It's over for the Snowbears and, boy, is the end ugly.
The Utah Snowbears' playoff run and likely the franchise itself came to an abrupt and angry end Sunday night.
Owned by former NBA player Ike Austin, the Snowbears issued a statement Sunday night, formally withdrawing from the ABA playoffs.
"I have no choice but to cancel the rest of our 2004-05 Snowbears season. This is a sad, regrettable day that all of us wish could have been avoided." Austin said. "I have decided that having the team play the remaining games under current ABA situations and circumstances would not be in the players' best interest or my own."
Both sides are pointing to each other as the cause of Utah's sudden departure from the ABA.
ABA co-founder and chairman Joe Newman calls Utah's move "irrational and borders on complete nonsense."
Money and the league's inability to conform to its own standards and rules was cited by the Snowbears. "We were the only team that actually followed league command," said Derrick Pearson, Utah's media relations director. "We played when they told us to, and we did everything they asked."
Newman doesn't see it quite the same way.
"Ike Austin has been totally uncooperative and inflexible in a number of ways and has been guided only by self-interest," Newman said in his release.
Strong words from both sides were plentiful Monday in a number of releases from both sides.
"I don't want to butt heads in this thing. If you look at our motives, we were 27-1 and vying for the ABA title, just ask yourselves 'Why?' " Pearson said Monday afternoon.
This is where both sides agree.
The championship tournament, much like the NCAA tournament, was heading into its "Final Four." The Snowbears, the highest remaining seed in the tourney, was scheduled to host the semifinals and finals, according to the league format.
Maryland and Bellevue, who hadn't played its quarterfinal yet, agreed to fly to Salt Lake and wrap up its quarterfinal and begin the final games "a day late" according to Newman.
This is where they disagree.
Utah claims that the league asked the Snowbears at the last minute to foot the bill including airfare and hotel for Maryland and Bellevue.
Newman refutes the claim, citing Maryland and Bellevue's deep financial backing as proof that Utah would not have been burdened.
"That is absolutely, unequivocally total nonsense," Newman said.
Austin also claims that the league itself is indebted to him for officiating he paid for when visiting Los Angeles.
Newman acknowledges the debt but claims that Austin was absent for a advertisement that reportedly cost the ABA nearly all of the sum that Austin is demanding.
"My figure shows that we owe Ike something like $90. To disrupt the ABA playoffs for that kind of money is absolutely dumb," Newman said. "No one has asked anything from Ike. I am repulsed by the lack of cooperation we have received."
The Snowbears claim that the uncertainty surrounding the ABA and its teams frustrated the team to its very end.
"Whether or not teams will show up, what's going on, all these things happen in the ABA. When putting together a schedule, it would be nice to know at least a day in advance," Pearson said.
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