BYU honor code creates hurdle for recruiting

By By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

Since the early ’80s, BYU football has been touted as the cream of the small-conference crop.

But during the past decade, the Boise States, TCUs and Utahs of the world have snatched the torch from the Cougars and surpassed BYU as the little guys who can best stand up to the bullies of the Bowl Championship Series conferences.

The reason for the Cougars’ descent down the ranks of the best of the non-BCS is simple. BYU’s honor code has not allowed it to recruit the necessary athletes to consistently beat top-flight teams.

Even before the first whistle of the season blows, the Cougars are behind. The Cougars’ recruiting pool is limited compared to conference rivals TCU and Utah. While BYU is searching for players willing to commit to its honor code8212;which prohibits premarital sex and the use of alcohol, among other things8212;TCU is scouring its talent hotbed of a backyard for Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington, and Utah is searching Sin City for the likes of Stevenson Sylvester.

That’s not to say that players such as Hughes, Washington and Sylvester are necessarily unwilling to live by BYU’s standards8212;it’s just that the honor code severely limits the number of Hughes-like players the Cougars have to choose from. That makes putting as many players as possible who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or who might be willing to follow the honor code into Cougar uniforms of the utmost importance. The Cougars can ill afford to let LDS players such as Manti Te’o, one of the country’s top linebacker recruits, who chose Notre Dame over BYU, slip through their fingers.

That’s not to say that BYU doesn’t recruit its share of talented players. It was able to lure highly touted quarterback prospect Jake Heaps into its 2010 recruiting class. Max Hall, Harvey Unga, Dennis Pitta and Jan Jorgensen are some of the finest players in the conference, if not the country, and have enabled the Cougars to string together three straight 10-win campaigns, with a chance for a fourth this season.

Still, as good as those players have been, they have not been able to get the Cougars over the hump against highly athletic teams. Looking at each of BYU’s four regular season losses in the past two seasons, there are two common threads running through each defeat: The Cougars could not match their opponent’s athleticism, and each game was rather lopsided. Two of those losses came at the hands of TCU, and the other losses came against Utah and Florida State. All three of those programs are known for their outstanding speed and athleticism, which the Cougars couldn’t match.

BYU defends its honor code by insisting that it helps the program develop its players into young men worthy of representing the LDS Church. By emphasizing the honor code over recruiting top athletes, BYU sends a message that fielding a team of honor code-abiding players is more important than football, which, while certainly respectable in today’s sports world full of Pacman Joneses and Plaxico Burresses, doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that BYU can one day replicate the national success it once enjoyed.

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