This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak is overreacting by interrupting the rivalry with BYU.
Going against Krystkowiak's expressed stance of trying to safeguard his players' health is a difficult argument; I understand that. Yet there have to be some better solutions than canceling the December 2016 game in Provo during a "cooling-off period" of the rivalry, as he said in a statement Wednesday.
The schools somehow could have used the recent incidents Krystkowiak cited, notably BYU guard Nick Emery's blatant punch of Utah's Brandon Taylor in the late stages of Utah's victory last month, for positive purposes. For instance, Utah could have insisted that Emery become the centerpiece of a statewide effort to promote sportsmanship. That might seem like public shaming, but it would be a better alternative than punishing Emery and the Cougars by not playing them.
Emery definitely deserved to miss BYU's next game (vs. Weber State) as a result of his actions, two years after Eric Mika's flagrant foul against Utah. It was bad stuff, with the potential for injury to Taylor making Emery's case much different than Ute cornerback Cory Butler-Byrd being ejected from the Las Vegas Bowl after two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.
Possibly keeping Emery from getting to play against Utah for the remaining three years of his career is too harsh, though. And what happens when, inevitably, a player from one school or the other is ejected from a Pac-12 game involving the Utes?
I liked how Krystkowiak was willing to publicly state his reasoning, and I know he believes he's doing the right thing. As a result, Ute athletic director Chris Hill's only choice is to support him.
But to quote BYU coach Dave Rose, "I disagree with the decision." And that's unprecedented for me, looking back over Krystkowiak's five seasons on the job.
I'll never pretend that in this century, the basketball series between the schools comes even close to matching the importance of the football rivalry in this state. The basketball game is a one-night phenomenon, not the culmination of a long buildup like the football game.
Yet the fact is that 15,131 people filled the Huntsman Center in December, and about 90 percent them were Utah fans. BYU comes to Salt Lake City every other year, so there's already a gap in Utah's nonconference home schedule in those other seasons. But for as long as the rivalry is "on hold," to use Krystkowiak's phrase, he now has an obligation to his own fans to book a comparable attraction. Wichita State drew 14,319 fans at the Huntsman Center in December 2014, and that's the kind of opponent he'll have to find as a suitable replacement for BYU. It won't be easy.