Fans, and Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, criticize the University of Utah for putting its basketball rivalry with Brigham Young on hiatus.
After Utah Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak decided to cancel the yearly basketball game with the Brigham Young University Cougars, criticism for Utah has come in from all corners, including BYU fans who recently deployed an array of clever slams on Utah. Though Utah defeated BYU in December, Krystkowiak petitioned the school’s athletic director to pull out from the series between the school. Retreating from the “Holy War” costs Utah $80,000 for breaking a contract.
Krystkowiak convinced Utah administrators to back his cancelation of the game for reasons of “safety.” The Utes coach claimed that too many of his players had been injured by rambunctious Cougars players in the past, so he felt the need to “put the rivalry on hold” for a while.
“The events that have occurred in our recent games with BYU led me to ask [athletic director Chris] Hill several weeks ago if we could take a cooling off period and put the rivalry on hold,” Krystkowiak said in his statement explaining the cancellation. “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.”
This rivalry is one of long standing. For about 107 years the two teams have met once a year with only one exception–1944 when World War II cut the college season short.
But since Utah’s decision BYU fans have had a great time ridiculing their rival school over the decision.
During Thursday night’s game against Santa Clara, for instance, BYU fans turned up at the stadium wearing orange construction safety vests and hard hats and sporting signs making fun of Utah’s new “safety first” mantra.
BYU fans really embracing the safety aspect. Seems Utah has them really worked up. pic.twitter.com/btb2SWTbMK
— Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) January 8, 2016
— Daniel Haslam (@DanHaslam) January 8, 2016
There were also reports that every time refs called a play for being too physical or just after what the crowd deemed a rough play, BYU fans chanted “That’s Not Safe.”
Crowd chanting that’s not safe after every physical play
— Jackson Emery (@jacksonemery04) January 8, 2016
BYU fans aren’t the only ones criticizing Utah for the cancellation. According to Sporting News, some legislators in Utah are even mulling over ideas on how to use the state government to force Utah to re-schedule the game.
“To see that only World War II had interrupted this prior to this, those are big decisions. I worry how it will impact the public,” Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes said on Thursday.
Hughes speculated that if the school didn’t re-schedule, he might get involved to force the issue. Granted he wasn’t sure how that might work, but the threat is there nonetheless.
“Taxpayers pay for the University of Utah,” Hughes aded “and so there’s a natural reaching out to me.”
Whatever might happen in the legislature, Speaker Hughes isn’t alone in his criticism. Some in sports media are also critical of coach Krystkowiak’s move.
On Thursday, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson slammed the school by saying that Krystkowiak and Chris Hill are “messing up something bigger than them.” Dripping with sarcasm, Monson wrote, “Suddenly, the Runnin’ Utes nickname is taking on a different meaning.”
“Let’s be grownups,” Monson concluded. “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.”
Another article by the Salt Lake Tribune noted that other sports pundits called the cancellation of the game “flat-out idiotic,” though some supported the move.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org