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Catching up on some Mountain West items on a late May day

Catching up on some Mountain West items on a late May day

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 7:24 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 3 at 6:10 PM

 

Thursday, May 26, 2011.
 
When Utah left last June, and then BYU bailed in August, and then TCU fled in November, it was easy to dismiss the Mountain West’s chances of ever becoming a BCS conference. Boise State was coming in for the 2011 season, to be followed by three other WAC defectors, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii. But would that be enough? Most assumed not. The subject keeps coming up, though. Tony Barnhart at CBS Sports.com thinks conditions could still be right. Writes Barnhart: “If TCU and Boise State are really good again (like top-10 good); if the Mountain West fields five winning teams (as it did last season), and if the Mountain West meets two of the three (BCS) criteria and is reasonably in the ball park on the third, it might be wise to grant them AQ status for two years.”
 
Barnhart explains why: “First of all, they've earned it.  Second of all, the big boys still likely will get the three remaining at-large bids, so the money distribution will stay where it has been for seven years now.  And the six AQ conferences avoid a PR fight that they really don't need right now.  You don't want to give Christine Varney at the Department of Justice another reason to be looking under the tent.” And, with a BCS automatic qualifier bid worth $24.7 million, there are some pivotal games for the Mountain West this season. What do you think the first one is? Boise State versus Georgia in Atlanta September 3. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson knows it. "Huge game," Thompson told Barnhart.  "Monster game."
 
The Mountain West is going to unveil a new logo a week from Monday, and it’s under lock and key until then. Only a privileged few will see it beforehand. The conference wanted to rebrand with its myriad membership changes, and it surveyed fans in Mountain West markets to get feedback. I’m thinking it could be a beautiful snow-capped mountain peak, with a tunnel running through it. Going in the tunnel on the left could be a train car with Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada logos in it. Exiting on the right could be Utah, BYU and TCU logos. You like?
 
To be sure, BYU is going to miss the Mountain West from a scheduling standpoint. This season’s Cougars slate, their first as an independent, is very average. So BYU has revived a rivalry from its old WAC days that it has generally avoided since the advent of the Mountain West in 1999. The Cougars will play Hawaii, which still considers the “Y” its most despised foe, almost every year through 2020. Almost, because when the Warriors join the MWC next year it still needs to be determined whether the league will play an eight-game or nine-game conference schedule. If it’s nine, there’ll be some years (such as 2014) when UH’s non-league dance card is already filled.
 
Davey Hamilton will try to reverse a trend when he starts his engine for the 11th time at the Indianapolis 500 Sunday. The first thing he’s trying to avoid is last year’s finish, officially dead last after he was knocked out of the race on the first lap. In trying to avoid Thomas Schekter, Hamilton lost control of his car and slammed into the infield wall. Hamilton called Schekter “an idiot” for trying to pass coming out of turn number two. The three previous years saw Hamilton finish—in reverse order—29th, 14th and 9th at the Brickyard.
 
Some call him courageous, some call him crazy. But for Boisean Bill Bucker, it’s just another spoke in the ol’ wheel of life. Buckner makes his managerial debut tonight with the Brockton Rox, 20 miles outside of Boston, where he is known for a certain something that happened 25 years ago. Buckner is past that now, and most Red Sox fans got past it on Opening Day in 2008 when he made an emotional outfield entrance at Fenway Park and threw out the first pitch to celebrate Boston’s second World Series championship of the new century. It was a far cry from 2004, when—instead of so much as watch the Red Sox on TV in Game 1 of the World Series—Buckner was using his Boise State season tickets to see the Broncos play Fresno State.
 
Former Boise Hawk Lou Montanez has come full circle with the Chicago Cubs. Montanez was a first round draft pick of the Cubs in 2000 but got off to a slow start in the minors. He was still toiling in short season Class A in 2004. Montanez had a pretty good season in Boise that summer, hitting .297 with eight home runs and 48 runs batted in as the Hawks won the Northwest League championship. But the Cubs ran out of patience with him in 2007, and he landed in Baltimore’s farm system. 
 
Montanez played 93 games for the Orioles over the last three seasons before ending up back in the Cubs organization in January. He was called up Tuesday by Chicago, and his Cubs debut that night was rather solid—2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI in an 11-1 win over the Mets. “I always wanted to be a Cub,” said Montanez. “I always wanted to play in Wrigley Field.  I always wanted to wear this uniform.”
 
A little slice of life in Boise that’s been missing the past two summers makes a much-anticipated return on Independence Day weekend. Treasure Valley Racing has received the official go-ahead on a July 2 start for horse racing at Les Bois Park. There will be 15 dates, capped by the Idaho Cup on August 12 and 13. Simulcast betting could begin as early as next week.
 
There’s been some unhappy news lately, and this week contains its share. Lori Orr Hays, a Boise State athletic department mainstay for 23 years, was recently (very recently) diagnosed with a tumor and underwent surgery Tuesday. By all accounts, Lori is doing well. I was at KFXD in 1983 when she got her first job out of college, in the news department there. I’ve watched her career—and have worked with her in a number of capacities—ever since. She’s a peach, and I wish her well. Also, the Idaho Steelheads received word that former player Barry Potomski died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 38. Potomski was a Steelhead 10 years ago during the team’s WCHL days and was selected as the Steelies’ Taylor Cup MVP in 2001.
 
This Day In Sports…May 26, 1959:
 
An unforgettable pitching performance by Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix. There have been 17 perfect games in big league history, but none of them may be as impressive as one that Haddix didn’t get credit for. Haddix retired every batter he faced—36 in a row—through the first 12 innings against the Milwaukee Braves. But he lost the game in the 13th, 1-0. Haddix ended up with a 12 2/3-inning, one-hit, complete game defeat.
 
(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.)

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