with star running back Jamaal Williams’ alleged underage drinking offense. He broke this news to salivating reporters Tuesday night and he left it at that, making it clear that he would not go into any more details other than to say that Williams is in good standing with the team.

Reporters were stunned, and fans, including yours truly, were left scratching their heads. The news reports that Williams had been arrested had just surfaced a few days ago, and those of us who read the reports quickly thought the arrest was recent. It turns out the Williams was picked up over a month ago–on February 16–and somehow the blood-thirsty media didn’t catch wind of it until this weekend.

This sequence of events illustrates something important about Bronco and about BYU as a whole: they are not interested in publicizing the mistakes these athletes make. The media is.

Despite the criticism levied by anti-BYU folks, the University is not on a mission to make its athletes’ personal lives public. It’s not looking to humiliate these kids, make examples of them, or drag them through the mud. If the University and coaches could have it their way, they would deal with it quickly and quietly, offering each athlete chances to own up to their mistakes and make amends.

But the media simply won’t allow it. They pry for details and speculate when they get no answers, hoping to get a juicy scoop (even TMZ ran a story on it) at the expense of the players’ privacy.

Brandon Davies
BYU center Brandon Davies cheers from the bench after being suspended for honor code violations.

To be certain, there are times when a player’s indiscretions will unavoidably hit the spotlight, such as when Brandon Davies was suspended in the midst of a historic BYU regular season run. But the majority of the disciplinary actions taken by the University and its coaches have little effect on the team or the public. Yet the media insists on getting their story.

Anti-honor-code people are yelling at their computer screens right now, insisting that BYU uses incidents like Spencer Hadley’s suspension for publicity. Let’s not forget, however, that it wasn’t BYU that divulged the details of Hadley’s suspension or his emotional repentance process. Hadley himself told Sports Illustrated about his emotional trip to the local prison, while BYU and Bronco were happy to leave the great story of redemption untold.

So if you’re frustrated with the privacy violations that result from athletes’ honor code violations, blame your local reporter, not the coaches or school. This week’s news makes it clear that the latter are trying to keep the athletes’ lives private while the former are looking for headlines.

About the author

Andy Kartchner

I have a Ph.D. in sports analytics. No I don't. But I do have a law degree. And if there's one thing I learned in law school, it's how to write about sports.

I am Big Bro. My brother, Aaron (a.k.a. Little Bro), and I make up the Sports Bros, your one-stop shop for everything BYU sports.