BYU-Utah men's basketball series put on hold

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PROVO — The annual rivalry game between BYU and Utah football nearly took a two-year hiatus, before the Las Vegas Bowl stepped in and matched up the two schools in last month's postseason showdown.

But the basketball teams are headed the same direction.

BYU and Utah will take a temporary stay away from meeting annually on the hardwood, both schools confirmed Wednesday. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak made the decision to not play the 2016 contracted game at the Marriott Center, and informed BYU coach Dave Rose of the decision, which was announced Wednesday.

"I disagree with the decision," Rose said in a statement. "I know our students, our players, our fans and college basketball fans in the intermountain area want to see this longstanding rivalry continue."

Rose told reporters after BYU practiced Wednesday at the Marriott Center that this is the first time in his three-decade career he has had another school cancel a written contract. Utah has offered a buyout to replace the home game, a fee Rose called "a hefty sum," though he declined to name the amount.

"I was very surprised. Shocked, actually," Rose said. "I've been doing this for 32 years in high school and junior college, now at the Division I level, and we've had hundreds of agreements on games. We've had verbal agreements, handshake agreements, and written contracts.

"This is the first time that I've had one not fully executed. I was surprised."

I disagree with the decision. I know our students, our players, our fans and college basketball fans in the intermountain area want to see this longstanding rivalry continue.

–BYU basketball coach Dave Rose

Jeff Goodman of reported the Utes will pay an $80,000 guarantee fee for ending the contract a year earlier than expected. The two schools have met 257 times, with BYU holding a 129-128 edge in the all-time series. The series is the longest consecutive matchup between the two schools in any sport, having been played every year college basketball was played since 1909. The only year the series took a break was in 1944, when the season was cut short due to World War II.

Krystkowiak released his rationale in a written statement:

"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)."

The Runnin' Utes coach was referencing the most recent game, when BYU's Nick Emery was ejected after throwing a punch at Utah guard Brandon Taylor in the final minutes of the game at the Huntsman Center. Emery also missed the Cougars' next game with a suspension.

Rose refuted Krystkowiak's statement, saying that while both teams have had heated moments, it was within the nature of a rivalry game like the one BYU and Utah has, or the ones he played in with Houston as member of the old Southwest Conference.

"I've been involved for 18 years, and that's a lot of the excitement for the game," Rose said. "You don't want things to get out of hand, but in rivalry games things tend to get pretty heated at times. From my point of view, I don't think the safety of the players was at risk.

"(Krystkowiak) knows what's best for his program. I totally respect his program. I don't respect the decision; I have been raised where your word is your bond, and we made an agreement. Basically, I try to teach my players every day to say and do what you say you are going to do. I think that if the game was scheduled to be played in the Huntsman Center next year, the series would still be alive."

The Runnin' Utes have won three-straight meetings in the current series. According to the NCAA record book, the rivalry series is the seventh longest in college basketball history.

BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins, who played at Utah, also expressed his shock at the series update.

"I've been on both sides of the rivalry. I love that game," said Judkins, whose team will continue to schedule Utah on a home-and-home basis. "It's an absolute shame that they won't be playing. Disappointed for both fan bases."

BYU will look for a new opponent to replace Utah on the 2016-17 schedule. No formal announcement has been made of the replacement, but Rose said the timing of the cancellation leaves future games up in the air.

"It's scary. How do you put another agreement together?" Rose asked rhetorically. "That's how I feel.

"This doesn't make any sense to me, at all."

Before last month's meeting, Rose said the two teams were working out the details for a new contract that would extend beyond the 2016-17 season. The Cougars and Utes were originally scheduled with a four-year deal that would have had them meet every first Saturday in December. But when Utah was invited to play Kansas in Kansas City last year, they moved the rivalry game to a weekday and started a new home-and-home contract that would have ended with next season's game in Provo.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill wrote the following: "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 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."

"We will revisit resuming the rivalry at some point in the future."

BYU players declined to comment on the cancellation. A BYU Athletics spokesman said the players had not been informed of the schedule change before Wednesday's practice, and seniors Kyle Collinsworth and Nate Austin deferred all questions to Rose.

With the break, BYU's 231-game series with Utah State becomes the longest consecutive rivalry in the Provo program. The Cougars and Aggies have played each year since 1905, with BYU holding a 139-92 advantage.

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Sean Walker


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