In the final minutes of the Utah-BYU basketball game in early December, Cougar point guard Nick Emery appeared to throw a punch at his Ute counterpart Brandon Taylor. Subsequently, Taylor fell to the floor. After review, Emery was ejected. No coaches or players have actually said what Emery told Taylor as he was on the court, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak was livid.
“I saw him basically punch Brandon and then I watched him tell him to stay on the ground after, so that’s what got my undies in a little bit of a bunch,” Krystkowiak said after the game.
Due to this incident and several others like it, such as the Eric Mika ejection after a flagrant foul on then-Utah player Dallin Bachynski in 2013, that Krystkowiak has found it in his team’s best interest to put a brief hiatus on the rivalry game.
In the aftermath of the game, Krystkowiak felt the need to talk about his concerns with Utah athletic director Chris Hill. In doing so, the two agreed that next year’s planned game in Provo should be cancelled.
“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,” Krystkowiak said. “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 [Dave] Rose know our intentions a few days after our game [on Dec. 2].”
Hill supports Krystkowiak and whatever decisions he makes about this Utah squad moving forward. They both want to ensure the players are being looked out for, and calling off the game falls into that category.
“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.”
The rivalry could very well be ignited once more, such as has happened with football, but the reasons behind each hiatus are different. The Utah football team took a two-year break from playing the BYU football team to allow for the opportunity to play a storied program in Michigan.
Head football coach Kyle Whittingham and Hill agreed then that they would not pack a lot of emotional and physical games that early into the season, especially with Pac-12 opponents later down the road. However, the rivalry is back on for the 2016 season, as the two teams will face off Sept. 10 in Rice Eccles Stadium.
With basketball, it is uncertain exactly when Hill and Krystkowiak will meet to discuss continuing the rivalry.
“We will revisit resuming the rivalry at some point in the future,” Hill said.