SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time since 1944, the BYU Cougars and Utah Utes will not meet in men’s basketball next season. Citing incidents in two games over the past three years, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak requested an interruption in the series.
BYU coach Dave Rose is upset by the Utes' decision to cancel its contracted 2016 game against the Cougars in Provo.
“I disagree with the decision,” Rose said in a statement Wednesday. "I know our students, our players, our fans and college basketball fans in the intermountain area want to see this longstanding rivalry continue.”
Later in the afternoon, a frustrated Rose told reporters, “This doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”
Added Rose, "If the game was scheduled to be played in the Huntsman Center next year, the series would still played."
When Krystkowiak told Rose his plans to cancel next year's game, Rose said, "I was very surprised. Shocked, actually. I’ve been doing this for 32 years, in high school, junior college and Division I, and have had hundreds of agreements on games — verbal agreements, handshake agreements, contractual agreements, and this is the first time I’ve had one not fully executed.”
Krystkowiak explained his reasoning in a statement released by the university.
“The events that have occurred in our recent games with BYU led me to ask athletics director Dr. (Chris) Hill several weeks ago if we could take a cooling-off period and put the rivalry on hold. The level of emotions has escalated to the point where there is the potential for serious injury. Chris said he would support me in canceling next year’s scheduled game against BYU. I called and let Coach Rose know our intentions a few days after our game (on Dec. 2).”
Rose simply doesn't agree with Utah's stated reasons for canceling next year's game.
“The rivalry’s pretty heated," Rose said. "We’ve had some interesting moments over the years. I’ve been involved with it for 18 years. A lot of the excitement of the game is — you don’t want things to get out of hand — but in rivalry games, things tend to get pretty heated at times. I don’t think the safety of the players is a concern.”
As part of the contract, Utah will pay BYU a buyout. According to ESPN that amount is $80,000.
"It’s a hefty sum. It’s probably not for me to say," Rose said of the buyout amount. "(Krystkowiak) told me he’s fully prepared to pay that. It’s written in the contract … To me, it seems like a significant amount of money. Maybe to them that doesn’t seem like a big deal. Money can’t replace the game.”
Asked if he thinks Krystkowiak is overracting to recent events, Rose said, “He knows what’s best for his program. I totally respect that it’s his program. I don’t respect the decision. I was raised that your word is your bond. You made an agreement. Basically, I try to teach my players every day to do what you say you’re going to do."
Future games between the two rivals could be in jeopardy, Rose said. “It’s scary, because how do you put another contract together, another agreement together? That’s how I feel.”
Rose would demand the next game between the two teams be played at the Marriott Center. “I think so, and a much larger buyout," he said. "Because it seems like they have plenty of resources.”
Hill also issued a comment on the situation.
“Coach Krystkowiak came to me last month and expressed a deep concern about the incidents that have occurred in recent years during our games with BYU,” Hill said. “In the interests of our student-athlete welfare, he requested we cancel the BYU series until further notice. Given his reasons, I agreed to cancel next year’s game. We will revisit resuming the rivalry at some point in the future.”
Both incidents led to ejections of BYU players. Last month, BYU's Nick Emery was ousted after throwing a punch at Utah guard Brandon Taylor. In 2013, BYU center Eric Mika was forced from the game following a flagrant foul against Utah's Dallin Bachynski.
In 2010, before Krystkowiak became Utah's coach, Ute guard Marshall Henderson was ejected from a game against BYU for hitting Jackson Emery.
BYU and Utah began play in 1909 and have had only one break in the series since then, in 1944 when World War II shortened the season. The Cougars hold a 129-128 edge in the rivalry — one of the most played rivalry games in college basketball.