Thursday, March 28, 2013.
When Boise State announces future football opponents, the word “balance” has to be kept in mind. The Broncos aren’t going to play Washington, BYU, Ole Miss and Virginia in the same season. Thus, Boise State has paced itself with yesterday’s announcement of home-and-home series against Louisiana-Lafayette and Connecticut. Yet those teams could be as formidable as any of the others. The Ragin’ Caguns have won back-to-back New Orleans Bowls, including a dramatic 32-30 win over San Diego State in 2011. UConn has been rebuilding under coach Paul Pasqualoni but played in the Fiesta Bowl more recently than the Broncos did. (What happened to the Huskies in the 2011 game in Glendale is beside the point.)
In just over an hour’s time yesterday, Idaho received permission from the State Board of Education to join the Sun Belt as a football-only participant, and then was announced officially as a new member of the conference. New Mexico State, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will join the Vandals in the Sun Belt in 2014. Idaho had planned to play football as an independent for up to two years but now has to do it for only one. What it means to the Vandals is something to play for—all-conference honors, a conference championship, and ultimately a bowl game. That latter goal was going to be very difficult to reach as a non-BCS independent.
So there were two announcements yesterday—Idaho joining the Sun Belt, and Boise State scheduling a second Sun Belt team not named the Vandals (the other is Troy). The Broncos’ slate is full now for the foreseeable future, with the exception of one home game in 2015 (on the opening weekend of the season to boot). Why couldn’t that be Idaho? The rivalry has been on hiatus since the end of the 2010 season.
The 2015 season opener is a natural, unless Idaho is still insisting on a home-and-home series. If that’s the case (and who knows if it is), it’s not going to happen. Here’s a Sun Belt attendance measuring stick, and it’s important. Louisiana-Lafayette averaged 22,865 fans in a 30,000-seat stadium last season. Troy drew 20,952 fans per game in a 30,000-seat facility. Idaho, meanwhile, attracted 12,582 a game in a 16,000-seat arena. As bad as it may sound, Boise State is at a point where it can’t do that anymore.
One more thing about Boise State’s new Sun Belt opponent next year. Is it Louisiana or Louisiana-Lafayette? The school has been trying to rebrand itself as Louisiana. Yes, it sounds better, but it’s been slow to gain traction. Go to the Sun Belt’s own website. It says “Louisiana-Lafayette” throughout. Same with the NCAA’s website. Boise State dutifully called the Ragin’ Cajuns “Louisiana” when they visited Taco Bell Arena in hoops last November. I’ll go with the old name until the new one becomes common vernacular.
It was just a week ago today we were chronicling the exploits of LaSalle stars Tyrone Garland and Ramon Galloway after the Explorers’ 80-71 win over Boise State in the First Four. Now a lot more people are aware of those guys as LaSalle takes on Wichita State tonight in the Sweet 16. The Explorers have a legitimate shot at the Elite Eight, but the Shockers are as athletic as they are and are favored by four points in Los Angeles. LaSalle would be getting even more buzz right now were it not for the distraction of Florida Gulf Coast.
Welcome back, Tyler Beskorowany. The Idaho Steelheads goalie, just back from the AHL’s Texas Stars, carried a shutout all the way into overtime last night in San Francisco. Problem is, Bulls netminder Travis Fullerton did, too. But the ever-present Tyler Gron scored 53 seconds into the OT to give the Steelheads a grinder of a 1-0 victory. It was Beskorowany’s second Steelies shutout of the season as he turned away all 27 San Francisco shots. Idaho plays the Bulls again tomorrow night in the Cow Palace before closing out the regular season Saturday in Stockton.
It had to be one of the Idaho Stampede’s most satisfying wins of the season. The Stampede had just been assured of their first 30-loss season in 10 years Monday, but they held off Santa Cruz on the road 109-101 last night and snapped the Warriors’ nine-game winning streak. Justin Holiday was the catalyst again with 36 points, his second-highest output of the season. Holiday canned four free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal it. And the seldom-mentioned Sean Evans came off the bench to score 19 points and pull down 14 rebounds. The Stamps return to CenturyLink Arena tomorrow night to face the division-leading Bakersfield Jam.
Is Novak Djokovic vulnerable going into the Davis Cup quarterfinals next week in Boise—or will he be lugging a big ol’ chip on his shoulder? Germany’s Tommy Haas was eight days short of his 35th birthday when he beat Djokovic in straight sets at the Sony Open in Miami Tuesday night, becoming the oldest player to defeat a No. 1-ranked player on the men’s tour in 30 years. Djokovic has now lost two of his past four matches following a 22-match winning streak that included his sixth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. It puts a little hot sauce on Taco Bell Arena going into the U.S.-Serbia clash.
The Boise State men’s tennis team wields the Mountain West Player of the Week as it takes the court against UC Santa Barbara this afternoon at the Appleton Center. Nathan Sereke went 5-1 the past week, picking up three wins at No. 2 singles and two doubles wins as the Broncos beat Marquette, Idaho and New Mexico. Boise State is gunning for its 27th straight home victory against the Gauchos, for whom Bronco coach Greg Patton played 40 years ago.
This Day In Sports…March 28, 1992:
One of the most famous shots in NCAA Tournament history sends Duke into its fifth consecutive Final Four. With the Blue Devils trailing Kentucky by one point in the final seconds of overtime, Christian Laettner took a long inbounds pass and buried a 15-foot turnaround buzzer-beating jumper to give Duke a 104-103 victory. Almost forgotten is the fact that Laettner was 10-of-10 from the field and 10-of-10 from the free throw line that day. The Blue Devils would go on to win their second straight national championship.
(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.)