The Harvey Unga Bombshell: Delayed Reaction

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The news that Harvey Unga was withdrawing from BYU was so shocking that I thought I would wait and try to take it all in before posting something on it. What follows is basically my thoughts and reaction to everything that I have read on the situation. This may seem disjointed or random, or just hard to follow, but hopefully you will enjoy my point of views.

While BYU football players have been violating the honor code and have been subsequently suspended for a year, Unga’s case is different since he withdrew from school. By withdrawing when he did, it is possible that he can still play his senior year in the fall. I have never heard of a suspension for less than one year for serious honor code violations. Through this incident I have learned that by self reporting his violation and withdrawing from school, Unga can be back as soon as fall semester (having missed spring and summer terms, the equivalence of one semester).

The more I think about it the more I believe that Unga will still play for BYU this fall. The only thing stopping him will be an NFL offer too good to refuse, or an inability to get clearance to be readmitted from the dean of students or an endorsement from his bishop. I think Unga should have already told Bronco Mendenhall, the dean of students, and his bishop that he wants to come back in the fall and put a plan together of how to achieve that. For this to work, all three must be on board. If one of these three is unwilling to let Unga return so soon, he should have already told Unga. This would allow Unga to freely pursue NFL possibilities without worrying if BYU might still be available.

As far as the NFL goes, I would not act desperate and jump on any offer. I would want to go to a team with a track record of successful late round draft choices and free agents. My top choice would be the Washington Redskins. When Mike Shanahan was in Denver, he routinely turned late round running backs into 1,000 yard rushers. If none of the options are appealing, then wait for the draft to come next year. One thing the draft has shown this year is that the NFL isn’t scared of players who did not play during the year before the draft. Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, and Dez Bryant are three examples of players who did not play at all, or very little, in 2009, but their playing status does not appear to have impacted their draft stock. Bradford and Gresham are even coming off of injuries. Unga would be coming in at full strength. He was projected as a late round pick this year, so I am guessing he would go in the late rounds next year if he waits.

As far as passing judgment, I am one that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and assumes the best case scenario. While many people are “putting two and two together” about Unga and Keilani Moeaki, I want to be optimistic and think that maybe the issue is not what everyone thinks it is. Maybe they went out together and drank some alcoholic beverages—nothing more. Maybe they had a class together this semester, and cheated in the class. The honor code can be broken in many ways. Whatever it is, I am more apt to point out that Unga, and Moeaki for that matter, did what most others don’t do. They willingly confessed. Most of the time we learn about honor code violations through the Honor Code office concluding an investigation and handing out a sentence. Each student withdrew from school and cited the honor code as the reason. While they joined an ignominious club by breaking the honor code, they also joined a more exclusive club of those who voluntarily confessed their mistake.

My hope is to see Harvey in BYU blue this fall. Not only because he makes the team better, but because it will make him better. His actions thus far are a sign that he has learned his lesson, and any additional discipline should not be such that would make his life worse. It should reinforce and strengthen what he has learned, not create the opportunity for negative and resentful feelings.