Thursday, March 3, 2011
On Jim McMahon and "Honor Codes"
So the Brigham Young basketball team has dimissed one of its top players for a violation of the school's "honor code." This is nothing new--either the honor code or the dismissal of an athlete for violating it, and no one is really arguing that athletes who attend BYU should be required to adhere to said code, ridiculous as it may seem to those of us who reside in someplace other than Victorian England. If these are the dictates of their religion--and if BYU subsists as a private school--then that's their business.
But it should be noted that BYU has not always abided by its own rules. It should be noted that in the early 1980s, when Jim McMahon attended said university, both he and his father made it abundantly clear that they had no real interest in the tenets of Mormonism, and that McMahon was matriculating at BYU because Lavell Edwards had constructed a prolific passing offense.* Specifically, McMahon claims that he spent nearly every weekend partying up the road at a different college campus, that he surreptitiously managed to chew tobacco and purchase alcoholic beverages, that, at one point, he had a campus police officer stationed outside his apartment to ensure that he did not violate the honor code.* That McMahon and his university so clearly used each other to advance their profiles (and, if I may, you can read much, much more about this relationship in a certain book that is now available for a discounted rate at Amazon.com) could be blamed on either party, but it proves that, while BYU may have its own dictates, it is not above engaging in the same hypocrisy that every major college athletic program in America has, at one time or another. That it happened to occur with one of the four or five greatest players in school history--a player who may have singlehandedly raised the profile of his school more than any other, while simultaneously laying the moral groundwork for his own outrageousness--is something that many at BYU are even now reluctant to acknowledge.
*"My son's going to school to play football," Jim McMahon Sr. reportedly told one of the school's lead recruiters. "I don't want him to take all those religion classes."
**My favorite McMahon quote was relayed by his high-school teacher, who, upon informing McMahon that he would have to take a class on the book of Mormon while at BYU, told her, "That's all right. I like fiction."