Monday, April 9, 2012.
The announcement Friday that Boise State and Utah State will play a two-game home-and-home series in 2014 and 2015 fills a need. With the move to the Big East next year, opportunities for most Bronco fans to travel to away games will dwindle. The series with the Aggies provides an easy road trip in late September to a venue Boise State faithful have populated well. Estimates for the 2007 game ranged from 7,000 (me) to 9,000 (Salt Lake Tribune). There weren’t quite as many traveling in 2009 since it was a Friday night ESPN2 telecast, but the Bronco contingent still took over Romney Stadium.
With each addition to the Boise State schedule, you wonder when Idaho may appear again. The way it stands now, the Broncos and Vandals will go at least three years without playing each other. BSU still has one home game to fill in 2014. Maybe there’s still a stalemate over Idaho wanting a return trip up north—and the Broncos’ stance that they’ll never play in a 17,000-seat stadium again. The Vandals are playing the blue-and-orange in 2014. Same shade, different universe, as they go to Florida. Out of financial necessity, Idaho will visit SEC country in each of the next four seasons. The Vandals will make $3.75 million from games at LSU, Ole Miss, Florida and Auburn.
What we don’t know is how many non-conference games Idaho will have to fill next year and beyond (and what strange bedfellows await Boise State’s non-football sports), because the WAC’s erosion appears to be continuing. Utah State will pull the trigger on a move to the Mountain West/Conference USA alliance as soon as there’s an invitation, and the Salt Lake Tribune reports one could be coming soon. It’s expected that it would happen before July 1, the deadline for notifyng the WAC without penalty. The Tribune also indicates the Mountain West is circling the wagons in case Air Force changes its mind and decides to go the Big East.
Texas-San Antonio’s stay in the WAC could indeed be a short one, if the school has its way. The San Antonio Express reports that UTSA associate athletic director Brad Parrott made a presentation to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and said the Roadrunners are going to aggressively pursue a spot in the new Mountain West/Conference USA alliance. UTSA introduced football just last season under coach Larry Coker and this year is moving into the WAC. It may be a bit early for anything more than that, though. Despite San Antonio’s status as a major market, the Roadrunners are seen as deficient in facilities outside of the Alamodome—and in budget.
The Idaho Steelheads have taken their first round Kelly Cup Playoffs series to the limit against Ontario. And if they can pull off a win tonight, it’ll be saying something for a seventh-seeded team that many had given up for dead. The Steelheads had about as impressive a win Friday night as they’ve had all season, topping Ontario 5-3 on the Reign’s home ice. Ontario played well while on the ropes Saturday night, though, holding off Idaho, 3-2. The Steelheads go into Game 5 tonight with a balanced offensive effort—eight different players have notched three or more points in the series, led by whom? Thirty-six year old captain Marty Flichel, with two goals and four assists. In 67 career playoff games with Idaho, Flichel has accumulated 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists)
Could a new arrival coming in for the deciding game of a playoff series make a difference? In this case, maybe. It’s not a rookie right out of college hockey, it’s a player on an entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars. Defenseman Hubert Labrie has been reassigned to the Steelheads from Texas of the AHL after playing 33 games for the Dallas feeder club. Labrie skated eight games earlier this season for the Steelies, scoring one goal with four assists. He’s been on the Texas roster since November 12.
A low-flying season ended on a high note for the Idaho Stampede, who swept Bakersfield over the weekend in CenturyLink Arena. The finale ended in dramatic fashion, with Paul Carter hitting a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Stampede a 97-96 win. The Stampede finish the 2011-12 campaign 21-29, tied with Reno for last place in the D-League’s West Conference. Immediately after the game in the Stampede locker room, three-time NBA All-Star and two-year Stampede veteran Antoine Walker announced his retirement from basketball. Walker played in 86 games with the Stampede over two seasons, averaging 12.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. In his final game Saturday night, Walker scored six points and dished out four assists.
It was close but no cigar again for the Boise State gymnastics team, which put together a solid meet at the NCAA Regionals in Fayetteville, AR, Saturday. The Broncos scored 196.05 but needed more, as they were denied a first-ever trip to nationals, finishing third behind UCLA and Arkansas. Boise State senior Amy Glass qualified for the NCAA Championships as an individual. She’ll compete in the all-around next week in Duluth, GA. And the Boise State men’s tennis team reached the 20-win plateau with Saturday victories over Air Force and Weber State. The Broncos have won 24 consecutive home matches.
We’ve got to give a nod to Bubba Watson, one of the most popular golfers ever to play in the Albertsons Boise Open. Watson has always gone the extra mile for Boise’s Nationwide Tour event, playing in the tournament three times, participating in the Kraft-Nabisco Shootout in 2007, and helping launch the First Tee of Idaho in 2005. Watson, of course, is the new Masters champion after winning on the second hold of sudden death yesterday over Louis Oosthuizen.
This Day In Sports…April 9, 1965:
A day hailed as the future of baseball, as the Houston Astrodome opens with an exhibition game between the Astros and the New York Yankees. Baseball’s first indoor home run was hit by Mickey Mantle, although Houston won, 2-1. A lot of Astroturf and several more domes followed, but 25 years later teams of all sports couldn’t get away from either fast enough. Now field turf is the norm, and domes have made a comeback.
(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.)