Friday, March 12, 2010.
The peak of last week turned into a valley of enormous proportions yesterday, as Boise State’s season ended with a thud in an 84-60 loss to Utah State in the first round of the WAC Tournament. As weird as it sounds in what was ultimately a 24-point blowout, the game was closer than the final score indicated. But not close enough. The Broncos were within four with 13½ minutes left—but then got blitzed by a 13-0 run. The Aggies also scored the last eight points of the game in garbage time, and that was that. What’s telling is how much more Utah State seemed to want it yesterday, outrebounding Boise State by a staggering 47-27.
Now the Greg Graham watch is underway, as Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier decides the future of the Bronco coach. Graham is a great guy, and he can be very funny. He has a 142-112 record in eight seasons, with one WAC championship and subsequent NCAA Tournament appearance, one NIT berth, and one other postseason appearance. But the fire of Bronco Nation is all but extinguished. It’s become Bronco Wide-Spot-In-The-Road, as there is a clear disconnect with the fans. Graham’s status is not a much-debated issue, because the community is awash in apathy. It would be healthier is everyone was mad, but they’ve all gone numb and have found other things to do on game nights.
Boise State cannot afford to average barely 3,000 fans a game when it needs men’s hoops revenue to help prop up the rest of the athletic program. And, as has been said so many times, if Boise State is going to be seen as attractive in the conference realignment that looks like it’s going to come, it has to bring more than football to the table. Outside of academics, the most important and visible ingredient is men’s basketball. And with a sea of empty seats in Taco Bell Arena, perception becomes reality to the outside world.
Elsewhere in the WAC Tournament, Idaho was broomed out in the first round last night by host Nevada, 87-71. The Wolf Pack might have the gumption to challenge Utah State for the championship if it comes down to those two tomorrow night—the Pack made 15 of its first 21 shots against the Vandals and shot over 55 percent for the game. Louisiana Tech took out Fresno State 74-66 to move on against USU tonight, and Nevada gets New Mexico State after the Aggies’ 90-69 win over San Jose State. Meanwhile, in the women’s NAIA Division II National Tournament, College of Idaho fell to Cardinal Stritch last night, 79-64. Former Borah High star Nicole Gall became the eighth player in C of I history to go over 1,000 points in her career.
The Idaho Stampede will be dressed up in Mile High duds tonight as they host their first annual Denver Nuggets Affiliate Night for the game against the L.A. D-Fenders. The Stampede will be wearing traditional Nuggets uniforms in honor of their NBA affiliate in Denver. The Nuggets would be a good model for the Stamps right now, as Denver is 43-21, the third-best record in the Western Conference. Coby Karl should be energized—if not emotional—wearing a Nuggets jersey tonight, as his dad George, Denver’s coach, battles cancer in his throat and neck. George Karl underwent surgery Monday to have a feeding tube inserted and missed Wednesday’s Nuggets game at Minnesota, but he’s expected back for tonight’s contest in New Orleans.
One year ago today, Boise State coach Chris Petersen did one of those “My Profile” features in the Sporting News Today online edition, answering various questions about his life and thoughts. Let’s see what’s pertinent 12 months later. Bookmarks online: “None. Too many other things to do than look at the Internet.” (He really didn’t know that Texas had to beat Nebraska for the Broncos to go to the Fiesta Bowl?) Superstitions: “Always wear the same hat for games, unless we lose and then I need a new one.” (That white hat with the “B” on it must be worn out by now.) Favorite city to visit: “Washington, D.C.” (He must have been thinkin’ about the Hokies before anybody else knew.) My bucket list: “Coach in the national championship—and win it.” (Is that pertinent enough for you?) I especially liked that he had Earth Wind & Fire in his iPod.
Petersen talked at length about the Boise State offensive line at his press conference yesterday. He likes the way his spring experimentation is working out so far, especially the move of Timberline High grad Nate Potter to guard. The Broncos are able to try it because of their O-line depth. “We like the looks of it right now,” said Petersen. Potter has come miles in the past year, named first-team All-WAC at tackle last season. Earlier this week I mentioned the photo published coast-to-coast of Doug Martin’s winning touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl, showing Dan Paul’s airtight block on one side the hole. If you see a wider shot of that all-timer of a moment, you’ll notice Potter opposite Paul on the play, clearing out the other side.
The Lewiston Morning Tribune reports that the University of Idaho and coach Robb Akey have finally “agreed in principle” to a contract extension. The deal will go before the State Board of Education for approval. The Vandals recorded their first winning season in 10 years in 2009, going 8-5 and winning a dramatic Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. But Akey was the lowest-paid head coach in the WAC.
The Idaho Steelheads are without Ketchum’s Cody Lampl as their three-game series with Victoria resumes tonight in B.C. Lampl suffered an undisclosed “upper body injury” against Bakersfield last weekend that could keep him out as long as six weeks, which would be deep into the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Lampl, the first true Idahoan ever to make the Steelheads roster, had notched five assists in his last six games.
Bishop Kelly grad Nick Symmonds has already run his first 800 meters today at the IAAF Indoor World Championships in Qatar. But Symmonds was disqualified for a lane violation after finishing second in his heat. So just like that, his dream of a world indoor title this year is kaput. Symmonds was coming off his second indoor national championship two weeks ago. The 2008 Olympian finished sixth at the world indoors last year.
Too bad Jeret Peterson couldn’t just fly down a big ramp from the top of the Statehouse, unleash the Hurricane, and land it at City Hall tomorrow. Liability, you know. Speedy will join fans at the Downtown YMCA for a police-escorted run to City Hall tomorrow morning at 9:30. That will be followed by a rally and an autograph session with the Timberline High grad who won the silver medal in men’s aerials two weeks ago at the Vancouver Olympics.
This Day In Sports…March 12, 1988:
Boise State wins its first Big Sky championship in 12 years by taking the conference tournament title game in Bozeman. With the score tied at 61, Chris Childs drives the baseline and hits a layup with two seconds left to beat Montana State, 63-61. It was the Broncos’ 24th win of the season, a school record that would stand for 20 years, and sent them to the NCAA Tournament for a first-round game against Michigan.
(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.)