Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune BYU linebacker Francis Bernard is back at Spring camp practice Monday March 13 after being suspended during the Poinsettia Bowl.
James Bernard, 25, a former walk-on at Utah who completed his college career at Winston-Salem State in North Carolina, said his 22-year-old brother has asked BYU for a release.
“Just to be clear: My brother wants to transfer, regardless,” James Bernard said. “We talk almost every day. He just doesn’t want to stay there any more.”
Thursday, BYU announced that Bernard, a Herriman High product, “is using his redshirt season for personal reasons and will be a junior for the Cougars when he returns to the field in 2018.” The school said the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Bernard “will continue to participate in all team practices, meetings and activities during the upcoming season.”
James Bernard said his brother has an ecclesiastical endorsement from the bishop of his student ward at BYU, required of all students who attend the school owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said the bishop, Bernard’s parents and the player himself have had several meetings with representatives from BYU’s Honor Code Office this summer, but the representatives have never told him exactly how he ran afoul of the code of conduct.
“My parents kept asking them, ‘Why can’t our son play?’ Just simple, general questions, and they couldn’t even answer that,” James Bernard said. “Usually when you are getting punished, they tell you what you are being punished for. But my parents couldn’t even tell you why he is not playing, and they were in the room.”
“That’s where everything is fuzzy to me, because if you know [coach] Kalani Sitake, he is a big players’ coach. The players love him,” James Bernard said. “The whole time he is telling Francis it is a green light, you are going to play this season. And then we go to bat for [Francis] in the honor code meeting, and they come out and say he can’t play, just randomly.”
BYU’s response to Bernard’s transfer plans are unclear. One option the school could take could be to refuse to release him to another in-state program, but let him go anywhere he wants out of state with its blessing.
Student-athletes who transfer from one Division I program to another must sit out a year, per NCAA rules. Athletes who get “released” from the school in which they depart can begin receiving financial aid and support and can be contacted by schools to which they are released.