Sunday, Nov 3 at 6:09 PM
Wednesday, September 1, 2010.
Well, it’s happened. BYU has pulled the trigger on the Mountain West, going independent in football and to the West Coast Conference in other sports. This arrangement is unbelievably odd. But what’s done is done, and I go back to three original thoughts when this whole thing first came down two weeks ago. The Mountain West will now have no hope of becoming an automatic-qualifying BCS conference. TCU will be freaked out by this turn of events and will scramble to find alternatives to the Mountain West. And BYU’s non-football coaches have to be freaked out themselves.
Let’s see how BYU men’s basketball coach Dave Rose spins it today. Oh, the competition in the WCC in hoops is fine. But Rose’s Cougars draw an average of 14,300 fans in the Marriott Center, capacity 22,700. Now they’ll visit lots of tiny gyms. Only two of the WCC’s eight teams averaged more than 2500 in men’s basketball last season: Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
Beyond the negative impact BYU’s move has on the Mountain West, there are other effects on Boise State. The primary ones are scheduling and television. The Broncos are now cradling the non-conference football contracts they have with Utah beginning in 2011 and BYU starting in 2012. Hey, the Cougars need to fill a 12-game slate, don’t they? How about this? If Nevada and Fresno State are forced to stay in the WAC until 2012, leaving Boise State with only seven conference games, maybe Idaho comes to Bronco Stadium next year after all. Just throwin’ it out there. On the subject of the Mountain West TV contract, how much does BYU’s departure weaken it? Is this actually a blessing in disguise from a TV standpoint?
Well, isn’t this ironic. It was 26 years ago today that BYU launched its national championship run with a 20-14 upset of No. 3 Pittsburgh. And it was the first live, regular season college football game ever televised by ESPN, the network with which the Cougars can now reunite upon their independence. Incidentally, the win over Pitt jumped BYU from unranked to No. 13 en route to their first and only national crown.
Now the WAC is on the ropes, with its only hope to pull in current FCS schools down the road or form some kind of alliance with another mid-major league. Utah State must be in depression. Idaho has no choice but to be in wait-and-see mode. Same with New Mexico State. San Jose State will probably examine the viability of football. Louisiana Tech will search for a friendly landing spot in the South. And then there’s Hawaii, the big loser in this deal.
If the WAC is correct in its claim that the damages the remaining conference schools would incur from the departures of Fresno State and Nevada could exceed as much as $2 million per institution—and if that’s an average figure—then Hawaii’s share is disproportionately large. If UH is forced to go independent in football and place its other sports in, say, the Big West, it will have to return to the days of travel subsidies. The Warriors haven’t had to pay those in the WAC. And we’re not just talking football here. The Big West is now an all-California conference. That state is hurtin’—and those schools will have their hands out if they’re going to be asked to travel halfway across the Pacific.
The first question at Chris Petersen’s final press conference before the Boise State-Virginia Tech game was about the importance of turnovers at the beginning of the season. Petersen quickly added in another facet of the game. “Along those lines: not only turnovers, but it’s probably special teams as well, early on,” said Pete. “There are no downs off when you play special teams against Virginia Tech, that’s for sure.” And, along those lines, Byron Hout adjusts not only to his new spot at linebacker, but his new duties as long-snapper. Hout takes over for Chris Roberson, who handled that spot last year. “Coach (Jeff) Choate has had tremendous confidence in Byron all along,” Petersen said. It’s not specifically for the Hokies, with Hout’s big-game experience in mind. It’s more because of his athletic ability. He has to snap—and he has to block.
Petersen oozes respect for the Hokies and coach Frank Beamer. More than once yesterday, he said, “We would love to be Virginia Tech.” On Beamer, who he has met in social settings, Petersen said, “He’s one of the good guys.” Pete dismissed any notion that the Hokies will be vulnerable on defense due to newcomers, comparing them to TCU: “Their schemes are similar—they just don’t give up anything.” If Boise State has developed tradition, he says it’s nothing compared to Tech. “If we could turn into the Virginia Tech of the West Coast, I’d be the most ecstatic guy around,” said Petersen.
Petersen doesn’t know yet which five offensive linemen will trot onto FedEx Field Monday night for Boise State’s first offensive snap. And that’s because of the unknown created by injuries. “We have three hard practices left, and we know something will happen (to affect it),” said Petersen. He said the Broncos currently have four scenarios, depending on who is 100 percent and who isn’t. But none of them will cause BSU to adjust the playbook. “There’s not a big enough drop-off with any of the combinations we have to change things like that,” Pete said.
How about that news from Oxford, Mississippi? After all the hubbub over Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt rolling the dice and bringing in dismissed Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, the NCAA has ruled Masoli ineligible for the 2010 season. It said the quarterback’s transfer to the Rebels under the pretense of pursuing a graduate degree not offered at Oregon after being kicked off the team violated the spirit of the NCAA regulation. Ole Miss will appeal and hopes to get an answer by Friday, which would be the one-year anniversary of the Ducks’ offensive train wreck on the blue turf. If Masoli’s eligibility is delayed until 2011, he’ll get to open a season once again versus Boise State.
No late-game miracle this time for the Boise Hawks, although they gave it a shot. The Hawks returned home from their Western Idaho Fair road trip with a 5-3 loss to Spokane last night at Memorial Stadium. The Indians led 4-0 after three innings and 5-0 after five. The Hawks manufactured all three of their runs in the eighth and threatened in the ninth. Meanwhile, Boise had two players named to the Northwest League All-Star team yesterday, Alvaro Ramirez and Pierre LePage. Ramirez, who was just called up to Peoria, leads the league in batting—he had a .350 average when he left. LePage, fourth in the NWL at .332, was the only unanimous selection in All-Star voting.
They’re not on the U.S. team to be sure, but there are several former Idaho Stampede players taking part in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey. Patty Mills of Australia, who made a quick but impressive cameo with Idaho last winter, is averaging 15.7 points, seven rebounds and four assists a game. Mickael Gelabale, assigned to the Stamps in early 2008 by the team once known as the Sonics, is averaging 14 points and is shooting over 60 percent from three-point range for France. And Peter Ramos and Ricky Sanchez are starters for Puerto Rico.
This Day In Sports…September 1, 2007:
Regarded as the biggest upset in the history of college football, Appalachian State goes into the “Big House” at Michigan and stuns the Wolverines 34-32 before 109,000 fans. The two-time defending Division I-AA national champions dominated the first half but saw Michigan take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers then booted a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left—and blocked a Wolverine field goal attempt on the final play of the game to put a dramatic exclamation point on the victory. It was the first time a I-AA team had ever beaten a ranked I-A school.
(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.)