Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
The Lewiston Morning Tribune, arguably the most influential newspaper in Northern Idaho, has come out in favor of moving the University of Idaho’s athletic programs back to the Big Sky. At least columnist Troy Warzocha has. And it has raised quite a furor among Vandal fans. Some agree, but many decry the idea, especially coming from a guy who has covered Idaho for just a year. “The reality is that the Vandals are a Big Sky program disguised as an FBS outfit,” writes Warzocha. “There's a reason why the Mountain West stiff-armed Idaho, and there's a reason why the Sun Belt is dragging its feet on openly welcoming the Vandals back. Idaho would fit in the Big Sky rather comfortably not only in locale, academics and athletics, but also monetarily.”
Warzocha addresses the pride factor: “To many, dropping back down to the Football Championship Subdivision is an admission of failure and would be considered an embarrassment. While making the move would indicate that things in the FBS didn't go exactly as planned, taking a step back can't be any more embarrassing than begging the Sun Belt for an invite.” Warzocha, whose previous gig was covering the Montana Grizzlies for the Missoulian, touts the Big Sky as one of the premiere FCS conferences in the country—one with a new ROOT Sports contract that will give the conference exposure throughout the Northwest.
Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton and Idaho athletic director Rob Spear should be painstakingly analyzing the financial model of a Vandal return to the FCS. A Scott Slant reader who follows both Idaho and Boise State has this pitch for UI staying the current course. “Who would Idaho rather play? Northern Colorado, averaging 3,900 fans per football game, and thus Idaho incurring a net loss for an away game at Greeley? Or would Idaho rather play Auburn or LSU and make a profit of more than $750,000 per game? Idaho took Virginia to overtime and barely lost, and still made $650,000. Idaho has to ‘hang in there.’ The other option will always be there: the Big Sky will always take Idaho.” A well-crafted thought.
It would be a miracle now if there is a WAC on July 1, 2013. Yet another school has announced its departure—one that will never play a game in the WAC. Texas-Arlington was set to join the conference in 2013 and give the WAC a “footprint in Dallas,” but has opted for the Sun Belt. With Boise State poised to bail on moving its non-football sports back to the WAC next year, that leaves Idaho, New Mexico State, Denver and Seattle.
ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson checked in from the Big East meetings yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. There was plenty of Boise State discussion beyond Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson’s refutation of BSU athletic director Mark Coyle’s claim that the Broncos didn’t talk to the MW about staying. The NBC Sports Network and Fox both made presentations to the league, spurring speculation that TV revenue figures could be driven up and top $10 million per school after ESPN’s exclusive negotiation window closes this fall. So what does that say about the Broncos sticking with their decision to take football to the Big East? “It’s really a no-brainer,” said Adelson. “Boise State’s just going to have to work with San Diego and the Big East to find a home for its non-football sports.”
Adelson said the non-football issue is a serious one for Boise State until there’s a resolution. “It does seem that everyone’s moving forward on the assumption that Boise State’s going to find a home for its sports,” said Adelson. It’s crucial to San Diego State that the Broncos do that, but Aztec athletic director Jim Sterk isn’t worried. “People say, 'Oh they're in trouble.' No, they're in a position of strength here. They have opportunities,” Sterk told Adelson, who agreed. “Boise State does have some leverage,” she said, while adding, “I don’t see either one of them being able to go back to the Mountain West.”
Unusual headlines involving a couple Boise State standouts in the NFL. Former Bronco cornerback Brandyn Thompson slammed into Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan during the ‘Skins’ first full-squad workout yesterday. Shanahan lay on the ground for a couple minutes while being examined by team trainers. He then walked to the sideline and watched the rest of practice but was too woozy to speak to reporters later. Thompson is going into his second NFL season and splitting time in 2011 between Washington’s active roster and practice squad.
And former Boise State star Titus Young doesn’t need to go down this road. Young has been banned from Detroit’s OTA’s “for the time being” after getting into a fight last week with Lions safety Louis Delmas during a workout. Young is accused of sucker-punching Delmas, and observers see it as a dual message from Detroit: 1) Titus needs an attitude adjustment, and 2) the Lions are not going to put up with any of the undisciplined play that marred an otherwise solid season last year. Young was involved in one of the incidents—a costly personal foul at New Orleans as the Lions were threatening to score. Of course, he missed 10 games due to suspension during his sophomore year with the Broncos in 2008.
The ramp-up is underway for the inaugural Exergy Tour Thursday through Monday around the Treasure Valley. For most competitors in the four-stage race it’s the last chance to make an impression for inclusion on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2012 Summer Games in London. The squad will be named June 15. The local centerpiece, naturally, is Boise’s Kristin Armstrong, the time trial gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She’ll be vying for a spot against the likes of Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens for a coveted Olympic spot this week. “I’ll be going head-to-head with the best in the world, so that will show the selection committee one more time that I’m capable of competing at a high international level,” Armstrong said on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra.
This Day In Sports…May 22, 2003:
Annika Sorenstam, the premier performer in women’s golf, makes history by becoming the first woman in 58 years to tee off in a PGA Tour event. Sorenstam distinguished herself well in the first round of the Colonial, shooting a one-over-par 71. But she carded a four-over-74 in the second round and missed the cut, finishing in the bottom third of the field. There would be a local equivalent four months later, when 13-year-old phenom Michelle Wie became the first female amateur to play a Nationwide Tour event, the Albertson’s Boise Open.
(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.)