Monday, June 14, 2010.
There’s a lot left to happen on the conference realignment front, to the extent that the Mountain West could be significantly strengthened—or significantly weakened in the coming days and weeks. Let’s look at a best-case scenario for the Mountain West. The Big 12 “gang of five” led by Texas does indeed join Colorado in the Pac-10. Including Texas A&M, who does the right thing and stays with the Longhorns rather than follow through on those flirtations with the SEC. Then, with Missouri and Kansas very unlikely candidates, the Mountain West chooses from among the other three Big 12 refugees and picks up Kansas State and Iowa State (since TCU is said to be wanting to block Baylor from an MWC invitation because of old bitterness over the Southwest Conference breakup). There you have it, a 12-team Mountain West Conference.
The worst-case scenario? The Big 12 “gang of five” doesn’t go to the Pac-10—or, at the very least, Texas A&M does go to the SEC. So Utah moves to the Pac-10 after all, and the Big 12 tries to scotch-tape itself together by swiping BYU and TCU from the Mountain West. That would leave the MWC with only seven members. And, would you believe, the dream would not be dead for Fresno State and Nevada. The Mountain West adds the two strongest remaining programs from the WAC to save a nine-team conference. And the WAC is dealt a devastating blow.
Not that either of those scenarios is plausible, but you may note that each would provide for an eight-game conference football schedule (in a 12-team league, schools would play five opponents in their division and three in the other). It’s too early to say the Boise State-Idaho game would be shoved off the 2011 calendar, because a number of things could happen to force an eight-game schedule. Something as simple as Utah getting its coveted invite to the Pac-10. Don’t give up hope on the Bronco-Vandal thing. Incidentally, the door swings both ways on prospects for the future of BSU-Idaho football. “We are full through 2012,” UI athletic director Rob Spear said in an e-mail to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, referring to the Vandals’ nonconference slate. “It will have to be in the future.”
I don’t think Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson is being recognized thoroughly for his role in Boise State’s invitation to join the league. I floated this out there back on May 3, based on something I heard from a proverbial informed source: “There’s a perception that Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson is one of the primary naysayers when it comes to Boise State in his conference. But there are also those who say Thompson is a proponent of a BSU invitation and is trying to convince some reluctant presidents in the league to sign on. It’s not about BCS formulas or pre-emptive strikes against raids by other conferences. It’s about the Mountain West doing one thing it can control—making a move that makes sense. Regardless of what happens the next few months…or year…or two.” Sheez, I didn’t think it would be 5½ weeks.
Reflection has run rampant in the days following the Boise State announcement. Here’s one. During the 1994 season, when the Broncos were on a roll on the way to the Division I-AA national championship game, coach Pokey Allen was holding court at the Stagecoach. Pokey said, “I’m tellin’ ya, someday this program is going to be in the WAC.” The WAC Allen was talking about is pretty much the Mountain West of today. Seemed far-fetched at the time, but I remember it being pointed out that Boise State was out-drawing a few WAC schools at the gate at the time. What would Pokey the Visionary be thinking now?
Former Boise Hawk Mitch Atkins is getting another shot with the Chicago Cubs. Atkins was called up Saturday by the Cubs—he didn’t see action in the Windy City series against the White Six over the weekend. The 6-3 righthander made his major league debut with the Cubbies last July, appearing in two games and allowing one hit and no runs in two innings of work. Goes to show you can’t always tell who’s going to make it to the bigs when players come through the Northwest League. Atkins played for the Hawks in 2005, when he was 3-6 with a 5.03 ERA in 15 starts.
Former Boise State star Troy Merritt was the victim of a controversial and seldom-used PGA Tour rule yesterday. Instead of posting a final-round score at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, he got a “MDF.” That means “made (cut), didn’t finish.” It wasn’t Merritt’s choice to not finish. The tour came up with the designation in 2008 to keep field sizes manageable. Merritt struggled to a five-over 75 in Saturday’s third round and was one of 10 players saddled with the MDF tag. All 10 were given credit for making the 36-hole cut, received FedEx Cup points and were paid. Merritt made $10,472. Nampa native Robert Garrigus was in position to win the St. Jude, up by three shots entering the final hole. But Garrigus triple-bogeyed 18—then bogeyed the first playoff hole, as Lee Westwood emerged victorious.
Energizing finishes are becoming a habit at the Ironman 70.3 Boise. At the third annual event Saturday, Australian Craig Alexander defended his 2009 title by outdistancing (literally) Ben Hoffman at the BoDo finish line for a 10-second victory. Defending Ironman 70.3 world champion Julie Dibens, a British triathlete who lives and trains in Boulder, put together a wire-to-wire win on the women’s side. The weather has been downright scary this spring, but the athletes got an 83-degree day Saturday. A little bit warm, a little bit windy—but better than the alternative we’ve grown accustomed to.
This Day In Sports…June 14, 1949:
Philadelphia first baseman Eddie Waitkus is shot by a deranged teenage girl in a room at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. The incident provides the inspiration for a scene in the movie, “The Natural”. Robert Redford’s hobbling up to the plate for a game-winning homer in that film later provided inspiration for the Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson to do the same thing and deflate the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.
(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.)