March 31, 2016 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire with 119 comments
Alex Walker, the coach of the Utah State men’s ultimate team, sent us an email hoping to bring to light some further points about the possibility of accommodating BYU to allow them to compete at Regionals. His email is below.
I am the coach for the Utah State Men’s team, which competes with BYU in the Big Sky section. I am not [a member of the Latter Day Saints church] and recently moved to Utah. Having played in Seattle, Minnesota, and Washington D.C., I have been impressed with the ultimate community in Utah, particularly the high school outreach in the state. Though Utah State does not have any restrictions on Sunday play, we do have a large LDS population and many members of our team choose not to play on Sundays. What BYU has done with the available options to them is remarkable. At no point have I heard any members of the team or their coaching staff complain. They work extremely hard to promote the sport of ultimate at BYU and in the greater community.
Much of the criticism that I’ve seen online in response to BYU’s recent success seems to me centered around whether or not they can earn a bid if they cannot compete for it. From my perspective, much of the opinion is rooted in a misunderstanding of the situation that BYU is in and how fair or unfair the situation is perceived.
Solutions do exist for allowing BYU to compete and they’ve been used by USA Ultimate itself already: the Utah High School State Championships do not include games on Sunday. Outside of ultimate, the entire (mostly LDS) state of Utah manages to schedule all types of sports at all levels with minimal issues. At the club sports level, collegiate rugby altered its schedule in order to make sure that all teams could compete at its national tournament. These are clear real world solutions, which is why I found it frustrating that most responses to your articles were from people pointing out the problem and advocating solutions that would keep BYU on the outside looking in.
Ultimate prides itself on being an open and welcoming community, so why are so many folks willing to advocate solutions that would keep people out? Furthermore, BYU has done everything that has been asked by them, by USAU, and by their school administration, yet we still devote our energy to keeping them out.
Would Friday-Saturday tournaments require more communication and scheduling? Of course. However, I firmly believe that workable solutions can be found. This is not a slippery slope problem; this is not a mandate to make every tournament Friday-Saturday. Put simply, this is about getting the best 20 teams to compete at Nationals.
When the response to a BYU’s situation is an unwillingness to change the schedule, the team is in essence being asked to choose between ultimate and their religion. Should that really be the case? Can we as a community listen objectively to BYU and think about possible alternatives rather dismissing them out of hand?