The Curious Case of Michael Loyd, Jr.

Michael Loyd, Jr. was a superstar on the Las Vegas high school basketball scene. He was a do-everything type, leading his team to a 21-5 record his senior year and leading his league in assists and steals, finishing second in scoring and three-pointers (total made), and third in blocks (when was the last time you saw one guy in the top three in both blocks and steals, even within a team?).

When colleges came calling, it was mostly mid-majors: Santa Clara, Northern Arizona, Northern Iowa, Idaho. By far the most prestigious school to offer him a scholarship was Brigham Young. Since he had been attending BYU basketballsummer camps since he was in middle school, it was probably a pretty easy decision to make.

He got good minutes right away as a freshman, but the real breakout was in the latter half of his sophomore season, which just concluded. He scored 18 against rival Utah, and then 19 in a heartbreaking loss to regular season conference champs New Mexico. He was starting to show a tendency to come up big in the biggest games.

None bigger, as it turns out, then their NCAA tournament victory over Florida. There, he put up 26 points and 4 steals.

He didn't do much in their second-round loss to Kansas State, however, in what would turn out to be his last game for BYU. In a move that clearly caught the fans and the media off-guard, it was announced he would be transferring out, by "mutual consent" of the player and the BYU coaching staff.

Why? Well, you probably are aware that BYU is a Mormon school with strict standards and a culture that a black, non-Mormon kid from Sin City may have a hard time relating to or immersing himself in. And, it would appear that you would be right. Because, although BYU head coach Dave Rose says Loyd was academically in good standing and that he had not run afoul of the school's honor code, "(Loyd) was given some guidelines in regards to behavior, dress, and appearance that he apparently decided he just couldn’t abide by," according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

He is known to have a tongue ring. He also wore a mohawk late in the season, but so did other players still on the team.

In cases like these, I almost reflexively side with the student and not the institution. The more rigidly a school enforces a template of detailed minutiae of everything a student wears, says, thinks, eats, and so on, the less I probably like that institution. I don't like the sanctimonious, revered schools like Notre Dame and Duke, give me a scrappy school of troubled teens coached by a guy who is trying to turn their life around not by pestering them about the length of their hair or their shorts, but important things like education, self-esteem, kindness to others, and self-expression. That's the model I believe in.

But BYU is a bit of a special case. You'd think if I dislike Notre Dame and Duke, I'd have to just hate a place like BYU. But I don't. And I struggle to explain why. It has something to do with the fact that you know, or should know, exactly what you are getting with Brigham Young University. You know they will be strict even by typical religious-school standards. You know they will be more traditional, with more insistence on respecting the structure, than a typical religious school. I have to wonder if Loyd could not have seen this clash coming.

Another thing that impresses me about BYU is their fans. In researching this story, I made the rounds of their blogs, comments, and message boards to gauge their reaction. I was expecting a lot of "good riddance, inner-city thug" kind of sentiment that is absolutely pervasive among the fans of even the most permissive, secular of schools when they lose a troubled player (and I am not calling Loyd a troubled player).

Instead, I found almost none of that. They are almost universally upset see him go. Virtually no one is scapegoating Loyd, even in the mildest of terms. I was most surprised how willing they were to call out their university on the same grounds I would: arbitrary rigidity, putting pressure on a kid for being merely compliant with the rules rather than a beatific model of them, etc.

I was particularly impressed by the comment of one "Archaea" at

"BYU is at fault for this, we tend to be so much about conformity and so little about unity. Strict conservatives within our culture mistake one for the other ... (w)e can find a bunch of white CPAs anywhere, but how will we enrich ourselves if that is all that we ever attract and retain ... (i)t is a very disruptive event to attract non-LDS black athletes only to see a disproportionate enough of such athletes not stay at BYU. I wish administration and the culture would strive harder to make it easier to embrace all, especially those who qualify academically and via the Honor Code."

Today, coach Rose basically just repeated what he had already said with more verbosity without relating any specific details: "The situation with Mike basically came down to accountability issues and responsibility issues, and things that we had discussed many times and when it came right down to it, we just felt that the direction that we were going as a team and as a program, and the things that we felt were really, really important ... Mike struggled with some of those issues,” Rose said. “So the best thing for us to do was kinda go in different directions. And that is kind of how it happened."

He also stated that Loyd was academically qualified to play anywhere in the country, but that academics were a "struggle" for him.

So it sounds as if he is making the grade, but only just. It sounds as if he is staying on the right side of the Honor Code, but only just. It sounds like "only just" isn't good enough for BYU, and it's getting to be too much a drag for Loyd to keep trying. It would be for me, too.

The thing about black-and-white standards is, once you lay them on paper, and those conditions are met, I don't really think you have any room to complain, and that's my biggest beef with BYU about all this. I can't really put it better than Jennifer Anniston's character in "Office Space."

So what now for Loyd? If he transfers to a Division I school, he will only have one year of eligibility left. If he drops a division, he retains both remaining years of eligibility and can play right away.

Although he has a brother headed to Oregon on a basketball scholarship, he is said to be leaning towards the Division II route. He wants to play. And play today he did, seen in a pickup game on the BYU campus with players form Utah State and Utah Valley. He's a basketball player. I wish him well. I wish BYU well, too.

Comments and Conversation

May 6, 2010


Love the reference from “Office Space”! It’s such a liberating moment, and she plays it perfectly.

Agree totally. If the school isn’t happy with players just barely making the grade and the honor code, then why not raise the standards? Why give him some apparently unattainable goal to reach for when it isn’t required, then be upset when he fails to find the motivation or desire to attain it?

He deserves better than that school…I hope he finds it.

Well written as always…I like your passion and the way you see both sides of the story.

May 7, 2010

Krista Cook:

I’m a BYU grad and lifetime Mormon. I’m sorry to see Lloyd leave the school. But, the standards at BYU are well known and every student signs a commitment to abide by them. If you don’t, you aren’t admitted. There are no unknowns. Non-Mormon athletes seem to think that BYU may give more latitude to star players like other schools do. It doesn’t. I’m glad BYU keeps its standards. That is why I went there.

May 9, 2010


I, too, am a BYU grad and I’m ashamed of the way they treated Loyd. It came down to getting rid of him to make way for a JC transfer (Stephen Rogers) when they could have taken away the scholarship of another guy who is a former walk-on who didn’t contribute on the basketball court the way that Loyd did. And, then, they had the gall to portray it as a “mutual” decision. It really smacks of discrimination and dishonesty. So much for the standards…

BYU is a really great school, but they need to get rid of the Pharisees in the office jobs, not the non-Mormons who have the courage to come here.

May 10, 2010


Makes me wonder if the responsibility issues Rose speaks of were agreements made by the team. maybe he didn’t show up to practice on time, or maybe he didn’t make it in by his “basketball curfew”. Coach Rose never says it has anything to do with breaking the honor code. But, maybe he broke his word with the coaches or with the team. Honestly, I hate hate hate to see Loyd go. I loved watching him in the tourney… I just hope the reasoning actually makes sense if you know all of the facts.

May 11, 2010

Dottie Prince:

The standards at BYU and any other school are there for a reason. Basketball will not usually feed and clothe a family for a lifetime. Sports of any kind are a game and not a constant in most lives. Oh, he might be able to play for a few years, but what if he gets injured and has to work at something else? The standards at BYU are geared toward helping a student make a LIFETIME of good choices. Sports activities are not and should not be the “end-all and be-all” of anyone’s existence. The concepts taught in sports activities are good to know - teamwork, co-operation, rules, etc. - but in the end these are only MEANS to an end and not the end itself. He can play sports in any school and he will be okay. BYU has rules they expect their students to live by and that should not be held against them. They are good rules and they hurt no one by living by them. If he can’t live by them, then moving on is the best thing he can do. There are other good players who WILL live by those standards and rules and the school is not going to suffer because one player leaves no matter how good that player may be. Too much emphasis is being placed on the games and the players. No one is so indispensable that they can’t be replaced.

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