Thursday, May 3, 2012.
Athlon Sports got a jump on its fellow preseason college football magazines yesterday by releasing its Top 25. Geez, it’s only the first week of May. But I bit on it. Boise State is ranked 24th on the Athlon list and is picked to win the Mountain West this season by the mag. Athlon is counting down its Top 25, so we won’t know for a while where Michigan State falls. Six Broncos are preseason first-team All-Mountain West: wide receiver Matt Miller, offensive tackle Charles Leno, defensive tackle Mike Atkinson, linebacker J.C. Percy, cornerback Jamar Taylor and punt returner Mitch Burroughs. ESPN’s College Football Live has taken its first stab at the rankings as well and puts Boise State 23rd and Michigan State 12th.
Texas State serves as the first domino in the chain expected to bring down the WAC. The Bobcats will officially exit the WAC in July of 2013 after just one year to join the Sun Belt—and former WAC commissioner Karl Benson is clearly not done with additions to his league. Texas State will expand its stadium to 30,000 to support its move to the FBS. Benson was non-committal on when he would have any conversations with Idaho and New Mexico State. NMSU is seen as having a chance at Sun Belt membership.
The next announcements are expected tomorrow, when Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are set to officially bolt to Conference USA and Utah State and San Jose State to the Mountain West. By the way, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News says former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier is “extremely interested” in the same post with the Spartans. As for the Broncos’ non-football sports? There’s been no statement out of Boise State on the situation, but inside the walls they’re sure to be preaching patience. You still don’t know what might develop.
They’re just as worried in Las Cruces right now as they are in Moscow. The concern at New Mexico State according to Las Cruces Sun-News columnist Teddy Feinberg is that the Sun Belt may not want to stray any further west than San Antonio and San Marcos. And Feinberg raises the FCS question, writing, “Southland Conference anyone? How about the Big Sky? Clearly not the first choice for Aggie administration. But would it be the right choice for an Aggie football program that hasn't been to a bowl game since 1960?”
The Idaho Steelheads’ first losing record of the ECHL era has evidently cost coach Hardy Sauter his job. The Steelheads, who went 31-32-9 this season, announced yesterday that they’re not renewing Sauter’s contract, ending his two years at the helm. The Steelies persevered to make the ECHL Western Conference semifinals last month, but a 10-game losing streak from mid-February through early March took its toll on fans and the team. A search for Sauter’s replacement is underway.
Sauter’s predecessor, Derek Laxdal, has essentially struck oil since leaving the Steelheads. Laxdal is now coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings and has them in the Western Hockey League Finals, with Game 1 set for tonight against the Portland Winterhawks. Hockey fans in Alberta are taking note of the fact that Laxdal was part of the Winterhawks’ WHL Memorial Cup championship team as a rookie forward 29 years ago. Now he tries to bookend it with Edmonton as a coach. The Oil Kings, who won just 16 games before Laxdal’s arrival, have won 23 of their past 24 games, with the only loss coming in the playoffs. Portland is well-stocked with NHL draft picks, including five first-rounders. That kind of magnifies the difference between the ECHL and WHL.
Rousing Sermon isn’t exactly in the middle of the field for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, but it’s close enough for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s liking. The Idaho entry drew the No. 7 post position for the race yesterday. Let’s clarify that the three-year-old red colt is an Idaho-raised horse and not an Idaho-bred horse. Rousing Sermon was actually born at River Edge Farm in Central California before being raised at Tree Top Ranches in Parma. Horse manager Dan Kiser says that shortly after he joined the Parma facility 10 years ago, he and owners Larry and Marianne Williams set a goal of getting a horse into the Run For The Roses. They just missed in 2004 with Lucky Pulpit, which was put out to stud a few years later and mated with Rousing Again. Now the offspring will compete Saturday in the “Fastest Two Minutes In Sports.”
A cool night but a good night for Opening Night last night at Les Bois Park. The track drew 4,685 fans for the first of its 36 racing dates this season. A Royal Dervish won the Premier Handicap, the first quarter horse stakes race of the year. The evening featured an appearance by Laffit Pincay Jr., the winningest jockey in history. Little-known fact: Jose Lezcano, who will be riding Rousing Sermon in the Kentucky Derby Saturday, attended the Laffit Pincay Jockey School in his native Panama before coming to the U.S. in 2003.
Catching up on former Boise Hawks in the majors: two of them picked up victories on the mound Tuesday night and another did last night. Ricky Nolasco won his third straight game for Miami, beating Matt Cain in San Francisco by scattering seven hits in 7 1/3 innings in a 2-1 Marlins victory Tuesday. Nolasco was the Hawks’ ace 10 years ago, going 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA. Andrew Cashner won his first game as a San Diego Padre last Thursday—and got his second Tuesday as he combined with starter Edinson Volquez and closer Huston Street on a 2-0 shutout of Milwaukee. Cashner, who threw the eighth inning, was a first round draft pick out of TCU and went 1-1 with the Hawks in 2008. And Jeff Samardzija, the one-time Notre Dame wide receiver who pitched for Boise in 2006, upped his record to 3-1 last night in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory at Cincinnati.
Other campus notes: the College of Idaho baseball team won its first game at the NAIA West Grouping Tournament last night, beating Concordia 7-5. The Coyotes play Menlo today for the right to advance to the championship round. Boise State senior Damian Hume has landed a spot in the individual portion of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships in Athens, GA, late this month. Hume is the 10th player in Bronco history to be selected for singles at nationals. And Hailey Gaspar has left the Boise State gymnastics team, signing a financial aid agreement to transfer to Oregon State. She has one year of eligibility remaining. Gaspar was first-team All-WAC on vault and floor in 2011 but competed in only five meets this season, with her last appearance on February 10.
This Day In Sports…May 3, 1997, 15 years ago today:
Idaho native and former Les Bois Park jockey Gary Stevens wins his third and final Kentucky Derby, riding Silver Charm to victory at Churchill Downs. The one-time Capital High wrestler would take the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, one of three times he won two legs of the Triple Crown in the same year. Stevens retired from horse racing in late 2005 and has been working as a TV analyst for the sport since.
(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.)