Peavler: Canceling the BYU-Utah game next season is a loss for everyone
Scott G Winterton,
This is one of those rare instances in sports where everyone involved loses.
Utah head coach Larry Krystokowiak has said that this game is being canceled because "the level of emotions has escalated to the point where there is the potential for serious injury." Supposedly this is in reaction to BYU's Nick Emery throwing a punch at the end of Utah's last game against the Cougars.
And it's pure nonsense.
Doesn't anyone remember how Krystokowiak played back in the day? He played with a tough intensity, and he coaches with that same intensity today. That's part of what made him a good player and a solid coach.
What kind of message is Krystokowiak sending with this move? What happens if a Colorado player loses his cool and throws an elbow at a Utah player in Tuesday's game in Boulder? Would Krystokowiak insist on taking the Utes out of the Pac-12 for safety reasons?
Worse still, what happens if one of his own players loses his cool and throws a punch or an elbow? Wouldn't the Pac-12 be justified in throwing the Utes out of the conference for safety reasons, according to Krystokowiak's own logic?
Of course not. That's why this move looks bad.
After all, it's happened at Utah before. Marshall Henderson threw a punch at BYU's Jackson Emery back in 2010. Basketball is an emotional game. Players sometimes do things that they regret in the heat of the moment.
Also, what kind of message is Krystokowiak sending to his own team with this move? Does Krystokowiak think so little of his own players that they can't handle a game against that mean, "dirty" BYU basketball team?
I'd be insulted if I was a Utah player.
Really, what does Utah have to be afraid of? Yes, BYU returns some quality talent from missions and the next game is in Provo, but Utah will have a quality team as well next season. Playing BYU on the road would have helped Utah's non-conference RPI with a win, and losing to the Cougars wouldn't have hurt them much in getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament. This could have been a hard-fought, fun rivalry game that could have gone either way.
Now, we'll never know.
Can you imagine Duke's Mike Krzyzewski making such a petty-looking move if one of his players was punched in a rivalry game against North Carolina? Of course not. To interrupt one of college basketball's finest rivalry series would be nothing short of basketball blasphemy.
Nobody wins with this decision. Utah loses a quality opponent, has to pay $80,000 to BYU and looks like a kid taking his ball and going home. BYU also loses a quality opponent and a chance to play a rivalry game on its home floor. The players lose the experience of playing in this storied rivalry. The fans lose what could have been an exciting and meaningful rivalry game.
Even if you believe that the rivalry has become too heated, Krystokowiak and the Utes are missing out on an opportunity to cool things down the right way. LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride did just that in football. Why couldn't Krystokowiak try to do something similar with BYU's Dave Rose instead of canceling this game in a huff?
Even members of the national media are weighing in on this senseless loss of a great rivalry game. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg had some strong words to say about it.
Don't care the rationale or who's responsible. Utah and BYU not playing one-another in basketball is flat-out idiotic.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) January 6, 2016
Moreover, Utah's decision is a total overreaction. Was Nick Emery wrong? Absolutely. Is it worth halting the rivalry over? Not even close.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) January 6, 2016
Rivalry games, after all, are supposed to be fun. Intense? Sure. Emotional? Absolutely. Instead, we are witnessing the destruction of one of the best college basketball rivalries in the nation for no good reason.
And that's something everybody loses.
Lafe Peavler is a sports strategist for the Deseret News and KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.
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