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It costs to compete in the Mountain West

It costs to compete in the Mountain West

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on January 29, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Tuesday, January 29, 2013.

Three newspaper stories over the past week in Mountain West cities caught my eye.  They all had to do with financing college athletics.  There was Hawaii, which is in dire straits.  According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a study of the Warriors’ athletic department said it “is technically insolvent” and “the condition of the athletic department is a concern.”  A University of Hawaii regent called it “an undertstatement.”  The Advertiser shows UH athletics “finished $1.8 million in the red for the fiscal year that closed June 30, 2012, is running an accumulated net deficit of $11.3 million and is projected to lose more than $2 million for the current fiscal year.”  Ouch.  It’s no surprise that it starts with football in Hawaii.  Traditionally it’s enjoyed great fan support, but that has fallen off the table, especially with a 3-9 record in Norm Chow’s first season as coach.

It’s always been about the turnstiles at Nevada.  The overriding problem in Reno is the head-scratching inability of Wolf Pack football to draw consistently large crowds.  The Reno Gazette-Journal profiled Mike Samuels, the Nevada marketing director who came on board in October, 2011.  The goal he was given at the time, and the one that remains a priority: “More fans in the seats.  That’s where we’re putting most of our resources.  It’s always a chicken-before-the-egg thing.  I’m a big believer that the fan’s experience is always going to be better if you have a packed stadium.”  Samuels is hoping to capitalize on Colin Kaepernick’s spotlight appearance in the Super Bowl this Sunday.  “Obviously, the exposure it provides, whenever thay talk about the Pistol offense or coach (Chris) Ault, you can’t pay for those exposures.  We couldn’t if we wanted to.”

At San Diego State, basketball is still No. 1.  The Aztecs were psychologically rocked by the disintegration of the planned move to the Big East, where they were hoping to get a $5 million bump in TV revenue and looked to put a chunk of it into their Top 25 hoops program, even with basketball’s move to the Big West.  And now they worry about how to raise additional money to take basketball where it wants to go with veteran coach Steve Fisher.

Well, Mark Zeigler said it himself in his San Diego Union-Tribune column: “Then there’s Boise State, which is expected to funnel some of the increased football revenue from its cherry deal to remain in the Mountain West to its basketball program.”  Hello Aztecs, the opportunity is in football.  You’re just about over the hump.  With another nine or 10-win season, attendance in Qualcomm Stadium will bump up, and—just as importantly—so will the interest from ESPN et al, allowing you to take advantage of the Mountain West’s new national TV appearance bonuses.

The injury that kept former Boise State star Ryan Clady out of the Pro Bowl was a shoulder, and it appears to be serious.  The Denver Post reports that Clady will undergo surgery on his right shoulder and miss much of Denver’s offseason program as he heads into possible free agency.  The 6-6, 319-pound left tackle has started all 80 regular season games of his NFL career—he’s expected to be ready in time for this year’s season opener.  The Broncos are apparently set to either make Clady their franchise player or re-sign him to a multi-year contract.  Clady stands to make at least $9 million per season.

Our former Bronco NFLer of the Day is Richie Brockel of the Carolina Panthers.  If he plays a third NFL season in 2013, it will be against all odds.  Brockel missed the last three games of his senior season at Boise State—including the Fiesta Bowl—due to a foot injury.  Not only was he not drafted in 2010, he didn’t play at all after being cut as a free agent by the Chargers.  Then Brockel got some attention playing for the USA team at the IFAF Senior World Football Championship in Austria in the summer of 2011 and was invited to the Panthers training camp.  He played that season on special teams and at fullback and scored his first NFL touchdown and was back for more this season, making $465,000.  Good work if you can get it.

Boise State’s Jeff Elorriaga was back in practice yesterday, but it’s too early to tell if he has a shot at returning tomorrow night for the Broncos’ difficult test at Colorado State.  The junior guard has missed all but one half of play in Boise State’s last three games due to concusstion issues.  Elorriaga leads the Broncos and is fourth in the nation in three-point accuracy at 48 percent—and had to see his teammates shoot 19 percent from beyond the arc in the 75-59 loss at Nevada Saturday.

If Leon Rice is to win his 50th game as Boise State head coach tomorrow, he has a formidable barrier to break.  Here’s a little more on the 24-game Colorado State home winning streak that’s staring down the Broncos.  The Rams’ run is the fourth-longest in the country behind Syracuse (35), Kansas (33) and South Dakota State (26).  The last time the Rams lost in Moby Arena was in November, 2011, against Southern Miss, whose head coach at the time is now CSU’s coach, Larry Eustachy.

The polls treated the Mountain West about as expected, although a league ranked No. 2 in conference RPI can’t be blamed if it was hoping for more.  San Diego State lurched back into both Top 25 lists after suffocating New Mexico 55-34 and is ranked 20th in the Coaches Poll and 22nd in AP.  The Lobos got the benefit of the doubt from media voters and are 20th in AP—they’re 22nd on the Coaches list.  UNLV, headed for Taco Bell Arena this Saturday night, is second in line to get back into the Top 25 in both polls.  The Rebels host rival Nevada tonight in the Thomas And Mack Center.  Colorado State is also receiving votes.  Boise State’s RPI, incidentally, has dropped to No. 66 among 345 Division I schools.

Graham DeLaet already has his first Top 10 finish of the 2013 PGA Tour season, coming in ninth yesterday at the Farmers Insurance Open.  DeLaet completed his final round at Torrey Pines at one-under 71 and was seven-under for the tournament, finishing seven shots behind Tiger Woods.  What it means for the former Boise State star’s bank account is $146,400, the fourth-largest payday of his career.  DeLaet missed the cut two weeks ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks ago before pocketing $11,424 at the Humana Challenge.

This Day In Sports…January 29, 1988, 25 years ago today:

In Pontiac, Michigan, 61,983 fans pack the Silverdome to watch the Detroit Pistons beat the Boston Celtics, 125-108.  It was the largest crowd in NBA history—a mark that would stand for 10 years until March 27, 1998, when 62,046 jammed the Georgia Dome to watch Michael Jordan’s final game with the Bulls as a visitor in Atlanta.  At least until he became a Washington Wizard.

(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.)