Wednesday, Apr 7 at 6:54 AM
Wednesday, April 7, 2010.
ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel has been in Boise this week, absorbing everything Bronco Football. Maisel is calling Boise State “the Butler of autumn” in his new column, making next season a referendum on the BCS. He notes that Butler is not an overnight sensation and started the season in the top 10, giving it a kick start on their run to the national championship game Monday night. “Boise State, like Butler, will reap the benefit of sustaining success. The Broncos will begin the season in the top five,” writes Maisel. “If Boise State runs the table and plays for the crystal football, the structure of the BCS will be validated. Congress will be able to pay full attention to its main task, refusing to cooperate with the opposition. Talk of a playoff may die down.”
However, says Maisel, “If Boise State runs the table and does not play for the crystal football, the shouting and keening—from playoff proponents in general and Broncos fans in particular—will make your ears bleed. In that sense, Boise State and Butler are different. The Bulldogs played Monday night for themselves and maybe for underdogs everywhere. The Broncos will play next season for themselves, for underdogs everywhere and for the benefit of the powers that be in college football. The Butler of autumn may sound like a PBS drama, but it may just reveal the future of the BCS.” One thing to remember as the discussion continues: there’s a place for this stuff on bulletin boards from Blacksburg to Corvallis to Reno.
Maisel had some interesting observations on Boise in his college football podcast yesterday (recorded at KTIK). He’s been here before, but not with the Broncos having quite reached this pedestal. “You’re in Boise, and you don’t hear all that national chatter—I think there’s a sense of being away from all that talk here in the Treasure Valley. And because of that, that might play to Boise State’s advantage.” At which time Beano Cook, speaking from Pittsburgh, suggested that ESPN GameDay is due for a trip to Boise. “If you and I start making the schedule for GameDay,” said Maisel, “we’ll get some interesting e-mail from inside the building.” But that didn’t go without the mention that the Broncos’ biggest home game is against Oregon State on September 25.
Boise State’s allotment of 7,500 tickets to the Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech will go on sale May 1. I’ve been asked how many Bronco fans I think will be at FedEx Field in Washington. I look at the holiday weekend (even though the game’s at the very end), the chance for many to tour the Nation’s Capitol, and the national magnitude of this matchup, and I’m thinking 10,000. Just like at the two Fiesta Bowls, a lot of fans will obtain their tickets through other means.
There’s a debate in Montana right now that bears watching. Montana is to the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) football what Boise State is to non-BCS schools—a dominant force with a rabid following. The theory has long been that the Grizzlies could never be talked into moving up to the FBS. While that may be the case, reports in the Treasure State say Montana athletic director Jim O’Day has his staff looking at what might happen if the dominoes start falling on conference realignment. The Griz are very aware of the models of two former Big Sky schools that made the jump 14 years ago. They could be like Boise State, taking their legacy of football championships and sellouts and parlaying it into national success. Or they could be like Idaho, hampered by a small market size that could collapse their attendance if losing ever reared its ugly head.
This is relevant because if the Big Ten expands and the Pac 10 expands, the Big 12 will have to expand, and the Mountain West will have to expand, and the WAC will need somebody. The WAC would prefer it not be a San Jose State-type school stuck in the dark recesses of a major market, like Sacramento State or Portland State. Montana has everything it needs, starting with fantastic support (leading the FCS with an average of over 24,000 fans a game in football). But the Grizzlies would be exiting their comfort zone. Would it be as exhilarating a result as Boise State’s move, or as frustrating a one as Idaho’s?
I don’t know how this could have gone any other way. Derek Laxdal is a respected coach in the ECHL, and it’s not exactly that way with every guy behind the bench. Laxdal also led the Idaho Steelheads to the league’s best record this season, earning the Brabham Cup—and consequently he has won the John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the Year. Laxdal has 217 wins and one Kelly Cup championship in his five seasons with the Steelies after taking over from John Olver.
On Idaho SportsTalk yesterday, Laxdal talked about the benefits of the Steelheads’ bye week to start the Kelly Cup Playoffs. “It’s probably the best thing our club could go through right now—we got so beat up down the stretch,” Laxdal said. It also makes the timing good in getting four players back from AHL callups. He said he expects four players to return from the AHL Monday. Laxdal didn’t name names, but that would apply to Tyler Spurgeon, Dustin Friesen, Kevin DeVergilio and Richard Bachman.
Former Boise Hawk John Lackey makes his Boston debut tonight in the Red Sox-Yankees series finale. Not only is pitching in Fenway Park in a home uniform a new experience, pitching anywhere in April has become unique in itself, as Lackey began his final two seasons with the Angels on the disabled list. The 6-6 righthander, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the BoSox in the offseason, is 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA in his career at Fenway. And hey—let’s get this in: Will Venable, brother of Boise State nicklebacker Winston Venable, hit his first home run of the season last night in San Diego’s 6-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This Day In Sports…April 7, 1969:
Before 45,000 fans, including President Richard Nixon, the New York Yankees spoil the managerial debut of Ted Williams at Washington’s RFK Stadium by beating the Senators, 8-4. However, the Hall of Famer—who in 1941 was the last player to hit over .400—would lead the previous year’s cellar-dwellers to a surprising fourth-place finish and a solid 86-76 record. Williams would be voted the American League’s 1969 Manager of the Year.
(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.)