Monday, August 30, 2010.
After the Bronco Stadium track is moved to Dona Larsen Park, and the money is found for the first phase of the planned stadium expansion, where will Boise State begin? Athletic director Gene Bleymaier dropped enough hints at Friday’s press conference to make me think it will be the lower bowl in the north end zone, which would include—most importantly—the new football offices and locker rooms. I don’t know how many times Bleymaier mentioned the two toilets in the current Bronco locker room, which was built in 1969 in preparation for the opening of the stadium in 1970. “Those two toilets make this thing critical,” said Bleymaier. The lower north bowl would add 5,200 seats, minus 2,200 bleacher seats in the north end zone and the extension from the west side that would be lost. So I predict your next official capacity of Bronco Stadium will be 36,500.
If you lean toward nostalgia, you’ll like one feature of the new Dona Larsen Park. Bleymaier hopes to break ground on the facility in 2011, which would be the 100th anniversary of what was originally Cody Park on the site. When the Boise School District purchased Cody Park in 1930, it was called Public School Field, and it was home to Boise High School and eventually Boise Junior College, and myriad community sports activities. Bleymaier says plans are in the works to create a replica entrance at Dona Larsen Park, matching the grand Spanish-style one that graced Public School Field.
Bleymaier wouldn’t comment Friday on scheduling issues, such as the one with Idaho. I did ask him if the non-conference contracts with BYU (if needed) and Utah are still in place, and he said they are. In the press conference, Bleymaier did address stadium capacity as it pertains to scheduling, and he downplayed it. “Stadium size is more an image thing than a determining factor, because I’ll pay them whatever they pay us,” said Bleymaier.
This week’s Sporting News devotes a full page to next Monday’s showdown at FedEx Field in Washington, from a Bronco standpoint. Headlined “The biggest day in Boise State’s history is coming soon,” the analysis by Matt Hayes gives four reasons: 1) The Broncos don’t get these opportunities often; 2) Expectations have never been higher; 3) Lose it and they can forget about a BCS bowl; and 4) Heisman voters will be watching. On that last point, we get a rare acknowledgment from offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin that Kellen Moore is part of the Heisman conversation this year. “You can’t ignore what (being in the Heisman race) means to what we can accomplish on and off the field,” said Harsin.
Yikes. Moore was named first-team preseason All-America quarterback by CBS Sports.com yesterday. And the New York Post picked Boise State to win the national championship. But the accompanying article was all about the tale of the blue turf and the Broncos’ rag-to-riches story. Of course, this Post prediction hinges on the Virginia Tech game. The newspaper got a great quote out of Hokies coach Frank Beamer about the matchup. “I saw a couple of magazines pick us as the best non-conference game of the year,” Beamer said. “If you would have bet $100 10 years ago that Boise-Virginia Tech would be the best non-conference game of the year, especially when you’ve got Alabama-Penn State, Miami-Ohio State, FSU-Oklahoma, you’d have won a lot of money.”
It’s crunch time on the BYU/Mountain West front, with a Wednesday deadline looming if the Cougars are going to exit by next July. The WAC is making an 11th-hour attempt to keep the idea of absorbing the Cougars’ non-football sports alive. And, by all accounts, BYU is listening, still bent on becoming an independent in football. Reports say the WAC might be talking to SMU, Houston and UTEP, trying to attract new members that would appease the Cougars. BYU is also still engaged in talks with the West Coast Conference regarding its non-football entities.
Boise State is seven days away from its season opener—Idaho is only three. So what do we know about the team that comes into the Kibbie Dome Thursday night? North Dakota is a former Division II power that moved up to the FCS (Division I-AA) in 2008, coinciding with the hiring of coach Chris Mussman. The Fighting Sioux were 6-5 last year, their seventh consecutive winning season, including a 38-13 loss to Texas Tech in their only game against an FBS school. Idaho is the only FBS team North Dakota plays this year. Mussman is 12-9 in his two seasons.
Darron Thomas as the new starting quarterback at Oregon is an interesting choice. Thomas, a sophomore who redshirted last year, beat out the odds-on favorite as Jeremiah Masoli’s successor, Nate Costa. The selection of Thomas probably isn’t a surprise to Boise State fans, though. He’s the guy whose redshirt year was burned in the fourth quarter of the Ducks’ game against Boise State in 2008, with the home team trailing by 24 points. Thomas fueled a furious rally, throwing for 210 yards and three touchdowns. The rest of the season, he was 3-of-8 for 58 yards.
I don’t do fantasy sports. I don’t have time. But I understand the allure, and so does virtually every major sports media source out there today, to the extent that Sports Illustrated has an “Inside Fantasy Football” page. Former Boise State star Legedu Naanee is one of this week’s draft tips. “Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson’s three-game suspension makes Naanee a top target in one of the NFL’s most dangerous passing attacks,” writes David Sabino. Naanee had two catches for 24 yards in San Diego’s 36-21 loss to New Orleans Friday.
Another one of those rare “Faces In The Crowd” appearances by an Idahoan in Sports Illustrated. Columbia High senior Jesse Norris is featured this week for his powerlifting accomplishments. Norris was lauded for being named the top teen middleweight lifter at the USA Powerlifting nationals after winning the 82.5 kilogram class. Norris, a two-time high school national champion, set a subjunior (14-to 18-year-olds) world record with a squat of 320 kilograms.
The Boise Hawks have clinched back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since they began major league affiliation back in 1990. And it happened in a most frustrating way last night in a 5-4 loss to Spokane. The Hawks had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning. But they lost it in the bottom of the eighth when Spokane scored the winning run while the Hawks had an Indian in a rundown with two outs. On the positive side, Chris Huseby made two highlight reel catches in rightfield and threw out a Spokane runner at home plate. It’s quite an evolution for the 6-7 Huseby, who returned to Boise this season as a pitcher, albeit with hints from manager Jody Davis that he would also serve as a designated hitter. His defense has been a bonus.
New Idaho Steelheads coach Hardy Sauter has probably his biggest signing yet, inking defenseman Dustin Friesen for the upcoming season. After being acquired from the Utah Grizzlies in January, Friesen became a key component in the Steelheads’ run to the Kelly Cup Finals last spring. He was especially effective in the playoffs, notching 13 points in 15 games and leading the ECHL in postseason plus/minus with an off-the-charts plus-19 rating.
This Day In Sports…August 30, 1997:
Houston Nutt makes his debut as head coach at Boise State, watching his team fall to Cal State-Northridge 63-23 before a record crowd of almost 27,000 in newly-expanded Bronco Stadium. BSU would rebound to come within 49 seconds of upsetting Wisconsin a week later. The Broncos went 4-7 under Nutt, who left after the season for his dream job at Arkansas (although his recorded was amended to 5-6 after Northridge forfeited for using an ineligible player). Exactly 11 years later, there was another Bronco Stadium grand opening, as the $36 million Steuckle Sky Center debuted during a 49-7 win over Idaho State.
(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’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)