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Monson: If Langi wants to transfer from U. to BYU, we all should let him

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Gordon Monson

By Gordon Monson

Tribune Columnist

First published Jul 08 2014 10:23AM
Updated Jul 9, 2014 05:36PM

Harvey Langi is quoted in a Deseret News report as saying he wants to transfer from Utah to BYU upon his return from an LDS Church mission and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is quoted as saying he will not release the former Bingham High running back — and there are arguments to be made in all directions as to what is happening here and what should happen.

There is only one thing that should happen — and we’ll get to it in a minute. Turns out what should happen will happen if Langi so desires; he never signed a national letter of intent with Utah, therefore he now becomes a free agent to attend whichever school he wants.

One side note: On the same day the report is published, NFL.com ranks the BYU-Utah football rivalry as the nation’s 12th best.

According to Langi, though, this has nothing to do with football.

He says that while serving his two years as a missionary in Tampa, Fla., he changed. His quote on that will bother a whole lot of Ute fans, even though he makes concessions countering his motivations as he speaks.

"I love and appreciate the University of Utah," he’s quoted as saying, "but this isn’t about them, or their players, coaches, school colors, uniforms or who has the best business school. This is about how I’ve evolved and changed as a person on my mission. I know lots of guys returned to the U. from missions and excelled. Over a period of time, I felt that for me, at this stage of my life, I feel like BYU’s Honor Code is something I can embrace. There are higher expectations there that I wasn’t prepared or willing or able to live before my mission, but now going home, I want to live it. I’m a different person."

He goes on.

"I expect Utah fans may want to spit on me or whatever, but that’s OK. What matters to me is what I can become in 10, 20, 30 years from now. I’m a work in progress. I believe BYU will offer me ways to grow as a person that may not happen at Utah or anywhere else. It’s different for everybody. I saw guys change at Utah after missions, so I suppose it can happen anywhere. But for me personally, I feel like BYU will help me reach my goals — I’m not even talking about football. This may seem silly or a small thing, but before my mission, I always wore my hair long. I look forward to standards that will require me to be clean-shaven and wear my hair short. I know I can do that at Utah, and plenty of guys do. I don’t know how to explain it, but I want to be where others all live by those same expectations."

OK, there’s a whole lot there to dissect.

Before we do, remember that LDS missionaries typically have been living in a state of mind, body and spirit unlike just about any other. Maybe Tibetan monks can relate, but everyday folks living regular lives who have never spent two years dedicating themselves to a religious cause can’t.

So Langi is ablaze in that afterglow at his release.

But the idea that he cannot be who he is, what he wants to be, anywhere but at BYU could and likely would bother not just Ute fans, but Mormon Ute fans, and a lot of Mormons otherwise affiliated with the university. Again, he concedes that it can be done, he just doesn’t think it’s best for him. He further says he can now embrace the Honor Code. He wasn’t able to do that before, when he first enrolled at Utah, but now he wants to live it. He’s a different person.

This is confusing to the aforementioned groups. If Langi wants to live by the tenets of the Honor Code, and if he really is a "changed person" and a "different person," then why must he break away from Utah and all the good people and advantages there and attend BYU to accomplish that? He can live according to "higher expectations" — that word "higher" is always a flashpoint for combustion — wherever he’s going to school and playing football.

If he wants to wear his hair short, he can wear it short wherever he is. Again, he concedes that. Then, he says he wants to wear his hair short where everybody is wearing their hair short, which is, on the one hand, understandable, but, on the other hand, a bit frightening. Wouldn’t want to be studying or playing or associating with, you know, any of those longhairs.

It just sounds weird, since Mormons are a vast minority in a big, wide world of valuable people with varied beliefs, a world where if a Mormon wants to follow the tenets of his religion, he’ll almost always be surrounded by diversity and always have to find the strength within himself to follow those tenets, that one now wants to glom onto a place where everyone believes and does the same things.

Then, Langi says none of this has anything to do with football.

That’s a tough one to buy, especially since Whittingham has said he’s planning on moving Langi to the defensive side. None of us can read Langi’s mind, so suspicion replaces knowledge on that one.

Langi’s mom, Kalesita, says she wants her son to remain at Utah, and would rather see him play just about anywhere but BYU. Regardless of what Langi is actually thinking, the most troublesome part of this story was Whittingham’s reaction to it.

According to the report, the Utah coach, who is vacationing in Hawaii, says: "As far as I’m concerned, he’s a Ute. I’m not releasing him."

Because Langi never signed his NLI, as an early enrollee in January 2011, he doesn’t need Whittingham’s release.

The fact that a player, according to NCAA rules, typically has to get a release from a coach is ridiculous. It’s hypocrisy at the highest level. Would Whittingham have to get a release from his players if he were offered $7 million a year to coach at Arkansas or UCLA? Those who invoke the notion that a player is being disloyal or dishonorable by not honoring a commitment to his initial school, all while the coaches bolt whenever they want, have no eyes to see what’s going on.

It’s a joke. That policy should be changed. A player should be allowed to pursue his interests — in all cases — at whichever school he wants, whenever he wants, for whatever reason. The power should not lie in the hands of the institution or the coach.

Bottom line is this: No matter whether Harvey Langi’s reasoning to transfer makes sense to anyone on the outside, whether his logic is good or bad or anywhere in between, whether it’s football related or simply a gut feeling pushing him one way or another, it’s still his decision.

He should always be able to make it, without penalty, and, in a perfect world, without anyone spitting on him.

Answering to his mom is another deal.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.

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