Utah coach says 'toxic' atmosphere halted BYU series
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak believes his conduct during last month's heated game against BYU contributed to the decision to cancel the series next season. It's just the second time that's happened since 1909 - the other was due to World War II.
Krystkowiak said during a news conference Monday the rivalry has turned into a ''venomous and toxic environment'' and he's concerned for the well-being of the players. BYU guard Nick Emery was ejected from December's game for punching Utah's Brandon Taylor.
Krystkowiak called the incident ''the straw that broke the camel's back'' and why he approached athletic director Chris Hill about canceling the contracted game in Provo.
''I'm not describing BYU as dirty players. I'm saying, the nature of the rivalry kind of elevates everybody's emotion,'' said Krystkowiak, who added he's responsible for teaching discipline and self-control. ''There's part of this that I'm actually protecting myself from myself. ... I almost got carried away this year when it took place. I don't need to look foolish.''
Krystkowiak said things have gotten worse on the court in the last 3-4 years, even mentioning a particularly aggressive game by former Ute Cedric Martin. He used adjectives such as ''disgusting'', ''dangerous'', ''nasty'' in addition to ''venomous and toxic'' during the press conference.
Krystkowiak was asked if he considered other options besides canceling, such as meeting with BYU coach Dave Rose to find a solution.
''I didn't think that's an option, personally,'' Krystkowiak said. ''Look at the pattern of behavior. What has changed? I never (received) an apology for anything.
''We have three straight years, and if you think I'm going to call and say, `Can you tone it down a little bit? Can we meet and have coffee?' That's not realistic. Not in my arena.''
The coach also lamented a perceived lack of remorse. He said he and Taylor never received apology phone calls, though Rose apologized immediately after the game to Krystkowiak. Emery put out an apology statement the next day after he was suspended for a game.
Krystkowiak said he doesn't have an answer as to why a conversation with Rose wasn't an option.
''It's kind of like Teddy Roosevelt's comment about being in the arena with the sweat and blood on your face as opposed to the critics,'' he said. ''That's where I'm at.''
Hill attended the press conference and continued to support the decision. He said the ''toxicity is a little higher'' in men's basketball than other sports - which is why other series' will continue.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert tweeted last week ''Play the game'' and the speaker of Utah's House of Representatives Greg Hughes even suggested state lawmakers might see if they could do something to encourage or require that the game be played.
''They've got a lot more challenges,'' Hill said. ''They know that and we know that. That's become kind of a joke. In reality, they have to do more important things.''
Utah president David Pershing released a statement Monday stating there are ''several negative aspects'' that need to be addressed. Pershing said he has talked with BYU president Kevin Worthen about the situation and added he will create a group of faculty, staff, students and fans to identify possible changes.
Worthen and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe both released statements Monday that expressed disappointment in Utah's decision.
''I'm just saying when things are that heightened and elevated, some things happen,'' Krystkowiak said. ''I do know when mistakes happen, maybe a punch is thrown, I don't know that things need to be said to the player that's laying on the ground afterward. ... That's when I got on the court, also. I'm allowed to be on the court. I asked somebody what in the world they're thinking and I was told to go to my bench by a student-athlete.
''That's kind of hard to swallow. ... To me it's a lack of remorse.''