“The events that have occurred in our recent games with BYU led me to ask athletics director (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.” — Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Maybe Krystkowiak and Hill are right. Maybe we should cancel all sports or at least “put them on hold;” emotions are way too escalated across the board. We’ll start with hockey. That should’ve happened 50 years ago. Let’s cancel tennis, too — Serena Williams gave a mean look to one of her opponents. Or was it to one of the ballboys? Based on all the theatrics in soccer — players throwing themselves on the ground, writhing in agony — that sport needs a cooling-off period. Don’t even get us started on football — did you see that Odell Beckham-Josh Norman dustup?
Contact your congressman. Tell him to put sports on hold.
Meanwhile, back on earth Has there even been a sillier, more cowardly move by an athletic department in recent memory than what the Utes just did? The wonder is that they could make such an announcement without a shred of embarrassment. They threw a tantrum, took their ball home and refused to play with the kids down the street anymore, supposedly because BYU’s Nick Emery threw a sucker punch.
They canceled the seventh oldest college basketball rivalry over rough play and “escalated” emotions — really? If they were going to do that, the series should have ended 50 years ago along with every rivalry in the country. If we’re going to run away from sports because there’s a potential for high emotion and flagrant acts, Krystowiak, the former college and NBA player, should have been put on hold for his own cooling-off period.
Milwaukee's Larry Krystkowiak and Sacramento's Jim Petersen each were suspended for one game and fined for fighting in Milwaukee last Tuesday night. Petersen, who sustained a broken nose in the fight, was fined $5,000 and Krystkowiak $3,500. — Tulsa World, Feb. 3, 1989
The NBA has fined Sherman Douglas of the Boston Celtics and Larry Krystkowiak of the Utah Jazz $1,500 each for their roles in an altercation during an exhibition game in Salt Lake City Krystkowiak also was fined an automatic $250 for being ejected from the game. — Deseret News, Oct. 21, 1992
In the waning moments of the game, Krystkowiak was fouled hard from behind and swung an elbow in retaliation, prompting (Washington coach Andy) Russo to scream at the officials that Krystkowiak should be ejected. "It was just a good, old-fashioned basketball game," Krystkowiak said. — The Missoulian, reporting a college game played between Washington and Krystkowiak’s Montana team on Dec. 23, 1985
Strangely, Krystkowiak did not cancel himself to let things cool off.
Then again, who believes this is really just about a punch and a basketball coach throwing a fit? This has Hill’s hands all over it. Even if Krystkowiak did initiate the move to drop BYU from the schedule, the A.D. could have stopped him. In a recent interview with the Deseret News’ Lee Benson, Hill said Ute fans don’t want to play the Cougars. Actually, he doesn’t want to play the Cougars. You could almost respect his decision if he had just come right out and said, “We don’t want to play BYU anymore.” Instead, he and Kyrstkowiak blame a punch.
Hill already ended the football rivalry for a couple of years and was soundly criticized for it. Maybe he thought that by laying blame on the Cougars he might win a more acceptable response when he canceled the basketball series.
Using The Punch for his own purposes was disingenuous. Something more is going on here; otherwise, as BYU coach Dave Rose said, “This doesn’t make any sense at all.” Just six years ago Utah’s Marshall Henderson punched Jackson Emery — Nick’s brother — in the face, and BYU didn’t cancel the series. No coach or athlete with any self-respect walks away from a fight or a challenge. Not only are Hill and Krystkowiak walking from it, they are willing to pay $80,000 to buy it out.
Hill and the Utes have suffered from a superiority complex since joining the Pac-12, and they’ve used every opportunity to kill the rivalry and to keep their foot on the Cougars’ throat while they struggle to reinvent themselves without a conference. If their positions were reversed, the Cougars would not be treating the Utes the same way. How quickly the Utes have forgotten what it was like when the Cougars owned them in athletics.
At next week’s NCAA convention, the Big 12 — which actually has only 10 members — hopes to change a rule that requires conferences to have 12 members to host a conference championship; short of that, the conference will likely expand, and that could be BYU’s ticket to a Power 5 conference. Maybe the Utes figure if they can cast the Cougars in a bad light, they can derail their conference hopes.
Meanwhile, Hill and Krystkowiak are turning their backs on a remarkable rivalry in which, after 257 games, the teams are separated by just one game — BYU 129, Utah 128.
Since 1909, only two things have stopped the rivalry: World War II and Chris Hill.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org