Harvey Unga voluntarily withdrawing from BYU is a shock. Unga is leaving as Brigham Young's leading rusher, and after turning down a possible leap to the NFL to return for his senior season. It's why he's leaving, however, that might be the true stunner.
Brigham Young has one of the strictest honor codes in American higher education. Students cannot drink, cannot have beards without a waiver, cannot wear sleeveless clothing, and cannot engage in "homosexual behavior and/or advocacy." Unga's violation of the honor code was announced in the same press release as his girlfriend Keilani Moeaki's violation and subsequent withdrawal. Putting two and two together would seem easy: Unga and Moeaki, who have been dating for about three years and were briefly engaged, likely had premarital sex, which violates the "live a chaste and virtuous life" tenet of the BYU honor code. It should be stressed that this is all speculation, but with Unga and Moeaki announcing simultaneous withdrawals, it's hard to imagine anything other than sex -- or a pregnancy -- being the cause.â†µ
It's a function of the restrictions of Mormonism that BYU must be so harsh (even though Jim McMahon, not even a Mormon, certainly worked out for the school until he didn't), but it's both commendable and -- to me -- lamentable that Unga and Moeaki are apparently volunteering to leave school rather than fight BYU on the subject. On one hand, Unga and Moeaki are abiding by the rules of their school and copping to a violation of both the letter of a rule and the spirit of their religion; on the other, it's beyond weird to think that two mature college athletes could have thrown away their scholarships for having sex within a committed relationship. Considering how athletes at other schools can speak openly about how not wearing a condom is "just stupid," I'd love to know the full extent of this story, if only to better judge how strict BYU is.â†µ
When reminders like this trickle out about BYU's stringent honor code, the athletic accomplishments of various Cougars teams seem even more far-fetched. How can a college that offers a totally non-stereotypical college experience recruit on par with major college programs? It's like every BYU season is full of the "Catholics vs. Convicts" storyline that Notre Dame and Miami dealt with, except it's the morally rigid Mormons against everybody else.â†µ
And now Harvey Unga and Keilani Moeaki won't be a part of the next one, probably because of premarital sex in a relationship that might lead to marriage. That might be bizarre to me and you, but that's just how things are at BYU.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.