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An encouraging spring in the stands surrounding the blue turf

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on May 7, 2010 at 7:17 AM


Friday, May 7, 2010.
Our question of the day: now that spring football is done around the country, how does spring football attendance relate to fall football attendance? At Boise State, the hope is that it’s a positive. The crowd at the Blue & Orange Game three weeks back was 12,000, by far the biggest turnout in the WAC. That was up 2,000 from last year, as the Fiesta Bowl effect—and the anticipation of something interesting in 2010—brought out the bodies. Can the Broncos parlay that into capacity crowds in the fall beyond the expected sellout against Oregon State in September? Depends on how people feel about ticket prices, the increases of which hit fans broadside a year ago. With no appreciable jump in cost this year, and with less fear among the populace, and with national publicity for Boise State at yet another level, maybe there’s a shot at six full houses.
Which WAC team had the second-largest announced crowd at its spring finale? That would be Idaho, with 3,000 at the Silver & Gold Game. The Vandals hope that’s a good sign, because they need some turnstile money this season. Athletic director Rob Spear held the last of a series of statewide town hall meetings in the Kibbie Dome a week ago, and he revealed that Idaho was last in the WAC in total revenue for 2009 after being third-to-last in 2006. Only four percent of the Vandals’ athletic department revenues come from ticket sales.
Elsewhere around the WAC, Fresno State attracted only 2500 for its spring game last Saturday. Nevada held its Silver & Blue scrimmage a month ago and put a lot of effort into making it an event. The Wolf Pack still drew 1500. About 1000 fans showed for Hawaii’s “Warrior Bowl,” which was held at a campus practice facility. Also, Oregon State had 7,100 last Saturday for its spring game on a sunny day in Corvallis. Here’s your dose of reality: defending national champion Alabama drew 91,312 for its spring wrapup, the “Golden Flake-A-Day” game.
The Idaho Steelheads’ level of energy will be pretty interesting tonight. It should be high after they were finally felled for the first time in the Kelly Cup Playoffs Wednesday night. Stockton stepped its game up—and still needed more than 100 minutes to win Game 3 of the ECHL National Conference Finals. In tonight’s Game 4, the Steelheads offense hopes to return to its high-scoring ways after the three-overtime shutout Wednesday. That’ll be the ticket as they try to take a three games-to-one lead on the Thunder. The Steelies defense is fine.
Steelheads left wing Evan Barlow seems to have been a target of Stockton over the first three games of this series. Wednesday night’s marathon was a relatively cleanly-played affair, but there was at least one exception. The Thunder’s Garet Hunt was seen trying to step on Barlow with his skate while Barlow was down on the ice, and ECHL officials took notice. Hunt has been fined and suspended for tonight’s game. 
The surprise departure of Idaho Stampede coach Bob MacKinnon yesterday marks the third time in the Stampede’s 13-year history a coach has lasted only one season. Bobby Dye, the former Boise State coach, led the Stampede during their first campaign in 1997-98—then grew weary of the travel in the CBA and retired. And Larry Krystkowiak guided the team to what was then its best season ever in 2003-04 before taking the head coaching job at Montana, his alma mater. MacKinnon said when he took the Stampede job last September he was looking forward to moving his family to Boise. That never happened. The rest of the family visited MacKinnon once during the season; otherwise they remained in North Carolina. The fact MacKinnon was not able to set down roots here had to be an issue with Stampede managing investor Bill Ilett.
Let’s see how a distinguished Idaho Stampede graduate is doing in the NBA as the Utah Jazz lay on the ropes in the NBA Playoffs. Sundiata Gaines, the Stampede’s top pick in the D-League Draft last fall, played all of five minutes in Utah’s first round series against Denver and hasn’t appeared in either of the two losses to the Lakers. Gaines joined the Jazz the first week of January after a dominant six weeks with the Stampede. During the regular season, he played 32 games, averaging 3.3 points in less than seven minutes per game. Gaines does have an enduring highlight—his game-winning buzzer-beating three-pointer that brought down the Cavaliers and LeBron James in his fourth game with the Jazz.
On the local campus front, the College of Idaho baseball team is in the winner’s bracket of the NAIA West Postseason Tournament after drubbing Oregon Tech in the first round yesterday, 10-4. Ben Rosen pitched a complete game six-hitter to lead the Coyotes into today’s matchup against host British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. In men’s tennis, Boise State’s James Meredith earned one of 16 automatic selections to the 64-player field in the individual portion of the NCAA Tournament. One the women’s side, BSU’s Pichittra Thongdach and Lauren Megale got an automatic bid in doubles, while Thongdach picked up an at-large berth in singles.
There are 86 guys under par after the first round of the Players Championship, and former Boise State star Troy Merritt is one of ‘em. Merritt fired a one-under-71 yesterday at TPC Sawgrass, taking his typical two bogies and countering with three birdies, one of them on the course’s signature 17th hole. He’s in good shape to make the cut with a solid round today. Merritt is tied for 62nd, five shots behind co-leaders J.B. Holmes and Robert Allenby.
This Day In Sports…May 7, 1988:
Caldwell native Gary Stevens, who got his horse racing start at Les Bois Park while a student at Capital High in the late 70’s, rides Winning Colors to victory in the 114th running of the Kentucky Derby. It was the first of three victories for Stevens in the Run For The Roses, as Winning Colors became only the third filly ever to win the Derby.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)