BYU and Utah have played basketball 257 times, with the last interruption coming for World War II in 1944. This is college basketball's seventh-most-played rivalry, and one of its most heated. As such, there's been an outcry to keep the series going after Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak's decision to cancel the contract between the two programs.
It's going to cost Utah $80K to get out of the agreement, but that doesn't seem to matter much to Krystkowiak. "The level of emotions has escalated to the point where there is the potential for serious injury," Krystkowiak said in a written statement.
There have been physical altercations during the game in two of the last three seasons, most recently in December when BYU's Nick Emery sucker punched Utes' guard Brandon Taylor at Utah. With the series set to return to BYU's home floor next season, the other Coach K decided to pull the plug.
BYU folks are not happy about this, starting with Cougars coach Dave Rose.
"I disagree with the decision," Rose said in a statement from BYU. "I know our students, our players, our fans and college basketball fans in the intermountain area want to see this long-standing rivalry continue."
Rose continued: "I was very surprised. Shocked, actually," he said. "I have been doing this for 32 years in high school, and junior college, and now the Division I level, and we've had hundreds of agreements on games — verbal agreements, handshake agreements, contractual, written contracts. And this is the first time that I've had one not fully executed."
"Well, the rivalry is pretty heated," he said. "We've had some interesting moments over the years. I have been involved in it for 18 years, and that's a lot of the excitement of the game, is, you don't want things to get out of hand. But in rivalry games things tend to get pretty heated at times. I don't think, from my point of view, that the safety of the players is an issue."
BYU's AD Tom Holmoe fired a shot, as well:
Cancelling the BYU/Utah basketball series is RIDICULOUS. #letsplaythegame— Tom Holmoe (@TomHolmoe) January 7, 2016
Even the governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, chimed in:
We must hold ourselves to the highest standards of sportsmanship and excellence. I expect that from both teams. Play the game. #BYUvsUtah— Gary R. Herbert (@GovHerbert) January 7, 2016
The lieutenant governor didn't like it, either:
Weber State's AD got off a subtweet, too:
Saw the basketball news out of SLC today. Happy that Weber State is on the schedule with BYU, Utah State, UVU and SUU. #toughdeal— Jerry Bovee (@JerryBovee) January 6, 2016
BYU currently leads the rivalry at 129-128. The series won't continue until a new contract is agreed upon. For what it's worth, the rivalry will continue on the football field as Utah and BYU play Week 2 next season. For more on the contention between BYU and Utah, check out Matt Brown's piece on the gridiron version of The Holy War at this year's Las Vegas Bowl.
Update: Utah's House Speaker is considering legislative action to get the game back on. It's getting real, folks.