This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Suddenly, the Runnin' Utes nickname is taking on a different meaning.
When the news came out on Wednesday that Utah basketball was cancelling its game against BYU next season, a game that happens to be scheduled for the Marriott Center, when the Cougars will have a much better team than they do now, there weren't a lot of good explanations.
And opportunities to fire off a load of condescension and childishness on a rival. Essentially, in statements issued by Larry Krystkowiak and Chris Hill, Utah's men's basketball coach and athletic director scolded the Cougars and hung over their heads a threat that if Dave Rose and BYU basketball didn't clean up their acts, their players' acts, then maybe the Utes would cancel the series for longer.
If you've already read their words, give them another look, back to back.
Krystkowiak: "The events that have occurred in our recent games with BYU led me to ask Dr. 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]."
Hill: "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. In the interest 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."
That's the equivalent of an overbearing parental power play: "Go to your room, young man, and think real hard about what you did wrong, and when you get your head screwed on straight, adjust your attitude and apologize, we'll let you out."
Rose issued his own statement, and later talked with reporters, disagreeing with the decision and the reasoning behind it.
It makes you wonder a few things: 1) whether Krystkowiak, a relative newcomer around here, really understands the importance of a rivalry that's been played every year since 1909, with the only exception coming in 1944, during the heart of World War II; 2) whether Krystkowiak and Hill are worried about the Cougars' potential for beating Utah on BYU's home floor next season; 3) whether this is, in fact, a power play in which Hill is thumbing his nose at BYU, using the bad behavior of a couple of players as a reason to throw the hammer down and rupture, or at least interrupt, a series that's gone on for more than a century.
I get the concerns for athletes' safety. A few BYU players, both in football and basketball, have been on a skid of dirty deeds of late. But I've seen the same out of Utah players in the past, and nobody canceled any games. There's no justifying cheap shots, and I won't try that here. The Cougars must address their aggression. Some of those actions have been ridiculous.
But this is an overreaction, and possibly an attempt to embarrass BYU.
This could have been handled with a conference call between Krystkowiak and Rose, Hill and Tom Holmoe. Talk it through, make the message clear from coaches to players that stupid behavior on the court won't be tolerated. And go from there, the same as it ever was, continuing a tradition that's important to the basketball fans of this state.
It's not that complicated.
The two traditional rivals should go on playing in football and basketball. But even the weak attempts at justification for interrupting the series in football flat out do not exist in basketball, where teams play 30-plus games in the regular season. Finding a spot to gratify the majority of residents/sports fans/taxpayers of the state of Utah on one date for one game every year is no great challenge.
The smack that some overzealous Utah fans like to fling at BYU that the Utes no longer "need" the Cougars, that they've moved on, that the rivalry is so last decade or last half-century show their lack of perspective for something that's always been, that's bigger than just another game, bigger than some flexing of muscle or ego on one side to show up the other.
Don't run from the rivalry. It was going on long before Hill and Krystkowiak arrived, and it will go on far past them, no matter what they do in the meantime, in their short little window.
Let's all be mature here. Let's be grownups. Communication is the key, not a one-sided exertion of temporary authority, not some bit of scolding. Work it out, fix it, and play hard and play on. And let so many of the basketball fans of this state have what should be, what is, theirs.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.