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A soft landing for Gene B.

A soft landing for Gene B.

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on May 25, 2012 at 7:17 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 4:43 PM

Friday, May 25, 2012.

When I saw Gene Bleymaier at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl banquet last December, one thing stuck out like a sore thumb to me.  His tie was not blue and orange.  I had never seen that before.  From this point forward, Bleymaier’s ties will be blue and gold.  The former Boise State athletic director was introduced as the new AD at San Jose State yesterday, infusing hope into a long-suffering fan base.  “I’ve always thought of San Jose State as a sleeping giant—and if they ever got this thing rolling, they’d be very tough to compete against,” Bleymaier said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk.  “There are 230,000 San Jose State alums in the Bay Area alone.”  The No. 1 challenge is getting those people into the stands.  The Spartans have a “totem pole” problem in the Bay Area.  There are the 49ers, Raiders, Giants, A’s, Warriors, Sharks, and Stanford and Cal.

Bleymaier has had plenty of time to think about it, though, and he says he’s energized by the task ahead.  “What I realized over the past nine months is that my passion for intercollegiate athletics is still very high,” said Bleymaier, who still had over a year left to be paid on his Boise State contract.  “It’s not like I needed to panic and settle for any job that was out there.”  He feels the timing is right for San Jose State to rise from the doldrums.  “The invitation to the Mountain West was a difference-maker in my coming after this job,” he said.  As for his old school’s predicament in finding a home for its non-football sports?  “That’s really not my place—it really doesn’t matter now.  I just wish them the best of luck.”

Recapping Bleymaier’s Boise State career: the athletic program that he took over in 1982 at the age of 28 is hardly recognizable today.  It was Division I-AA in football, a little more than one year removed from the national championship, and Jim Criner was still the coach.  It was finishing its final basketball season in 3600-seat Bronco Gym.  Boise State was in just its 14th year as a four-year school.  From there, Bleymaier saw the grand opening of what is now Taco Bell Arena, masterminded the blue turf in Bronco Stadium in 1986, guided the Broncos into Division I-A and the Big West in 1996 at the same time coach Pokey Allen was dying of cancer, and—through the series of coaching hires that spanned Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen—presided over Boise State’s rise to the top 10 ranks in college football, a story that will not be repeated.

There’s a photo gallery at that tracks the progress of the Bronco Stadium expansion which will take capacity to 37,000 this season.  The framing of the south end zone bleachers is visible, with the structure actually extending a good 20-25 feet above the bottom concourse of the upper deck on the stadium corners (if that makes sense).  The strangest site is the track disappearing forever into the construction area at the south end.  The lane numbers are still visible.  Feel free to be nostalgic as you see a 42-year era of the stadium coming to an end.

Steve Greenburg of Sporting News put a human face on the dilemma facing the Idaho and New Mexico State athletic programs this week.  Seems that Aggie coach DeWayne Walker’s daughter, Kendra, was in Moscow two weeks ago to compete in the WAC Track and Field Championships.  And Vandal coach Robb Akey had Walker over for dinner.  “We really vented that night,” Akey told Greenburg.  “Being a successful Division I football coach is exactly what I want.  It’s hard to do if you don’t have a conference.  Does that keep me awake at night?  Unfortunately, it does.”

Greenburg said Akey has taken the Mountain West snub hard, pointing to the coach’s childhood.  Akey was born in Colorado, but his mother didn’t want him and he spent his first year in foster care before being adopted.  “Unwanted.  I’ve been that way before, when I was a baby,” he said.  “Things worked out pretty well.  I have a great set of parents.  I had a good home, and, hopefully, we will, too.”

It was a fairly devastating start to the inaugural Exergy Tour last night—for Boise’s Kristin Armstrong and thousands of fans.  In the first event of the five-day race, Armstrong was the last to start the prologue from Julia Davis Park.  The 2008 Olympic gold medalist crashed midway through, falling hard on her left collarbone and breaking it.  Armstrong will undergo surgery today, ending her Exergy Tour bid and taking away her last opportunity to impress the selection committee for the U.S. cycling team at the London Olympics.  She was so looking forward to hometown fan support this weekend.  The Exergy Tour isn’t just a public appearance for her the way the Twilight Criterium is.  Today the rest of the racers move to Stage 1, the 76.7-mile road race that starts in Nampa, runs along Lake Lowell and out to the Snake River, and returns to downtown Nampa. 

The College of Idaho baseball team has one NAIA national championship on its resume, but that came in 1998, before the NAIA World Series moved to Lewiston.  This will be the first time in 10 years the Coyotes have played the series up north and third time overall as they open play today versus Point Park of Pennsylvania.  In their last trip in 2002, the Yotes began with a wild 17-10 extra innings win over Embry-Riddle and defeated Mayville State.  The C of I then won another extra innings game over Oklahoma City to move into the semifinals, but losses to host Lewis-Clark State and OCU handed the Coyotes the third-place trophy.  In the years since the program hit some tough financial times, but the Yotes have roared back to health and now aim to prove they’re back.

It’s a big Bitterroot weekend at Les Bois Park.  Tomorrow night’s card is highlighted by the Bitterroot Derby, with 10 qualifiers racing for over $30,000 in purses.  Don’t blink—it’s a 400-yard sprint.  Then on Memorial Day the purses go over $100,000 for the Bitterroot Futurity, featuring the 10 top Idaho-bred two-year-old quarter horses.  The field was whittled through qualifying from an original list of 90 eligible stallions.

He’s done it before—now he’ll have to do it again.  Graham DeLaet will need a solid second round to make the cut today in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth.  DeLaet was in good shape after eight holes yesterday, sitting at three-under.  But the rest of his round included three bogeys and a double-bogey, and he ended up at two-over 72.  The former Boise State star has made the cut in his past five PGA Tour events as he plays on a medical exemption.  DeLaet needs $141,265 over his next 12 tournaments to keep his tour card.

This Day In Sports…May 25, 1935:

In one of the greatest one-man shows in track & field history, Jesse Owens of Ohio State ties the world record in the 100-yard dash and sets world marks in the 220-yard dash, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the long jump—all in less than an hour at a meet in Ann Arbor, MI.  Owens, of course, would win four gold medals the following year at the Summer Olympics in Berlin.

(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.)