The honor code is in many respects similar to temple recommend questions. A quick summary:
Be honestRead this story about someone who's been there and his experience looking back.
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code
I have no doubt there have been violators in the past who were never discovered, but I applaud BYU for maintaining standards. As a result the school is consistently the most "sober" and has a good track record for ethical behavior and academic excellence. They aren't perfect because people aren't perfect, but they do have a clear line of demarcation and students agree to this when they come. Perfection is actually defined as whole and complete. In their goal to prepare people for success in all areas of life (spirituality included) they do meet that standard in my opinion. Some students have found the code to be restrictive and enforcement of the letter of the law can sometimes result in problems. My son grows a heavy beard and during the school day when he attended BYU, he was accused of not being clean shaven by late afternoon. Unless he took an afternoon shaving break, it could be perceived (and was on one occasion) to be a violation of grooming standards. This was a bit of a nit-picking by the honor code office staff and he had to answer on this. Needless to say it left a bad taste in his mouth. He got his degree, which was his goal, but he felt it was a bit extreme.
Even so, it is important to me that BYU enforces the honor code - realistically (and ideally with common sense, though the human enforcers may be lacking that trait at times) and without pressure by the sports department to bend the rules to win a title, or even a game. They are teaching a way of life at BYU; not just making super stars and winning trophies which moth and dust doth corrupt (Matthew 6:19 KJV). Admittedly, I'm not a real sports fan, but I do value ethical behavior by all people. It's tough to get into BYU and if a student doesn't want that kind of education, they shouldn't take up the space.
This news item is getting national attention. Read more here.