PROVO -- BYU has confirmed that sophomore-to-be Junior Mahe, who was projected as the Cougars' starting tailback this fall, is under review for possible violations of the school's Honor Code.
"There is review taking place. It is a review. The university has not reached a final decision," said university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.Neither Mahe nor BYU coach LaVell Edwards, who is out of town, could be reached for comment.
In a worst-case scenario, Mahe could be suspended or dismissed from the university. BYU's Honor Code prohibits conduct deemed not in harmony with LDS Church policy. Before attending classes, students sign an agreement promising adherence to such standards as abstinence from premarital sexual activity and the avoidance of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and drug abuse.
The former Brighton High star, who rushed for 481 yards on 98 carries as a freshman, planned to serve an LDS mission after the upcoming season.
His future now is unclear.
Mahe could become the third BYU starter in six months to be sidelined because of Honor Code violations. Running back Ronney Jenkins and defensive back Heshimu Robertson were dismissed from school prior to the Liberty Bowl. Jenkins, a two-time offender, wound up transferring to Northern Arizona, while Robertson is expected to rejoin the Cougars this fall.
The dismissals, especially Jenkins' departure, upset Mahe.
"It stinks not having (Ronney) here," Mahe said after spring drills. "He was like an older brother to me. I learned so much from him. Everything was on him, and I was like his little sidekick."
The possibility of losing their top two rushers from a year ago would leave the Cougars with a somewhat inexperienced backfield. BYU's fortunes may rest heavily on the shoulders of Jaron Dabney. The 1997 WAC Mountain Division Freshman of the Year did not play last season. He is expected back, though, after transferring to a junior college in Texas to improve his academic standing.
"It's going to be crucial to get Jaron back," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said in BYU's spring football prospectus. "The thing about him is he can fill a couple of roles where we're not settled. Obviously you'd plug him right in as the kick-return man. We'd also use him in the backfield."
At the time, Chow envisioned pairing Dabney with Mahe. While noting each was capable of running and catching the ball out of the backfield, Chow felt neither was big enough physically to become an "every-down back."
Now, the Cougars may not have the luxury of job sharing.
Junior fullback Kalani Sitake (40 yards on 13 carries in 1998) headlines the remainder of a running back cast that includes senior Donny Atuaia, Utah State transfer Mike Nielsen and freshmen Fahu Tahi and Luke Staley.
It remains to be seen if any will be able to even partially compensate for the loss of Jenkins' 1,216 yards and 15 touchdowns in 1998 -- let alone, the possible departure of Mahe as well.
"Mahe's quickness and instincts make him special," said BYU running backs coach Lance Reynolds. "He has a knack for running through the forest and not hitting the trees."
Off the field, however, Mahe may not be as fortunate.
Deseret News sports writer Jeff Call contributed to this report.