BYU 1-on-1: Dickson and Lloyd weigh in on what happened at BYU volleyball
Dickson and Lloyd weigh in on what happened at BYU volleyball
BYU sports experts Darnell Dickson and Jared Lloyd address five of the big questions facing Cougar athletics this week:
1. How do you feel BYU administration handled the incident at the Duke volleyball match?
DICKSON: I’ve covered hundreds of men’s and women’s volleyball matches in the Smith Fieldhouse. Not only is it an amazing home court advantage for BYU but I’ve talked to dozens of opposing players and coaches who love playing there. Many of the Cougars opponents play home games in front of a couple of hundred fans, and to compete in the Fieldhouse in front of 4-5,000 is a treat. The environment is unique in all of college volleyball. I’ve heard and seen fans get personal with opponents, i.e. calling them by their first names or poking fun at them because of their hair or something. I’ve never heard anything even remotely racial in 30 years covering volleyball in that building.
Not to say it’s never happened. As for Friday’s alleged racial comments, BYU is in a tough spot for a couple of reasons. One, the narrative has changed several times from the Duke perspective, making it difficult to really know when these comments were supposed to have been made. Two, it’s difficult to hand out punishment or make corrections if you can’t find the guilty party. No one has come forward to say they also heard the racial comments. I believe BYU administrators and game officials did the best they could under difficult circumstances and will continue to make changes to try and create a safe environment in the Fieldhouse.
The social media mob, 99% of whom weren’t in the arena last Friday and are latching onto second, third, fourth and fifth-hand accounts of what happened, want blood and don’t care about facts that might get in the way.
Rachel Richardson’s approach seems good to me. She wants to start the healing, move on and have both sides of the discussion try to get better every day.
LLOYD: I’ve had a number of insightful conversations about this situation, both from people who feel like BYU’s handling of the alleged usage of racial slurs against Duke’s Rachel Richardson and other Black players wasn’t adequate and from people who think the allegations were either fabricated or mistakes.
My personal opinion — after reading the police report, hearing the accounts from Richardson and re-watching as much of the match as I can — is that it is very possible one of the individuals in the Cougar student section could’ve made the horrendous decision to use racial slurs and only the player would be in the position to hear it. Many of the students in the area had their hands cupped around their mouths to direct the sound at the athletes, while the ambient noise was very loud.
Richardson never looked around while preparing to serve to attempt to identify where the words were coming from. In the fourth set, she stood with her teammates near the edge of the BYU student section instead of distancing herself from it, which makes no sense if she was being deceitful in any way. She may have assumed what was said was clearly heard by everyone when that wasn’t the case. Even her teammates, who also were scanning the crowd during the fourth set, don’t appear to have been able to single anyone out and thus leapt to a conclusion that the slurs were connected to an individual involved in a post-match incident.
I do think that many of the instantaneous reactions to the initial reports (mine included) were wrong because we didn’t have all the facts. Many of us made assumptions that now appear to have been in error and BYU does appear to have actively attempted to find the culprit when it was made aware of the allegations.
But I also think much of the focus has been on the wrong things, on the negatives.
I hope if anyone at the BYU game did use a racial slur (or even considered using a racial slur), they see now how completely wrong it was (or would be) and instead commit to act with more love and compassion. I hope anyone who hears someone speaking or acting in a bigoted way — whether that’s because of someone’s race or gender or religion or anything else — will find greater courage to stand for what is right and not enable such deplorable actions.
Regardless of what actually happened last Friday, I strongly believe those objectives are ones we should all embrace and that would be the best thing to come out of this situation.
2. What concerns you most about Saturday’s BYU football game at South Florida?
LLOYD: Whenever you are a ranked opponent going on the road to play a team with nothing to lose, you have to recognize that you are going to get the underdog’s best shot. The Bulls can try new things like Arizona did last year, roll the dice with blitz packages or unusual alignments, and frankly play loose. The longer BYU lets USF stay in the game, the more dangerous it becomes. The Cougars did have a tendency to play at the level of the competition in 2021, which could be a recipe for disaster in these circumstances. If it is close or the Bulls lead in the second half, BYU should definitely be extremely nervous.
DICKSON: South Florida has new offensive and defensive coordinators this season, and a new quarterback. Sure, BYU is familiar with quarterback Gerry Bohanan (since he played at Baylor last year) but the Cougar coaching staff is going to be playing it by ear for much of the first half to identify what they need to do on both sides of the ball. Remember last year’s Arizona game? Similar situation and the Wildcats did pretty much nothing BYU was expecting. The unknown, coupled with a first game on the road in Florida’s humid and hot climate, will make things dicey for the Cougars, especially early on in the game.
3. What do you think will be the deciding factor in the BYU-USF football game?
DICKSON: I believe BYU’s offensive and defensive lines will make the difference in this game. The offensive line is potentially one of the best the Cougars have ever put on the field and they will need to establish dominance. The BYU defensive line is experienced but needs to dig in, help slow down the South Florida run game and put pressure on what should be a pass-heavy offense. It’s a big task for both sides.
LLOYD: I look at the South Florida roster and I see some really good athletes. The best way to counter that is to execute at a high level and I think this BYU squad is primed to do that on both sides of the ball. The Cougar defense has veterans at every position and I think they’ll come up with ways to disrupt the Bull offense. Even more importantly, I see BYU’s offense drawing on its own experience to limit costly miscues like penalties and turnovers, and thus getting opportunities to put quite a few points on the board.
4. It was a tough final NFL cutdown day for former BYU players on Tuesday. Which of those athletes do you feel will have the best chance of sticking on a practice squad and eventually making a roster?
LLOYD: I’m going to sidestep the question slightly, since officially it wasn’t until Wednesday that former BYU defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga was waived by the Chicago Bears. Tonga had some good moments for Chicago last year and teams always need guys who can tie up blocks in the middle of the defensive line. I expect Tonga to get an opportunity to make a roster soon and don’t be surprised if he gets significant playing time.
DICKSON: I love what Matt Bushman brings to the table as an NFL tight end. He showed flashes of that the other night when he caught a pair of touchdown passes for the Chiefs in an exhibition game, only to suffer a broken clavicle. I think he’ll heal up and make another run at a roster spot, maybe even this season. He’s got too much talent to not keep around. His combination of size and speed will be a boon to any NFL team that gives him the chance.
5. Thursday night there will be a BYU volleyball match (Utah State) at the Smith Fieldhouse and a Cougar soccer game (Alabama) at South Field. Which contest will have the largest attendance?
DICKSON: Tough call. Volleyball is a local matchup but any time a BYU athletic program takes on a team from the SEC, it’s special. I’m going to give the nod to soccer this time, but it’ll be close. It’s a really critical weekend for the No. 6 volleyball team, which also will face future Big 12 opponent Cincinnati and top 10 Pitt in the Nike Invitational. The women’s soccer team beat Alabama 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament last season and the Crimson Tide will be looking for revenge.
LLOYD: I’m going to agree with Darnell that more fans will be at South Field to see the women’s soccer team face Alabama than will be at BYU’s match against Utah State — but I think both will be well attended. The Cougar soccer team is tied for sixth in the latest United Soccer Coaches rankings while Alabama got the 30th most votes, so the Crimson Tide aren’t an unknown. The thing is that both games are big, since the BYU women’s volleyball team is facing a sneaky-good Aggie team that knocked off No.12-ranked UCLA last week. Talk about a fun night in Provo.