Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
We don’t know when, but now we know who. First of all, Boise State’s Mountain West home games next season will be against Air Force, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. The Broncos’ conference road matchups will be at at Colorado State, Fresno State, San Diego State and Utah State, with the home and road sites switching in 2014. The home slate is balanced, with Air Force and Nevada the marquee games. Boise State gets a rugged draw on the road, though. Fresno State will be tough with Derek Carr as a senior, San Diego State is riding the landmark win over the Broncos last year in Boise, and Utah State finished ahead of Boise State in the final AP Poll last season. BSU skips Hawaii, UNLV and San Jose State the next two years. No homecoming on the blue turf scheduled for SJSU athletic director Gene Bleymaier until 2015.
What jumps right out at you is the continuation of Boise State’s rivalries with Nevada and Fresno State the next two years. The Broncos have played those teams every year since 2001, and they’ve faced the Wolf Pack 39 times since 1971. Of course, one school of thought says it’s only a rivalry if it’s balanced—Boise State is 11-1 against both Nevada and Fresno State since uniting with them in the WAC. The Broncos aren’t scheduled to face the Pack and the Bulldogs in 2015 and 2016, but who knows when the next conference shakeup may shuffle the order again?
Boise State’s non-revenue sports are called “Olympic sports.” That’s because most of them are. But there will be one fewer with that official moniker after the 2016 Summer Games. Not that Bronco wrestling is leaving, but that sport will no longer be part of the Olympics effective with the 2020 Olympiad after a surprise recommendation from the International Olympic Committee. The IOC stresses “recommendation,” but few expect the sport to survive a final vote. Olympic sportswriter Philip Hersh smells a rat, pointing out that modern pentathlon, one of the sports vying with wrestling to stay in the Games, had 26 countries participate in London last year. Wrestling had 71. Hersh also figures the IOC is chasing bigger sponsorship money.
It’s ironic that the announcement came the day before Senior Night for the Boise State wrestling team. The Broncos’ final home meet of the season is tonight against Utah Valley in Taco Bell Arena, highlighted by 157-pounder Jason Chamberlain’s quest for his 100th career win. Wrestling has been an anomaly at Boise State, which has steadfastly stood by the sport through three conferences that didn’t sponsor it—and despite the temptation to drop it, with Title IX a ready excuse. The Broncos have been affiliate members of what is now the Pac-12 for 16 years, taking home six conference championships. There are only six wrestling teams left in the Pac-12, and only three of them are all-sport members (Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford). The IOC’s move yesterday doesn’t help.
Certainly Boise State has higher aspirations in the Mountain West basketball race, but the Broncos’ first assignment is avoiding the play-in game in the conference tournament next month. At 4-5 in conference play, they’re two games ahead of Fresno State and Wyoming, the teams in the No. 8 and No. 9 spots currently. And Boise State would hold the tiebreaker over Wyoming with its season sweep of the Cowboys. While the Broncos have a bye tonight, they’ll be monitoring the two teams immediately above them in the standings. UNLV and Air Force are both 5-4 in the league and play each other. Boise State probably has a better chance of overtaking the Falcons, who visit Taco Bell Arena a week from tonight.
The Idaho Stampede will be represented during NBA All-Star weekend in Houston. Josh Owens will compete in the D-League Slam Dunk contest and Justin Holiday will be featured in the NBADL Three-Point Contest, with both events set for Saturday afternoon. Owens is averaging 7.4 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Stampede this season, while Holiday is contributing 12.9 points per game.
The Idaho Steelheads’ offense did the work in the second period, and goalie Tyler Beskorowany took care of the third last night in a 3-2 win over San Francisco in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads scored three times in the second stanza to take a 3-1 lead. Brett Robinson started the surge with a power play goal, marking the 10th straight game the Steelies have scored on the man-advantage. Then the Bulls ratcheted up the pressure in the third. But Beskorowany was standing on his head in the final period, when San Francisco outshot Idaho 20-4 but only realized one goal out of it. The Steelheads’ netminder ended up with 35 saves. The Steelies and Bulls play again tonight.
Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, so it’s a good time to check in on baseball’s top 100 prospects from Keith Law at ESPN.com. The pool includes pro players who are eligible to be rookies in the majors this year. Three former Boise Hawks make the cut. No. 31 is shortstop Javier Baez, the ninth overall pick of the 2011 draft who (ahem) played two games for the Hawks that season. “Baez might have the best bat speed in the minors,” writes Law. “And he certainly has the angriest swing, often reminiscent of John Belushi's samurai character from ‘Saturday Night Live.’”
Right behind Baez is centerfielder Albert Almora, ranked No. 33. Almora was the sixth overall draft pick in 2012 and hit .292 in 15 games for the Hawks last summer. “The joke in scouting circles last spring was that Cubs President Theo Epstein didn't just want to draft Almora, he wanted to adopt him,” Law says. And No. 78 is shortstop Hak Ju-Lee, now in the Tampa Bay organization. He hit .330 with 33 RBIs for the Hawks as a season-long starter in 2009.
This Day In Sports…February 13, 1988, 25 years ago today:
The 15th Winter Olympics kick off in Calgary, Alberta. The Games were dominated by the Soviet Union and East Germany, as they finished first and second, respectively, in the final medal standings. The hosts from Canada would have a disappointing games, as they failed to win a gold medal. Canada would have to wait until the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to win the country’s first ever winter gold on home soil. The competition also included popular underdogs Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards of Great Britain in ski jumping and the Jamaican bobsled team.
(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.)