Many criticized Brigham Young University for suspending its star basketball player for having premarital sex. But the school’s courage in standing by its principles proves that winning is about more than advancing to the Final Four.

On Thursday night Florida knocked BYU out of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Every year, March Madness is packed with fascinating subplots to supplement the main action on the court, but never has there been a story quite like Brigham Young University’s off-the-court drama from earlier this month when star center Brandon Davies was suspended from the team for having sex with his girlfriend.

We have all had to deal with our share of unfair rules. Whether we are children abiding by our parents’ wishes or professionals who must work according to the gumption of a higher-up, we all are under some type of authority. But what we fail to realize — or better yet remember — is that in most cases, we sign on for those rules.

Davies was dismissed for breaking the rules. Of course, at most any other university involved in the heat of March competition, this wouldn’t be an issue at all. While I don’t have hard statistics, I’m willing to bet a large number of college athletes engage in premarital sex without fear of violating their school’s code of conduct. But at BYU, a school known for its roots in Mormonism, the expectations are different.

Would a major college basketball program, poised to go deep in the NCAA tournament, really be so strict about a rule like that, especially if it meant losing one of its key players? Surprisingly, yes. And that’s why BYU’s decision made headlines, and sports fans across the nation took to Twitter and talk radio to debate the school’s radical decision.

Many have argued that the school has no business punishing a student so severely for such a private matter.

I would beg to differ.

The Brigham Young Honor Code states that students should:

Be honest

Live a chaste and virtuous life

Obey the law and all campus policies

Use clean language

Respect others

Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse

Participate regularly in church services

Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards

Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

Farther down on the list, the contract forbids “sexual misconduct” and finally states:

[The] Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity.

Brandon Davies at some point looked at that honor code. He at some point signed an agreement or took the money for that scholarship to play for Brigham Young. Everything about the school — good, bad, or neutral — came with that decision.

This is why it is irresponsible and foolish to argue about whether it was right or wrong for the university to remove him from the team. There is no argument. It doesn’t matter how you feel about premarital sex, or how taboo sex is to you, because in the end he broke a rule. In society, when you break a rule you pay the consequences.

Brandon Davies was in the game. He made it known that he was a part of the game. He basically signed away his life to the game. He reaped the spoils of a presumably fully paid education at one of the top schools in the country. He reaped the benefits of playing for one of the top basketball teams in America. But when he decided to break the rules of the game, he had to accept the repercussions of his actions. He lost the chance to participate in March Madness. He broke the code, and he had to pay the price.

Going to a religious university has its pros and cons. I attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, which is an unapologetically right-wing conservative, evangelical institution. There are many great things about the university, including a Christ-centered education and rules designed to keep students out of trouble. But the very rules set to “protect” students sometimes end up harming them as well. Having a curfew in college is unfathomable to some, but that’s par for the course at Liberty. And while it can prevent students from getting into things that could be detrimental to them, I frankly would much rather give students their freedom.

They are adults, after all, whether the higher-ups realize it or not. The important thing is learning how to use their newfound freedom responsibly.

But just like the students at BYU, I signed an honor code (“The Liberty Way”) to be able to go here. And if you sign it, you are agreeing to abide by the rules with no exceptions. While I may not deem all the rules to be fair, no one forced me to write my signature on the agreement.

With rules, in general, there is a strange, alluring propensity to break them. Let’s be real. There are plenty of violators of the code at BYU, just not all of them are caught or reported. To err is human. We all deserve second chances, and it appears Davies will be given one at BYU next season.

In the meantime, respect should be given to BYU’s leaders, not derision. Not only students take the school’s Honor Code; faculty and staff do as well. Despite the sacrifice, BYU stood by its word and its values and refused to bend them, even if it meant going into the March tournament without one of its key basketball players.

Now, in the wake of its Sweet 16 ouster, many are no doubt speculating that BYU might’ve extended its season had it not taken such extreme measures against Davies. But BYU’s leaders did the right thing. In the end, it isn’t their job to rationalize what is fair or unfair when a clear rule is violated. It’s their job to adhere to their institution’s standards; no matter how high the bar is set.

Go on, BYU. Go on.

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