Wednesday, February 10, 2010.
It started innocently enough yesterday, with the announcement by Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott that he had hired former Big 12 commish Kevin Weiberg as Chief Operating Officer. But Weiberg’s experience in conference expansion brought the “E” word up, and Scott said that’s something the Pac-10 will explore over the next year. And boom—it was a top story. Boise State football has been mentioned in most of the pieces written on the issue in the hours since, and most dismiss the possibility of a BSU invitation when the big picture is taken into account. The most plausible scenario being painted is Utah and Colorado to the Pac-10, and BYU (which isn’t in the mix because it won’t play on Sundays) or TCU replacing Colorado in the Big 12. And voila. You’d be left with Mountain West Lite. And an urgent need for Mountain West expansion.
Scott attended Boise State’s 19-8 win over Oregon last September. He knows what the blue turf scene is all about. Scott also knows all the numbers. One of them is No. 112, as in Boise’s TV market size. If the Pac-10 were to expand, Scott would like the plans in place before the league negotiates its next TV contract. There’s the key. He wants to deliver lots of TV households, and get lots of TV money in return. Denver is market No. 16 and Salt Lake City is market No. 31.
Here’s another number: 42, as in the number of years Boise State has been competing in athletics as a four-year school. The institution is still very young when you compare it to Pac-10 schools with a century of tradition. The criteria goes far beyond football (we’ve beaten the basketball attendance thing to death, so we won’t go there today). Scott says the Pac-10 will insist on a good fit "academically and culturally.'' President Bob Kustra has been pushing Boise State as a “metropolitan research university of distinction.” It’s not a coincidence. And he’s made remarkable progress. We’re going to find out that it’s just not far enough along yet. The caveat to this expansion talk: what if Colorado says no, like it did 15 years ago? Then maybe the Pac-10 doesn’t increase membership, and the dominos don’t fall.
Let’s go over the formula now for a winning season for Boise State men’s basketball. The short answer: the Broncos are going to have to go on a tear. They’re 11-12 right now, and they have eight games left in the regular season. The only way BSU can avoid its first losing season in four years is to go 6-2 the rest of the way. That would get the Broncos into the WAC Tournament—then they could afford a loss to the top seed in the first round and still finish 17-15. Which six games could Boise State win? Home games against Cal State Bakersfield, UC Davis, Hawaii and San Jose State perhaps. Other than that, the Broncos would have to go the major upset route, as they have tomorrow night’s home game versus Utah State and road games at Nevada, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. Not lookin’ good.
It’s hard to dive headfirst into WAC basketball when the race isn’t an issue locally. But here’s where it sits as we hit the final four weekends. Louisiana Tech has come back down to earth, and it’s now Utah State and New Mexico State tied for first atop the WAC with 8-2 records, a game ahead of La Tech. USU comes into Taco Bell Arena tomorrow night with an eight-game winning streak. The Logan-type Aggies have the most favorable schedule down the stretch in the quest for the top seed at the WAC Tournament in Reno next month. Their regular season finale is against New Mexico State on March 6. Elsewhere, Idaho tries to maintain its hot hand, hosting Nevada tonight in Cowan Spectrum on ESPN2.
The Idaho Stampede played a matinee yesterday in Reno. But the result was the same. The Stampede lost to the Bighorns 122-116, although the visitors took this one to overtime. It was an amazingly balanced effort by the Stamps, as Donell Taylor scored 27 points, and all four of the club’s other starters registered double-doubles. The newest of the Stampede’s newcomers continue to assert themselves, as Joe Dabbert pulled down 16 rebounds and Andre Barrett dished out 10 assists. Idaho and Reno have a rematch tonight in the Biggest Little City.
As the Idaho Steelheads go into tonight’s game at Qwest Arena against Utah, we’re not done talking about Steelheads left wing Mark Derlago. Because for the second straight week, he’s been named ECHL Player of the Week. Derlago capped his current 12-game point streak with his first hat trick of the season last Saturday at Las Vegas. The Steelies, meanwhile, have the best record in the ECHL again at 32-11-3 and remain atop the National Conference standings. One reason: Idaho leads the league in goals-against average, allowing only 2.74 scores a game.
The sendoffs are done. Now Middleton’s Erik Fisher and Boise’s Hailey Duke get their final training in before the 2010 Winter Olympics open Friday in Vancouver. Neither member of the U.S. Alpine ski team is a medal contender. Or are they? “Not very often does the favorite win the Olympics,” says Fisher, who gets right into the fray Saturday in the downhill. “So maybe from that standpoint I am (a contender).” Duke, meanwhile, is counting on her competitive streak to carry her. “I’m kind of the person that wants the ball in the last eight seconds,” said the Capital High grad and slalom specialist.
Fisher ultimately ended up on skis when his father, Dave, gave him a choice between skiing and snowboarding. Says Erik, “If I snowboarded, I had to buy my own equipment and find my own way up to the hill. So the decision was pretty easy.” Meanwhile, Duke’s parents were both ski instructors. “No pressure—I had no choice,” Duke said with a laugh. “I was always on skis.”
Jimmie Huega, a 2008 inductee into Boise’s World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, has passed away at the age of 66. Huega became one of America’s first Olympic medalists in alpine skiing when he won the bronze at the 1964 Innsbruck Games. He competed again for the U.S. in the 1968 Winter Olympics at Grenoble—then within two years he was then diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The effects of MS eventually confined Huega to a wheelchair. He dedicated the rest of his life to helping MS-afflicted people live full lives.
This Day In Sports…February 10, 1990, 20 years ago today:
Buster Douglas stuns the boxing world when he wins the heavyweight title with a 10th-round knockout of Mike Tyson in Tokyo. Tyson, who had 33 knockouts in 37 victories and was a 42-1 favorite, floored Douglas in the eighth. But the challenger recovered to drop Iron Mike for the first time in his career.
(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.)