Tuesday, April 6, 2010.
Numerous stories have been written the past few days comparing Butler’s run to the national championship game in basketball to Boise State’s hopes of doing the same in football. Most profess that the NCAA Tournament was ideal for Butler, because the Bulldogs had a defined road to follow to get into the title tilt last night against Duke (a 61-59 Blue Devils victory in a downright classic of a game). Butler simply had to win five games to get its place in the grand finale. The contention is that the Broncos don’t have the same luxury in the BCS system, unable to work their way in through a playoff.
Here’s what a sportswriter named Kevin Scarbinsky said: “College basketball gives Butler that chance. College football gives Boise State no chance. That’s why college basketball equals democracy and college football equals aristocracy, and that, boys and girls, is the real reason the American colonies went to war against their regally blind British oppressors.” For whom does Scarbinsky write? The Birmingham News, for cryin’ out loud. Even in Alabama they’re sympathetic to the Broncos’ cause. Well, this may be an unpopular position, but be careful what you wish for. The 2010 football season may show that Boise State has worked this “grossly unjust, biased, money-grubbing” system to a tee. If the Broncos do what many think they’re capable of this year, they won’t have to win three games in, say, a 16-team tournament to get there.
Spring football is over at Nevada. You probably don’t want to read too much into this, but quarterback Colin Kaepernick ended the spring much the way he ended last season—with that big thud in the 45-10 loss to SMU in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The Wolf Pack star was just 4-of-16 for 39 yards with three interceptions and did not guide his offensive unit into the end zone in Nevada’s Silver and Blue scrimmage Saturday. Despite the addition of an Easter egg hunt, free food, autographs and pictures to the spring game festivities at Mackay Stadium, only about 1500 people showed up, as Pack fans remain cynical after the embarrassing end to the 2009 campaign. It should be noted, though, that Reno is navigating the same miserable cold spell Boise is right now.
I recently noticed this little item that had flown under the radar. Oregon’s George Fox University has aggressively expanded its horizons in the new century, including a “teaching center” in Boise where it offers degrees in business and education, including masters. Well, George Fox is reinstating football for the first time since 1968, beginning play in the Division III Northwest Conference in 2013. “This decision supports our institutional commitment to aid in the growth of the student body on our Newberg campus,” said university president Robin Baker. “We believe the addition of football is an important part of our strategic plan.” What a concept for NNU and the College of Idaho. There were rumblings about bringing football back at the C of I four years ago or so, but they were eventually back-burnered.
Even during this down time, there’s Idaho Steelheads news. Steelheads forward Mark Derlago has been named the ECHL Plus Performer of the Year after finishing the regular season with a plus-minus rating of plus-34. That means the Steelies outscored their opponents by 34 goals while Derlago was on the ice—tops in the league. Also, Idaho goalie Richard Bachman was runnerup to Elmira’s Justin Donati in ECHL Rookie of the Year voting. And Idaho released its postseason roster, with Ashton Rome left off. Rome looks like he’s in the AHL for the long haul. By the way, the Kelly Cup Playoffs opened last night, with Alaska rallying past Stockton, 4-3. The Steelheads, of course, have a first round bye and will open the postseason a week from Friday against the winner of the Utah-Las Vegas series.
Now that the Idaho Stampede season is over, let’s go around the world with alumni of the D-League franchise, starting with local favorites. Stampede play-by-play man Mark Snider has been tracking them in his blog at the club’s website. Snider reports that former Bishop Kelly and Gonzaga star Cory Violette, one of the centerpieces of the Stampede’s D-League championship two years ago, is in his second season with the Toshiba Brave Thunder in Japan, averaging 12 points and nine rebounds. Jason Ellis, the Boise State Hall of Famer, is in Holland, averaging over eight points and eight rebounds for the GasTerra Flames Groningen in Holland. Among the others, Luke Jackson is in Italy, Brent Petway has been playing in Greece and France, and Mike Taylor is playing in Serbia.
Another BSU Hall of Famer, women’s basketball pioneer Elaine Elliott, is taking a leave of absence from her head coaching job at Utah, where she’s led the program for 27 years. Elliott, who with 582 wins is the winningest coach in Mountain West history, had decided to retire midway through the season. But Utah athletic director Chris Hill talked her into taking the leave instead so she can think through her future. Elliott starred for the BSU women during their formative years, from 1973-77.
And the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has tabbed the late Gus Johnson as a 2010 inductee, one of eight players to enter the hall in August. Johnson was perhaps the best player ever to come through the state of Idaho, leaving his hometown of Akron to play for Boise Junior College and then the University of Idaho. He’s a BSU Hall of Famer as well, and he set Vandal records that still stand in rebounds and rebound average in 1962-63, finishing second in the nation before going on to NBA stardom with the Baltimore Bullets.
The former Boise Hawk with the best Opening Day performance? I’ll go with Pittsburgh’s Ronny Cedeno, as the Pirates destroyed the Dodgers yesterday, 11-5. The Bucs are experimenting with batting their pitcher in the No. 8 slot in the lineup and hitting Cedeno, their starting shortstop, ninth. Cedeno made it look good, going 2-for-4 with one RBI and setting up the top of the order. On the other end of the spectrum was Cubs reliever Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver who made his pro debut with the Hawks in 2007. Samardzija gave up six runs (four earned) and walked three in just a third of an inning in the Cubs’ 16-5 loss at Atlanta.
This Day In Sports…April 6, 2006:
After eight seasons in the CBA, the Idaho Stampede announce a move to the NBA Development League and working agreements with the Utah Jazz and Seattle Supersonics. The CBA, now extinct, had struggled with franchise stability despite the best efforts of the then Boise-based circuit, and the D-League was poised for expansion, with the goal of eventually becoming a 30-team league with one-for-one franchise affiliation. The Dakota Wizards, Sioux Falls Skyforce, and expansion Colorado 14ers joined the Stampede in the CBA exodus.
(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.)