Tuesday, February 12, 2013.
This has always passed by in October without a lot of fanfare. Winning seasons shouldn’t be taken for granted in Boise State football, but they kind of are. That’s not the case for Bronco basketball. I mentioned last Friday that Boise State was one victory away from clinching a winning season. With Saturday night’s win over Wyoming, it is done. The Broncos are 16-7 with only eight games left that are assured. It’s the second winning campaign in three seasons for Leon Rice. As for the new century, the Broncos are batting about .500, with seven winning seasons. They have three 20-win ledgers since 2000, with one of them coming in Rice’s first year. The math is a lot easier on that count. Boise State has 16 victories. Just win four more, baby.
The Mountain West wasn’t fazed by Boise State’s gut-wrenching one-point loss at San Diego State last Wednesday. The conference stuck with Derrick Marks as Mountain West Player of the Week. Marks scored 16 points against the Aztecs, all in the second half, and dished out seven assists while engineering the near-upset. Of the Broncos’ 13 second-half baskets, 10 were either scored or assisted by the sophomore guard. Marks then scored seven points in the first 10 minutes against Wyoming to help Boise State take command Saturday in Taco Bell Arena. He had 17 for the game.
Now it’s Colorado State’s turn to make some rumblings in the rankings. The Rams debuted in both polls yesterday at No. 24, the first time they’ve been ranked in 59 years. Larry Eustachy has CSU one victory away from a 20-win season going into tomorrow night’s monster home game against San Diego State, who’s 22nd in the Coaches Poll. Mountain West leader New Mexico slipped to No. 18 on the Coaches list and No. 19 in the AP Poll after its loss at UNLV.
It looks like things have worked out nicely for Boise State. With the reworked TV structure in the Mountain West, the Broncos stand to make far more money in football than they would have by moving to the Big East. NBC Sports Network has verbally offered the Big East between $20 million and $23 million per year for six years according to ESPN’s sources. Best case scenario is about $2 million annually to each Big East school. Contrast that with the nine-year, $1.17 billion deal the conference could have signed with ESPN two years ago—but didn’t. That would have been six times what the Big East will receive from NBCSN.
Attendance figures for the 2012 college football season are official, and Boise State led its conference for the first time since the Big West days. The Broncos topped the Mountain West at 35,404 fans per game, over 3,000 better than second-place Air Force. That number is a Boise State record—no surprise after the Bronco Stadium expansion that doubled the size of the south end zone and rebuilt the north end zone, taking capacity to 37,000.
The interesting case in attendance is Hawaii, which in the old days far outpaced Boise State in the stands. If you watched the Bronco-Warrior game last November, on TV or in person, did you think that just maybe there weren’t 29,471 people in Aloha Stadium as announced? You’re right. Those were “tickets distributed.” The actual turnstile count according to an independent auditor was 21,160 (most of them sitting in the shade, out of the view of TV cameras). No matter how you count it, Hawaii’s attendance was the lowest since an 0-12 season in 1998. That is absolutely distressing news for a market the size of Honolulu—and for a university that commands virtually all the athletic attention in the state.
Almost 14 months after he coached his last game for Arizona State against Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Dennis Erickson has a new job. Only this time he’s not a head coach—he’ll be the co-offensive coordinator at Utah. The effects of the age difference will be worth watching. Erickson is 65 now, and he’ll share the job with 29-year-old Brian Johnson, the former Ute quarterback. Erickson bolted Idaho for ASU after one season six years ago. His first head coaching job was with the Vandals in 1982, and he promptly turned the program around. Erickson has also led Wyoming, Washington State, Miami (where he won two national championships), Oregon State, and the San Francisco 49ers.
Maybe he’ll come to be known as the “Charter Coyote.” Eagle High tight end Marcus Lenhardt has become the first football player to sign a Letter of Intent with the College of Idaho since 1977. Lenhardt will be the building block as coach Mike Moroski assembles the Yotes squad that will signal the reinstatement of football at C of I with a season opener in August of next year. Lenhardt made 27 catches for 343 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Mustangs. The All-SIC pick is the younger brother of Boise State women’s basketball standout Lauren Lenhardt.
Coach Brad Ralph has been the ticket so far for the Idaho Steelheads. At 31-13-5, the Steelies already have amassed as many wins as they had all of last season and are four points away from qualifying for the postseason for the 16th straight year. Ralph has been working with unprecedented roster flux this season, but he’s had some good finds. One of them is forward Tyler Gron, who has 15 points in 12 games since joining the team four weeks ago. Gron’s a rookie from Northern Michigan, where one of his teammates was Mark Olver, the son of former Steelheads head coach John Olver. Idaho hosts the San Francisco Bulls for the first time tonight and tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena.
This Day In Sports…February 12, 1968:
The legendary Jean-Claude Killy of France wins his second gold medal of the Winter Olympics in Grenoble with a victory in the giant slalom. His first came in the downhill three days earlier, and he would get a third five days later in the slalom. After his sweep of the alpine events, Killy said, “The party went on for two-and-a-half days, and the whole time I never saw the sun once.”
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)