This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
BYU is on the verge of getting into the Big 12.
Put the probability at 80 percent.
But strap in tight, because the ride has gotten bumpy and could get bumpier still.
Let's say it the way it is: BYU has a great football tradition. It has a beautiful stadium. It has a large fan base. It has a legacy of offensive football put in place by LaVell Edwards that influenced coaches and attitudes around the country. It has nearly every kind of trophy that can be earned in college football Outland, Davey O'Brien, Doak Walker, Sammy Baugh, Heisman, and national championship and a list of All-Americans a mile long. It has a notable TV market. It has a national brand strong enough to make a P5 conference money. It has great history and facilities in and for other sports.
It also has a problem, a problem that has nothing to do with football or sports, in general, a problem that cuts straight to the complicated and sometimes conflicting issues of religious beliefs versus popular social movements, issues of what's right and what's wrong. And that last designation, depending on one's point of view, can fly in completely opposite directions.
BYU, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now has groups of people advocacy groups for LGBT rights who are asking Big 12 presidents not to invite the school into their company on account of BYU's stance on students and homosexual behavior. Fox Sports reported on Monday that Athlete Ally and the National Center for Lesbian Rights sent a letter a letter signed by other influential groups to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, requesting the rejection.
The letter called BYU's policies and practices "homophobic, biphobic, transphobic," and said not only that they violate Big 12 guidelines, but that the school "actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff."
School spokesperson Carri Jenkins said, in response: "BYU welcomes as full members of the university community all whose conduct meets university standards. We are very clear and open about our honor code, which all students understand and commit to when they apply for admission. One's stated sexual orientation is not an issue."
Well, on that last part, it isn't and it is.
The thing is nuanced.
On the one hand, the honor code says that the school won't take action against those with feelings of same-gender attraction, but it will on those who engage in homosexual behavior. Which is to say, having those feelings is OK, but acting on them is not.
The same can be said for heterosexual attraction at the school. That attraction is OK, but premarital sex is not. Which is to say, acting on those feelings is not.
The difference is that inside its definition of homosexual behavior, the honor code includes "not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings."
Last time anybody checked at BYU, a male student giving a female student a kiss on campus would gather no attention. Two male students giving one another a kiss might.
As cited by The Tribune's Jay Drew, the Big 12 has written in a handbook, as a part of its policy on diversity, the following: "It is the obligation of each Member Institution to refrain from discrimination prohibited by federal and state law, and to demonstrate a commitment to fair and equitable treatment of all student-athletes and athletics department personnel."
The complication, then, continues, as do proper questions.
When it comes to any university rule or standard, where is the line appropriately drawn? What does fair and equitable treatment mean? If students or student-athletes want to and do have sex with anyone man or woman outside the bounds set by BYU's honor code, or by strictures of the LDS faith, and they face consequences for that sex, is that fair and equitable?
Hell, student-athletes can't even wear a beard at BYU. Are beard-wearers discriminated against, then? Can a school have any kind of behavioral code, anymore, without claims being brought against it?
Is it OK for BYU to set rules for its students, according to religious beliefs, for those students to accept if they want to attend there, and for them to reject if they do not wish to attend? BYU is not making rules for people outside its own community. People outside that community can do whatever they want.
Ashland Johnson, director of policy and campaigns for Athlete Ally, told Fox Sports: "If [the Big 12] allows BYU into their conference, all of the LGBT student-athletes, coaches and fans who travel to BYU will not have any protections" against discrimination.
Has that kind of claim ever been a consistent or real problem for LGBT student-athletes, coaches and fans from other schools, including Big 12 institutions, when their teams have played at or against BYU, when student-athletes, coaches and fans have traveled to BYU to compete in the past?
"LGBT players, coaches and fans are always welcome to the BYU campus. Everyone should be treated with respect, dignity and love," athletic director Tom Holmoe tweeted Tuesday.
Inclusion is good. If I had my way, when it comes to sexual orientation, everybody would be left to follow his or her own heart, to do his or her own thing, to do what they all felt was good for them, to marry who they want, to love who they want, to be passionate with who they want.
Conversely, what problem should there be with BYU, following the policy of its sponsoring church and religion, to back certain religious beliefs among those who, apparently, are wanting and willing to go and teach and play there? Nobody is forcing staff or students to work or apply for admission at the school or accept an athletic scholarship there. They freely choose to do so.
My problem with BYU's honor code is when it diverges from and is accelerated past the standards and doctrines of its own church, transforming the school into a juiced-up bastion of the LDS faith on steroids. That sometimes seems inconsistent.
Bottom line: The Big 12 should go ahead and invite BYU into its conference on its merits as an institution, on its merits as an accomplished college sports presence, on its merits as a potential financial asset for the league.
It's a free country. Inclusion goes in more than one direction.
People should let Mormons at BYU believe what they want to believe, just like people should let the Catholics at Notre Dame believe what they want to believe. And if those Mormons and Catholics and anyone else at any other school play good football and basketball, and build up their programs to great success, let them join in and compete, too. It's acceptable not to agree on everything. What's good for you is good for you. What's good for me is good for me. Let everybody believe what they want to believe for themselves.
It's OK. Let BYU in and play the freaking games.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.