SALT LAKE CITY -- University of Utah’s head basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak spoke to the media for the first time since it was announced last week that he canceled next season's game against BYU.
Krystkowiak thinks the rivalry needs a cooling off period after BYU’s Nick Emery threw a punch at Utah’s Brandon Taylor during a game in December.
Krystkowiak said he's concerned for the safety of the players in this rivalry game, which he called dangerous.
"It's become pretty toxic and venomous," Krystkowiak said.
He added he needs to protect his players.
Krystkowiak said he respects this rivalry, but feels the level of intensity has been building up over the years, which is why he decided to cancel the game.
"What I've seen and what the arena that I've been in, and what I've experienced, specifically the last four years is it's very heightened and it's dangerous,” the coach said. “This isn't any one event, this is a pattern, and it's really for a lack of a better term would be the straw that broke the camel's back when this year's episode took place, where I feel like it's kind of escalated each year.
“I'm not sure that a year off is going to solve it. All I know is that I don't want to put ourselves in that situation a year from now. If this needs to be put on me, as I'm the coach that blew it up, that I'm that coach that couldn't handle it, so be it."
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe released a statement regarding the canceled game:
"I'm disappointed in the University of Utah's decision to cancel the 2016 basketball game with BYU. I believe it's one of the great college rivalries in the country. It's bigger than any of the individual participants and should be played every year."
Holmoe said he hopes the rivalry will continue on a yearly basis in the very near future.