One of the biggest stories in college football this year has been talks around the Big 12 expanding its conference to twelve teams. Yesterday, however, the storylines took a bit of a turn when Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel reported that 25 LGBT advocacy groups sent letters to the presidents of the Big 12 teams, begging them not to accept BYU as a conference member.
In the letter addressed to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, the LGBT advocacy groups wrote, “BYU … actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff. It provides no protections for LGBT students … Given BYU’s homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies and practices, BYU should not be rewarded with Big 12 membership.”
BYU is different from the other major religion-based FBS universities like Notre Dame and Boston College in terms of the “strictness” of their honor code. A student honor code isn’t out of the norm at all; however, the school’s stance on homosexual relations as well as relations outside of marriage do tend to differ from the majority of FBS schools.
The issue causing controversy here is the clause in BYU’s Student Honor Code which reads, “Homosexual behavior is unacceptable and violates the honor code”.
Advocacy groups seem to be applying political pressure to the Big 12 in order to secure LGBT rights at all Big 12 schools. This is a new issue facing the world of college football, which of late has been focused on the off field issues facing player behavior and athletic department mishandling of situations.
Some have brought up the point that the Big 12 may not be in a place to hold a program out because of its foundational beliefs, when they are still working through the Baylor scandal that shook the university as well as the conference.
Referencing the Baylor scandal, SBNation’s Matt Brown said that “Reports indicate that Baylor’s (Big 12) strict honor code made their sexual assault case worse”. Some have said that bringing a school like BYU with a strict honor code could open the conference up to many more scandalous issues due to their stance on certain social issues.
Others in the college football realm have said the Big 12’s response to these advocacy groups could set a dangerous precedent that may show discrimination against private universities as well as religious institutions. The issue of keeping BYU out of the conference would show favoritism towards the LGBT community and make it much more difficult for other religion-based universities to join major Power Five conferences.