This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Having disagreed with Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak's decision to cancel next December's game with BYU, I've maintained my belief that his purpose is genuine.
In endorsing the State Legislature's right to audit the Ute athletic department, I'm saying the timing makes it wrong.
When the probe comes "in wake of rivalry suspension," as The Tribune observed in the truncated language of newspaper headlines, this simply is not a good look for the state. Legislators come across as punishing the Utes and serving the interests of BYU, a private school.
The audit is not the problem, in itself. Keeping a major, state-funded operation accountable is part of the government's job description. Telling those officials to stick to more vital matters would be hypocritical for me. Sports are important, and intercollegiate athletics at the Power 5 level are big business. Utah's athletic budget includes nearly $8 million from student fees and university funding, so athletic director Chris Hill and his staff have to subject themselves to some degree of scrutiny. That's fair.
What is unreasonable is the apparent motivation for the audit, at this moment. These legislators look every bit as petty and vindictive as Krystkowiak's critics believed he did, using any leverage to fight back. The government certainly cannot force the Utes to play a private-school opponent. It should hold Krystkowiak and Hill to their stated promise of scheduling two in-state schools every year, and not exclusively at the Huntsman Center.
As portrayed in The Tribune's story, though, legislators are coloring outside the lines here. Rep. Dan McCay of Riverton cited the "antics" of Krystkowiak and Hill and threatened that if the Ute athletic department is viewed as taking over the school, "We'll get rid of you."
What does that even mean?
As if the world is not skewed enough, when coaching salaries dwarf a university president's income, all Utah's David Pershing could do was absorb McCay's words. The groveling for dollars that high-level academicians must do during the session is ridiculous. Yet that's how the game is played.
Krystkowiak overreacted by canceling the game with BYU; I'm sticking to that stance even though he seemingly is being rewarded by the Utes' 10-3 record in Pac-12 play, since that news hit Jan. 6. Actually, the biggest surprise to me in this whole story is that a termination clause even existed in the contract between the schools. Who would imagine either side ever having a reason to pull out of a scheduled game?
Yet the Utes did so, at the personal expense of $80,000 to Krystkowiak. Never mind that the buyout represents a fraction of his salary. He felt strongly enough about removing himself and his players from a "toxic" setting that he was willing to pay his way out of a trip to Provo. I'm accused of being naive in buying Krystkowiak's "player safety" explanation and believing too much in people. Maybe so, but I'm just cynical enough to question the legislators' motivation in this case.
BYU guard Nick Emery's Dec. 2 punch keeps reverberating, that's for sure. Fortunately, Utah's Brandon Taylor was not injured, so I can joke about Emery's ongoing campaign to make my annual list of the 25 Most Influential People in Utah Sports. He would have to play his way off the 2016 list, at this point.
What made the cancellation issue so interesting was how it created three sets of reactions, from BYU fans who made fun of Krystkowiak's rationale, Utah followers who want nothing to do with BYU and other Ute fans who were upset with Hill and Krystkowiak.
So these legislators have succeeded in uniting both groups of Utah fans, who now are feeling persecuted. That's one method of bringing constituents together for a common purpose, just not a healthy way.