Tuesday, January 25, 2011.
This Mountain West soap opera may go on forever. Hey, “Days of Our Lives” has lasted more than 45 years. The latest character to be introduced, but not officially the 11th member of the cast yet, is Utah State. Kraig Williams in the Deseret News reports that a final vote on Mountain West expansion was expected to take place last night, and that USU was going to be invited. “No exact timetable was given, but it is expected to be official in the next 24 to 48 hours,” wrote Williams. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Comcast, managing partner of “the mtn.” network, is pushing for the invitation to the Aggies so the Mountain West can keep a footprint in the Salt Lake market.
I can kind of understand Utah State’s candidacy for Mountain West membership, with reasonable football potential (despite its recent gridiron futility), and the best men’s basketball program and fan support for hoops in the WAC. Attendance is a measure of a football program’s overall health, and the Aggies averaged only 17,878 fans a game in the season just completed, 103rd among the 120 schools in the FBS. But they average a more robust 8,157 in basketball. And yesterday they cracked the Top 25 in the Coaches Poll with an 18-2 record.
But now San Jose State is being more commonly mentioned as the school that would bring Mountain West membership to the magic 12, allowing for a conference championship game in football. That does not make sense. The justification for adding the Spartans contains the same flawed logic employed by the WAC when SJSU was brought aboard as part of the conference’s ill-fated “bloatation” 15 years ago. San Jose State does not give the Mountain West the nation’s sixth-largest television market. It gives the MWC a blip on the screen.
The Spartans are happy to get a couple paragraphs in the hometown San Jose Mercury-News—and now they’re going to help the Mountain West fix its damaged BCS conference aspirations? They are forever near the bottom in attendance in both football (14,474 fans per game) and men’s basketball (1,829). The Bay Area sports scene just buries San Jose State. People down there do not care.
A recruiting update on “Northwest Nuggets” in the Tacoma News-Tribune yesterday said offensive linemen Marcus Henry of Bellevue, WA, was “considering Boise State, Washington.” Henry committed to the Broncos last August but has been getting a late push in the form of a scholarship offer from the Huskies. Now Scout.com reports that Henry’s campus visit to Boise over the weekend sealed the deal. Henry says he’s set to sign his letter of intent with Boise State on signing day next week.
The Senior Bowl is the premier college football all-star game, a great showcase for true NFL Draft hopefuls. But for scouts, it’s a footnote to what they can cull from practice this week. That’s the backdrop as Boise State’s Titus Young and Austin Pettis go to work. Young just has to do what he’s been doing at a higher level. By all accounts, Pettis has to prove his football speed this week. This is the first time two Boise State products have been invited to the same Senior Bowl. In fact, only three Broncos have ever played in the Senior Bowl: offensive tackles Matt Hill (2002) and Daryn Colledge (2006) and cornerback Kyle Wilson (2010).
More followup on the East-West Shrine Game—we detailed Winston Venable’s solid performance yesterday. Charlie Bernstein of Patriots Insider.com had positive reports on the other three Broncos in the game, mainly dealing with the all-important practice sessions last week. Wrote Bernstein: “Ryan Winterswyk was able to get off the edge and held up well against the run. Brandyn Thompson was a ball-hawk in practice all week as the Boise corner is trying to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Kyle Wilson. Although Thompson won’t be a first-round pick, he looks like a guy who can play nickel at the very least. And Jeron Johnson didn’t make many big plays during the week, but he was in position and was rarely burned.” We’ll see if that translates into NFL attention.
Chris Tormey has returned to the Palouse. The former Idaho and Nevada head coach, most recently special teams coach at Hawaii, will now head up the linebackers at Washington State. That’ll make the Apple Cup fun, as Tormey served two different stints on the Washington staff, in the early 1990’s under Don James and Jim Lambright and again five years ago under Tyrone Willingham. Tormey had a successful run with the Vandals from 1995-99 that included a Big West championship and Humanitarian Bowl win. It wasn’t as smooth with the Wolf Pack—he went 16-31 in four years and was fired by then-athletic director Chris Ault after the 2003 season.
The atmosphere in Moscow Saturday night tells you everything you need to know about the potential of the Boise State-Idaho men’s basketball rivalry going forward. It needs to continue as a non-conference series—home-and-home every season. Yes, football has its issues, one of them being the Kibbie Dome, the smallest FBS facility in the nation. A road game there does nothing for the resume of a Top 25 team. But the corner of the Kibbie Dome called the Cowan Spectrum can be a worthy venue, as over 5,000 fans demonstrated during the Broncos’ 70-67 win over the Vandals. Do you want to play there, or before 1,000 fans at UC Davis? In December in Taco Bell Arena, do you want to draw 2300 versus Denver, or 7,000 against Idaho?
This Day In Sports…January 25, 1971, 40 years ago today:
Boise State turns in its highest-scoring game ever in a 118-96 win over Portland State in Bronco Gym. Bronco scoring leader Ron Austin led the way with 41 points, still one of only three 40-point games in BSU history. Austin, a BSU Hall of Famer, would go on to average 24½ points a game in 1970-71, still a school record.
(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 served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)