Harding All-American QB David Knighton suspended

I normally don’t post about Harding football here.  There’s typically not much reason to.  The atmosphere at football games was not what it was for basketball when I was there, and I had trouble getting into it.  The team also isn’t very good this year: their record is just 2-8 (1-6 GSC) because of a woeful defense that is allowing 38.6 points per game.

One of the bright spots on the team had been the play of quarterback David Knighton, who was an All-American in 2007 after throwing for over 3,000 yards with 32 touchdowns.  His NFL prospects had perhaps been inflated by the pass-happy offensive style employed by coach Ronnie Huckeba and OC Tim Perry, but that doesn’t make the offense any less exciting.  With the Bisons playing from behind in virtually every game, Knighton was averaging 56 pass attempts and 383 passing yards per game with an efficiency rating of just 125.  That’s only impressive in terms of volume, but those gaudy numbers were bound to get him some draft consideration.

All of that may have changed now, as the Associated Press is reporting that Knighton has been suspended from the school for a code of conduct violation.  The article reports Knighton’s father’s account of the incident, in which he says that his son allowed a female student to spend the night at his off-campus apartment, which violates the following clause in the student handbook:

“Staying overnight in a motel, hotel or any such arrangement with a member of the opposite gender will result in suspension, although explicit sexual immorality may not have been observed.”

Knighton’s father was quoted as saying, “They were judge, jury and God all in one.”  The full article includes a few other quotes that express a similar sentiment.  Knighton will be appealing the suspension.

Due to the star athlete status of the student in violation, this will probably bring unwelcome, but perhaps not undeserved, publicity to Harding’s very stringent student code of conduct, which can be found here (caution: PDF link).

Regardless of what actually happened (and I suppose nothing has been proven at this point), I think it’s worth pointing out because of the rule itself.  It’s my personal opinion that some aspects of Harding’s rules need to enter the 21st century.  Like the ASI lecture series, which turns its nose up at the idea of intellectual honesty, many of the current rules are ostensibly still on the books because of a segment of Harding alumni and parents who find it necessary to legislate and enforce their own narrow view of morality.

There are plenty of well-intentioned folks at Harding, even in the administration, but it’s my opinion that they allow too much parental control over a group of, let’s face it, full-fledged adult students.  It’s time they realize how ludicrous it is to waste time enforcing a rule that doesn’t even require proof of any wrongdoing.  It’s insulting to the students who abide by the Christian principles that the administration seeks to uphold.

Having said all of that, let me address Knighton’s ill-fated decision, assuming the facts of the report are correct.  Knighton made a profoundly dumb move by actually letting the girl stay over, and his dad’s insinuation that it was out of concern for her safety is bogus, or misguided at best.  There are parts of Searcy that are better than others, but as a whole it’s a pretty tame place to live.  The idea that she would have been left out in the cold is pretty far out there, given the presence of campus security and many on-campus housing locations.  Sure, she probably would have been in trouble if she went in after curfew, but those are consequences she ought to have dealt with anyway.

There’s one other point to consider in all of this: it’s pretty obvious that Harding didn’t weigh heavily Knighton’s status or the health of the football team, which is encouraging.  There are too many programs (mostly bigger ones) where a football player who broke this kind of rule would have gone completely unpunished, and the university is to be commended for not perpetuating that particular double standard.

Those are my scatterbrained thoughts so far.


9 thoughts on “Harding All-American QB David Knighton suspended

  1. Quotes from Ark. Dem. Gaz.

    Knighton said he knew his actions could lead to losing his standing as a student.

    “On this policy, a girl staying the night, that’s automatic,” Knighton said.

  2. Although they lost the game, DK was exciting to watch when they came to Valdosta.

    I heard about this this morning in my inbox. It left me with several thoughts, some similar to yours but some different.

    1. Reggie has absolutely no credibility. He said in the article “This decision that he made, he thought was a Christian decision – not to leave someone out in the cold,”.

    Was Reggie there? How does he know? I see this in my job (and in Jenny’s job) all the time. Parents defend their kids regardless of if they have any clue what’s going on. There may be more to it than that, I only know what the article says, but it seems like he is stretching pretty far to defend his child’s action.

    Contrary to what Mr. Reggie said, as I go through the scenario in my mind, I have a hard time seeing how DK is completely 100% innocent. Whether or not “anything happened”, DK used poor judgment when he weighed is options (I’m going to assume that he did actually weigh his options.) Was the risk of being caught with a girl at your place during the night worth keeping this girl from a curfew violation? Seems like an easy decision to me. By the way, what is Harding’s punishment for too many curfew violations? I think it speaks volumes that I don’t know the answer to that question, but I suppose that would make a good blog post, don’t you think?

    2. I believe that regardless of if we agree with the rules or not, we are to still obey these rules. Take speed limit for example. I don’t agree with the city that I’m being “unsafe” if I go over 35 mph down Gordon Drive. Even though I may not agree with that rule, it is my responsibility to obey the governing authorities (Romans 13).

    Whether or not we agree with the rule, a rule is a rule. DK, as well as the rest of the student body, was made aware of these rules and (if I remember correctly) even sign their names by them (we signed so many papers, seems like one of them had to do with rules, right?).

    3. Now, onto the other side. I agree with you about Harding’s rules. I could be wrong about this, but I feel like the rules they have are more of a result of the Christian worldview of the Board members than anything else. If the Board members are conservative Republicans that don’t wear shorts then I suppose they want their school to be too?

    OK, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh there, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

    4. Harding has a tough job. Being a Christian University, they have to maintain that every aspect of their school (academics, athletics, clubs, etc.) upholds Christian values. As you mentioned, many who go to the school are responsible, Christian adults. However, there are also those attending Harding that are neither responsible, nor Christian. They have to deal with those students while keeping others from feeling like robots. It’s a tough job.

    I suppose my thoughts are just as scattered as yours. I’ll be interested to see how his appeal turns out.

    I guess I’m also curious to see if Nancy Grace will attack us again??

    And all of this happens just when we thought politics were over…

  3. Ha…I’m with you on Nancy Grace. Where is she when we need her to talk some sense into our crazy CoC cult?

    Actually I’m with you on pretty much all of that. I guess we have to define “innocent” as either (A) innocent of breaking Harding’s rule or (B) innocent of sexual immorality. If the reported facts are correct, he’s clearly not innocent as defined by (A), and we will likely never know about (B).

    If he’s guilty of breaking the rule, he made an unfortunate decision that seems to have put both his education and football career in jeopardy. It’s true he agreed to abide by the rules, so he’ll deserve the punishment whether or not it’s an arcane rule.

  4. I’m glad you posted about this. I had heard about it, and wanted to discuss it with someone, somewhere.

    Some basic thoughts:

    (1) As a private university, Harding can basically make any rules it wants, and Knighton was fully aware of those rules.

    (2) I understand the point of the rule in question, and I have no problem with HU taking a hard line against sexual immorality.

    (3) I also understand why, for the sake of ease and consistency, they basically have a no tolerance policy on this issue, but I think it might be better (though infinitely more difficult) to investigate each instance and make a decision regarding that specific case (i.e., so it’s not automatic expulsion).

    (4) Assuming the story as told by Knighton is accurate (and I have no reason to assume otherwise), it’s unfortunate that the girl made the decision she did. She likely would’ve gotten into trouble, but not the amount of trouble that Knighton (and presumably, her too) ended up getting into. An unfortunate decision.

    (5) I agree with you that it is encouraging that he apparently received no special treatment. That says something about HU’s integrity, I think.

    (6) I can’t stand how Harding hushes up stuff like this—there’s nothing about it on the Harding Sports site that I could find. I found out about it via Facebook.

  5. While Harding’s draconian Code of Conduct is baffling to me, I do commend the school for treating him as if he were any other student.

    Knighton knew the rules when he signed with Harding. He easily could have signed with 99.9% of D-II or NAIA schools (the ones who offered him scholarships anyway) where any non-criminal interaction with the opposite sex off-campus would be a non-incident.

  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone. The discussion here has been much better than what I’ve read on the D-II football forums and the comment threads for the news stories.

    It sounds like we mostly agree on two things:

    1. Knighton made a poor decision and clearly broke Harding’s rules if he did in fact let a girl stay the night.

    2. Like any other Harding student who agreed on those rules (which I think we all had to do), he deserves to be punished for breaking them. Harding should punish a football star for consistency’s sake (at the very least), since they’ve punished others for the same.

    Some more comments:

    I’m not a big fan of many of the rules, but I agreed to abide by them and didn’t have trouble with that while I was at Harding. Curfew probably frustrated me more than anything, since there were plenty of occasions when I wanted to do perfectly reasonable things that would have me out past midnight (basketball games and concerts for the most part).

    Having said that, I do think it’s beneficial or perhaps completely necessary for what Harding is trying to accomplish (spiritual focus, etc.) for them to take a tough stance on sexual immorality, when they can actually prove something occurred.

    I assume that the Harding perspective is based on Ephesians 5:3, where Paul instructs the church not to have a “hint of sexual immorality” among them. I think we should follow Paul’s teaching, but we could argue all day about what constitutes a “hint” and how we should or shouldn’t enforce that. Like you said, Luke, they’ve probably taken their stance for simplicity’s sake, but we might be better off if proof of sexual immorality were required before handing out a punishment like expulsion.

    I think they’re deciding on the appeal today, from what I read. We’ll see how it plays out.

  7. To follow up on your comment #6, Luke, I totally agree. There’s still no mention of the incident on Harding’s official site (not even that he will simply miss today’s game), and nothing in this week’s game notes aside from the previous games’ recaps.

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