BYU is angling to become a member of the Big 12 Conference, but on Monday, a new challenge presented itself to the Cougars’ candidacy.
Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization that works to build connections between straight and LGBT athletes, posted a letter, signed by 26 different organizations including GLAAD and the National LGBTQ Taskforce, to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, criticizing the school for anti-LGBT policies.
We are writing to express our concerns about Brigham Young University’s (BYU) candidacy for Big 12 Conference membership. As organizations committed to ending homophobia, biphobia and transphobia both on and off the field of play, we are deeply troubled by this possibility. We feel it would be extremely problematic to include BYU in your conference expansion for the following reasons:
Adding BYU would be inconsistent with Big 12 Conference membership values.
The letter goes on to allege that Brigham Young University policies violate NCAA rules and Title IX.
The Big 12 is known for its dedication to its sports community (fans, coaches, staff and players, etc.) and its commitment to the welfare of its student-athletes. BYU’s membership to the Big 12 would jeopardize both. First, LGBT coaches, players and fans who attend and/or compete at any Big 12 events hosted at BYU would be subject to discrimination since BYU remains exempt from Utah’s LGBT nondiscrimination law. Moreover, any student-athlete who identifies as LGBT, and subsequently selects BYU due to its Big 12 membership, would be subjected to BYU’s unabashed discrimination. This would endanger the student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility and mental health. The Big 12’s sports community, especially its student athletes, deserve better than this.
BYU’s anti-LGBT policies violate both Big 12 guidelines and NCAA guidelines.
Bowlsby had a brief response to the letter this afternoon.
Here is Bob Bowlsby's initial response to Athlete Ally re: BYU letter. pic.twitter.com/LhLamTj1Nw
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 9, 2016
Thank you for your note. As we move forward with our processes we will certainly take your concerns into consideration. I appreciate your having taken the time to express your thoughts.
Shortly after Bowlsby’s statement, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe tweeted that all members of the LGBT community are welcome to play and attend games at the school.
LGBT players, coaches and fans are always welcome to the BYU campus. Everyone should be treated with respect, dignity and love. Tom
— Tom Holmoe (@TomHolmoe) August 9, 2016
The Cougars have a strong football history, and a number of other top programs. However, it seems like other programs like Cincinnati and Houston have more support from the conference’s most influential programs, Oklahoma and Texas respectively.
The letter from Athlete Ally may not have a major impact on BYU’s Big 12 hopes, but it probably doesn’t help either.