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Both the WAC and Mountain West need their weaker links to play up

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on July 12, 2010 at 7:36 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 12 at 10:21 AM


Monday, July 12, 2010.
Following up on my Sunday Sports Extra subject last night: the top-to-bottom picture this season in the WAC and the Mountain West. The WAC gets regularly rapped for the lack of quality in its lower ranks, but it’s not alone. One of the more respected preseason lists comes from the Sporting News, which ranks a top 100. In the WAC, you have Boise State at No. 3—then Nevada at No. 53. And from there it drops off the table, with the other seven teams in the 70’s and below (Idaho is fourth in the WAC and 76th overall). Fresno State among the WAC elite? The Bulldogs are rated No. 81. Hawaii with equity from a Sugar Bowl run just three seasons ago? The Sporting News doesn’t even have the Warriors in its Top 100.
The Mountain West places TCU at No. 6 and Utah at No. 22. Air Force makes the MWC’s big three a “big four,” slipping in at 42nd, ahead of BYU’s No. 45. Yes, that’s a lot more solid than the WAC. But the Mountain West plummets from there. The other five conference schools come in at No. 80 and below. In both leagues, the bottom feeders need to, well, dine higher.
Kellen Moore was excused from Boise State’s player-run practices the past four days. That’s because he was attending the 2010 Manning Passing Academy. Yes, those Mannings. Peyton and Eli and father Archie Manning run the camp every year on the campus of Nicholls State in Thibodeaux, LA. Moore was part of an impressive group of quarterbacks that also included Stanford's Andrew Luck, Florida State's Christian Ponder, Houston's Case Keenum, and Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts. Moore was no doubt able to spend some quality time with Keenum, who became a texting buddy last fall.
Still sifting though perspectives on the college football eruptions of last month. Former Fresno State and NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an ESPN analyst, is apprehensive about the blockade that could be created by BCS super-conferences. Speaking at a dinner in Carson City Friday (to a Wolf Pack-oriented audience), Dilfer said, “I can see a college landscape where two great football universities on the West Coast, Nevada and Fresno, become Division II-type football programs because they can’t compete financially.” The one-time Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens intimated that Nevada and Fresno State shouldn’t give up on the Mountain West in the future.
Dilfer also said Boise State and Utah deserve the conference moves they will make next year, even it’s Johnny-come-lately for the Broncos. “They’ve earned it,” Dilfer said.  “I think (the conferences) are looking at the last five, six, seven years, and they’re forgetting the tradition and history of programs like Nevada and Fresno.  I think it’s good for Utah, it’s good for Boise, but it doesn’t mean the Fresnos of the world, the Nevadas of the world, couldn’t do the same thing.”
The Boise Hawks looked to be on their way to a fifth straight victory last night—until Eugene blew up those plans with a six-run eighth inning. A 4-3 lead turned into a 9-4 loss after the Hawks had taken the first three games of the five-game set. Danny Keefe, making his third relief appearance in five days, saw his luck run out as he retired just one batter in the eighth while allowing five earned runs. It was the first blown save opportunity by a Boise pitcher this season. Meanwhile, Villanova football standout Matt Szczur was been solid in his first three pro baseball games over the weekend, going 4-for-11 with two doubles and an RBI and one run scored each night, including the winning one in the bottom of the 10th inning Saturday night. The Hawks and Emeralds wrap up their series tonight.
Three former Hawks pitchers were on the mound last night on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, and it was a very interesting experience for one of them. The Cubs were pounded by the Dodgers, 7-0, and Mitch Atkins was called upon with one out in the second inning after Chicago starter Carlos Silva was ejected from the game. Atkins labored for a long 1 2/3 innings. He only allowed one earned run, but that came when he walked in a run—one of four bases on balls he issued. Later, Sean Marshall was his reliable self, throwing a scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 2.03. And Andrew Cashner, despite hitting a batter in what looked like a retaliatory move, struck out two in one inning of scoreless relief and dropped his ERA to 2.64.
If you’ve skied Bogus Basin or Brundage Mountain the past 35 years, your life was probably touched at least indirectly by Mary Naylor. She was a popular instructor at Bogus and founder of the “prime timers” senior skiing group that’s still going strong today. And Naylor was later the long-time marketing director at Brundage, where she retired in 2007. You probably heard one of her extremely upbeat snow reports on the radio or on the phone recording over the years. Naylor died of cancer last December, and Saturday a well-attended memorial was held for her outside the lodge at Brundage Mountain. Mary had the sunniest disposition of any person I’ve ever met.
People from all walks of life were there to honor Mary Naylor—and I have to mention one, because she had a little piece of news for me. Marilyn Plummer, mother of Capital High grad and former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer, said Jake has become a papa for the first time. Roland James Plummer was born three weeks ago to Jake’s wife, Kollette, in Sandpoint. Its been over three years now since Jake retired from the NFL rather than accept a trade from Denver to Tampa Bay. No truth to the rumor that little Roland can already skip a rock halfway across Lake Pend Orielle. 
This Day In Sports…July 12, 1996:
Minnesota’s most popular player, Kirby Puckett, retires from baseball because of a permanently-damaged retina in his right eye. The 5-9, 225-pounder with an infectious love for the game led the Twins to World Series championships in 1987 and 1991. Puckett batted .318 for his career with four league-leading 200-hit seasons, a batting title in 1989, and an RBI crown in 1994. He played in ten consecutive All-Star Games preceding his retirement. Puckett was a 2000 inductee into Boise’s World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
(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.)