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Why is BYU basketball freshman Steven Beo wearing a retired jersey number?

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Beo is wearing #14. The problem? #14 belongs to Mel Hutchins.

Steven Beo, BYU Basketball, BYU Photo

UPDATE: According to BYU, Steven Beo is changing his jersey number.


Steven Beo had a great night during the exhibition game against Seattle Pacific on Oct. 29. He played for 15 minutes in the 2nd half. He shot 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 at the stripe for a total of 15 points. Beo even added an assist and a couple rebounds to the proceedings.

While most people were focused on his hot shooting and Troy Bolton hair, I was distracted by his jersey number.

Beo was wearing the number 14. And I had questions.

On Feb. 16, 2013, the BYU athletic department decided to honor Mel Hutchins (and Roland Minson) for his basketball career at the Y. They immortalized “The Big Elf” by retiring his jersey number — 14.

Fans and family watched the ceremony and remembered or learned about Hutchins’ legendary career: His leading of BYU to the 1951 NIT Championship. His astonishing school record 471 rebounds in a single season. Being taken No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. Hutchins himself shared his experiences playing for BYU.

In the end, the occasion evoked pride as the jersey was hung from the rafters and his number was retired. Ensuring that Hutchins’ legacy — his story — would be told going forward.

A retired number is also a tribute that is made to indicate that no matter how many other talented athletes walk onto campus, no one should have to play under the immense gravity of the greatness that has been thrust upon that number. As if to indicate that the weight of that number at this school is too much of a burden to place upon someone else.

The honor secures that nobody be allowed to let the number carry a different meaning for the program or its fans in the years and generations that follow.

Some programs will retire a jersey but not a number, a technicality that doesn’t officially put the number out of commission for future use. But in the press release issued by BYU Athletics announcing the accolade for Hutchins, it quite clearly explains the rules and intention of the university when they recognized Hutchins 62 years after he finished his playing career.

It reads:

Hutchins (14) and Minson (11) will join Kresimir Cosic (11) and Danny Ainge (22) as the only men’s basketball players to have their jerseys and numbers retired at BYU. Current and future players do not have the option to wear retired numbers.

That’s pretty straight forward. As of Feb. 16, 2013, current and future men’s basketball players do not have the option to wear the retired numbers of 11, 14 or 22 at Brigham Young University.

Except, here we are, less than four years later and there is Beo wearing the number 14 on the floor while Hutchins’ 14 hangs in the rafters.

So, what’s the deal here? I thought the number 14 was, you know, retired. So, I’m missing something, and have some questions:

Is Beo related to Mel Hutchins? Maybe he is wearing the number as an exception as a form of tribute to his grandfather?

If Beo isn’t related to Mel Hutchins, did he at least get in contact with Hutchins to ask for permission?

Does Beo have any working knowledge about Mel Hutchins and his BYU basketball legacy? In order to wear his retired jersey, did he have to watch the old film of the 1951 NIT Championship game? Or did he have to collect 900 rebounds during practice to earn the honor?

Beo wore the number 14 in high school. Maybe he indicated to Dave Rose that he wouldn’t commit to BYU if he couldn’t wear number 14. Did Dave Rose make him that promise and hope that nobody would notice or ask questions?

Did everyone at BYU basketball just space it? When Beo asked for 14, did they send the order to Nike before realizing their mistake? Is it too late now to get Steven Beo a different jersey number? If so, why?

Is there any way that this sort of mistake would have been made with Ainge’s 22? There is no way that this oversight would have happened to Danny, right?

Should I be preparing myself for LJ Rose to step onto the Marriott Center floor wearing 22? Is Elijah Bryant going to wear Cosic and Minson’s 11 when he is healthy?

Did Mel Hutchins have a Cosby-esque fall from grace that I somehow missed?

Finally, my last question:

Why go to the trouble of bringing in Hutchins’ family, telling Mel’s story and legacy to the fans, and having a lovely jersey number retirement ceremony at halftime in front of a sold out Marriott Center if it were going to be undone by a kid from Richland, Wash., just three seasons later?

We reached out to BYU on Monday to understand what’s happening, but have yet to hear back. We’ll let you know if we do.