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Cougars avoiding trouble with the law, honor code

Sometimes there are facts worth exploration.

Elephants are the only animals that can't jump. Women blink nearly twice as much as men. It is physically impossible for you to lick your elbow. Years have gone by without a BYU football player making headlines for either breaking the law or running afoul of the school's strict honor code.

On the Cougar front, silence is good news.

Tick, tick, tick.

As far as I can tell by poking, prodding, lifting rocks around town, no football player recruited by Gary Crowton has registered one of those embarrassing gaffes that crack the glass house that is BYU and it's famed behavior code.

Just bringing it up, however, gives Crowton and his staff the willies. They've got their fingers crossed.

Coaches privately say they're "knocking on wood," and are "pleased so long as it lasts." When BYU football players mess up, it's a national headline. The quiet three years? It's like getting the new baby to sleep and telling everyone to shussssh.

A good stretch of luck can be broken in a split second with a bad decision, a secret discovery or your mundane flub up expected in numbers by students in the regular university population.

No smoking. No drinking. No premarital sexual relations. No drugs. No body piercing beyond one hole on each ear. The code, in many regards, is tougher than the LDS Church requirements for attending a temple because of the dress code that restricts long hair, beards and mustaches on men and skirt length on women.

The last time Cougar gridders made headlines, it was just months after Crowton took the BYU helm. Running back Marcus Whalen and defensive lineman Brent Pollock ran afoul of the law in February 2000. BYU suspended Whalen for a year. The school banned Pollock from enrolling. He attended El Camino Junior College and is headed to Utah State.

Three years? After almost annual trouble by football players in the '90s, from Hashi Robertson to Ronney Jenkins' troubles, it's now a real clean streak.

"Gary's done a great job keeping on top of players, reminding them of expectations, increasing interaction with coaches and establishing a no-tolerance attitude in the program," recruiting coordinator Mike Empey said.

Part of Crowton's plan includes a three-strike policy, and few ever get their second strike. This applies to missing class as well as behavior and breaking team rules, which are even more strict than the school's code.

"If you have a first offense of any kind, a player meets at the most inconvenient time possible and he runs. It is not pleasant. It is not a fun thing, and few ever get a second strike, which means Crowton makes a phone call to parents," Empey said.

A third strike could result in a lost scholarship, and it doesn't even have to get to the Honor Code Office officials in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center. Five years ago that office was practically stalking BYU football players.

The past three years practically every "problem" requiring "inconvenient" runs dealt with missing classes or study hall. Players who struggle must meet with a coach Monday at 7:30 a.m. and sign a letter stating he is in step with the program on and off the field.

After every practice or team meeting, Crowton barks out a warning with specifics: No drinking, no smoking, yada, yada. "There is no question what the agenda is," Empey explained.

No incidents in headlines or surfacing mean everybody's clean? Probably not. But there are some clamps and controls and it appears, with the public watch on, it's working under Crowton.

"Even good guys can mess up, and usually do. But I do not know of any serious infractions," Empey said.

Empey believes BYU's screening of recruits has also been part of it. "You can tell very quick if a guy's going to make it at BYU or not. Why take a chance at failure? That sometimes limits us on who we can go after, but so be it." Quiet on the Happy Valley front? Well, for the time being, for the sake of appearances, and in absence of proof of some major cover-up, it seems so.

A snail can sleep for three years. No word in the English language rhymes with month. BYU's squeaky clean image on a real winning streak? Maybe it's bad luck to bring it up.

But, on the other hand, perhaps Camp Crowton deserves some credit while the streak's on.

Caught in headlines? For now, lick your elbow.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com