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If only there were something tangible out of the Mountain West

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on January 11, 2010 at 8:25 AM

 

Monday, January 11, 2010.
 
Everybody talks about it, but it still has no basis in fact. Boise State just upped its record against Mountain West schools in its Division I-A era to 13-1—in the loudest way possible. Toppling TCU in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl has certainly stirred the pot again, but is the Mountain West pot stirring enough to consider an expansion that would include Boise State? If it is, there’s a lid on it. BSU president Bob Kustra addressed the issue on KTVB’s Viewpoint last week. “I’m still talking to the presidents of the Mountain West and the commissioner of the Mountain West,” said Kustra. “At least as far as I’m concerned, we’re still in the mix.” 
 
While Kustra acknowledged the conference hasn’t made a decision on expansion, he reiterated Boise State’s geographic advantages to the Mountain West and increasing compatibility in other key areas. “We’ve been building ourselves up as a first-class academic institution that can compete with anyone out there,” said Kustra. Something he heard on talk radio in Phoenix also sparked him. “The Mountain West could use a good traveling team. Guess what, folks. Boise State is a good traveling team.”
 
What’s interesting is the reaction of influential Mountain West sportswriters to the sideswiping of the conference’s champion last week. Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune, for example. “There are those within the Mountain West Conference who still think it's a bad idea to invite Boise State into their league.  It's left for the rest of us to wonder what they're smoking,” writes Monson. “Can anyone doubt or undervalue the Broncos any longer?  Only fools.” 
 
Monson continues: “Some counter that if Boise State had to play TCU, BYU, and Utah every year, it would diminish its chances of going undefeated, thereby reducing its value.  Another argument against is that Boise would threaten the unbeaten or lofty status of any of the Big Three.  And another: the Broncos' inclusion adds another mouth to feed out of the league's revenue sources.  Other concerns: Boise State's prowess, or lack thereof, in other sports, its limited number of TV sets and its overall academic status.  Whatever.  Football is the big stick here.  Adding Boise State adds needed strength, adds potential for revenue growth, adds legitimacy, adds competitiveness, adds national interest, adds negotiating power and it makes automatic-qualifying status darn near automatic.”
 
The Sporting News has tabbed five candidates for the BCS Championship Game a year from now at University of Phoenix Stadium: Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Oregon and…Boise State. “The Broncos will enter next season with a 16-game WAC winning streak and a 26-game home winning streak,” notes Dave Curtis. “Survive a neutral site date with Virginia Tech and a dangerous home date against Oregon State, and BSU could go unbeaten again with a strong case to play in the big one.” SI.com’s Stewart Mandel doesn’t see the Broncos in the BCS Championship Game next year, but you’ve gotta love what he sees in the Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Boise State.
 
Continuity equals sustainability, and a key ingredient of coach Robb Akey’s new contract at Idaho will have to do with keeping and adequately paying assistant coaches. Both sides in Moscow would like to get the thing done before there’s a repeat of Jonathan Smith’s departure. Smith, the respected quarterbacks coach who brought along Nate Enderle, was announced Friday as the new offensive coordinator at Montana. The former Oregon State QB was the longest-tenured coach at Idaho, having joined the staff when Nick Holt took the head coaching job in 2004. 
 
The tangled web of WAC football ties Boise State and Nevada together again after the Wolf Pack’s latest coaching hire. Mike Bradeson, a cornerback on the Broncos’ 1980 Division I-AA national championship team, is Chris Ault’s new secondary coach. More interesting to Pack fans, though, is the Fremont Cannon web. Bradeson has coached at rival UNLV the past 15 years and was the Rebels’ defensive coordinator from 2002-04. He’s no stranger to Nevada, though, having coached there from 1986-91.
 
Boise State has come out of the gates of the WAC basketball schedule with a furrowed brow and wrinkled forehead.  The Broncos are 0-3 and can’t figure out how to win a close game after letting New Mexico State slip away with an 88-85 win Saturday night. Don’t blame Reggie Arnold, though. The junior college transfer reversed his fortunes after struggling in Boise State’s first two conference games. Arnold was 10-of-16 from the field and poured in 26 points. He helped the Broncos rally several times in the game, including with 4½ minutes left, when the BSU deficit was seven. But the Broncos scored their final point with 1:52 left and couldn’t hold a four-point lead.
 
This is not the way you want to try to climb out of an 0-3 WAC hole—facing the surprise first-place team in the conference. But that’s on the docket tonight for Boise State, as Louisiana Tech comes into Taco Bell Arena. La Tech is 15-2 overall and has won eight in a row, the Bulldogs’ longest winning streak in 10 years. The Broncos, meanwhile, have to go from one gut-punching Gibson to another. After New Mexico State’s Jonathan Gibson pierced ‘em with 26 points Saturday, Louisiana Tech’s Kyle Gibson comes marching in after putting up 28 in a win at Idaho.
 
Boise’s two professional teams experienced each end of Blowoutville over the weekend. Friday night, the Idaho Stampede ripped Austin 131-110. The Stampede had seven players in double figures, and four of them topped 20 points, led by Donell Taylor’s 24. Idaho was paid back by Austin Saturday in a 105-89 humbling. The Stampede shot just 37 percent, territory not often visited by D-League teams. Only one Stamp who logged more than 10 minutes was above 50 percent—Anthony Tolliver was 11-of-21 as he recorded a strong double-double with 27 points and 17 rebounds. The Stampede are off until Friday, when the Reno Bighorns visit Qwest Arena.
 
Victoria had won 11 consecutive home games, one shy of a team record, when the Idaho Steelheads arrived in B.C. Friday night. The Salmon Kings indeed set the mark by rallying from a 2-1 deficit in the third period and routing the Steelheads, 5-2. But the Steelies ended that streak with a vengeance Saturday, laying an 8-2 pasting on Victoria. Idaho’s biggest offensive output of the season was timely, halting a stretch that had seen it lose five of six games. Seven Steelheads had multiple-point games in the onslaught, including rookie Sergei Korostin, who scored his fourth goal in as many games since joining Idaho. The Steelies return to Qwest Arena for a game against the Utah Grizzlies Wednesday night.
 
This Day In Sports…January 11, 2007:
 
Ten days after leading Boise State to its legendary upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Chris Petersen accepts the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award as national coach of the year. Petersen had gone 13-0 as a rookie coach, the first college football head coach to post a 13-0 record in his first year since Yale’s Walter Camp in 1888. Under Petersen, the Broncos won their fifth straight WAC championship and were the only undefeated team in the country.
 
(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 also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)

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