Thursday, July 1, 2010.
If you read this column on a regular basis, you know that each one includes a “This Day In Sports” item, an historical factoid. June of 2010 had the most new entries on the master list of any I’ve ever seen. What a month. On the 2nd, Ken Griffey Jr. retired and Armando Gallarraga had a perfect game stolen by a bad call. On the 4th, John Wooden passed away. On the 8th, Stephen Strasburg made his much-anticipated major league debut. On the 11th, Boise State was (finally) invited to the Mountain West.
On the 14th, Texas and the rest of the “gang of five” decided to stay in the Big 12. On the 16th, Utah was invited to the Pac-10. On the 17th, the Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 7. On the 18th, Derek Laxdal resigned from the Idaho Steelheads. On the 23rd, Landon Donovan scored his big goal for U.S. soccer. And on the 24th, the longest pro tennis match in history finally ended. And now on July 1, we can all exhale.
Random quotes exactly one year from Boise State’s conference-changing day. From recently-retired San Jose State coaching legend Dick Tomey: “It takes away from the overall respect the WAC has nationally. But–not to be flippant about it–it gives somebody else a chance to win the conference.” From Spartan senior defensive end Mohamed Marah: “We’ve talked about (Boise State leaving) a little, but not too much. It’s not that big a deal to us.’’ From Air Force coach Troy Calhoun: "I think in a lot of ways (exchanging Utah for Boise State) is very, very close—especially in our sport. You're going to see some differences in other sports." From TCU coach Gary Patterson: “Utah and Boise State, well, that’s a straight wash across the board.”
Kellen Moore is the men’s winner of the Joe Kearney Award, honoring the outstanding student-athlete in the WAC in all sports for the 2009-10 athletic year. The award’s namesake was Karl Benson’s long-time predecessor as WAC commissioner. Moore is just the second Bronco ever to win the Kearney award. Two-time national champion javelin thrower Gabe Wallin took the honor in the 2004-05 season. In case you need a refresher on Kellen’s credentials, he was the 2009 WAC Offensive Player of the Year and set an NCAA record for lowest interception percentage at .069 percent. Moore was named first-team All-America by ESPN.com, SI.com and CBS Sports.com.
Boise State landed its first verbal commitment of its 2011 recruiting class on May 30. A month later, the Broncos have seven. Scout.com reports that Taylor Loffler of Kelowna, BC, has chosen BSU over Oregon State. Loffler is what you might call a “multi-positional” athlete who will begin as a safety with the Broncos. The 6-4, 200-pounder was also a quarterback and kick returner for Kelowna coach Roy Anderson, who told Scout.com Loffler is the best pure college prospect he's ever coached.
In their weekly top 10 in the Sporting News Daily online edition, Dave Curtis and Matt Hayes go over “Game-Changing Receivers.” Coming in seventh and eighth on their respective lists is Austin Pettis of Boise State. “Even against WAC competition, Pettis’ 14 TD catches and breakaway speed look impressive,” writes Curtis. Breakaway speed isn’t the essence of Austin. Says Hayes, “He and Titus Young combined for 24 touchdown catches last year, but Pettis is the team’s deep threat and third-and-make-a-play receiver.” Third down? Yes, it’s Pettis all the way. Deep threat? I’d give that one to Young. Let’s just go back to the original premise. Pettis is indeed a game-changer. Neither Curtis not Hayes mentioned his hands.
There’s no Ben Mills for Boise State, but there is Isaac Oeltjen. Mills, of course, is the 7-footer recruited by former Bronco coach Greg Graham who was released from his letter of intent and opted for Colorado. Oeltjen is a 7-1, 230-pound center from Welch, MN, and new coach Leon Rice has signed him to a financial aid agreement (not quite as binding to either side as a scholarship offer). Oeltjen sounds like a project. He’s been out of high school for a year and didn’t play basketball last season while he worked through a knee reconstruction of sorts. But Rice says, “With his character, work ethic and desire to be a player I think he is really going to develop. If he hadn’t had problems with his health, he would have been a high level recruit. Because of that he has become an unknown, but it gave us a chance to get him here.”
The Boise Hawks ended up taking three of five games in Eugene, and they’ll take that. The Emeralds salvaged the final game of the series last night, downing the Hawks 7-3. But Pierre LePage, the newcomer with the great name, continues to swing a hot bat for Boise. LePage knocked in all three of the Hawks’ runs and has now notched multi-hit games in all four of his professional starts. The former UConn standout is hitting .400. The Hawks return home to Memorial Stadium tonight to open a three-game series with the Yakima Bears.
The New Orleans Hornets made it official yesterday, announcing the hiring of former Idaho Stampede coach Bryan Gates as an assistant coach. Gates joins the staff of new Hornets head man Monty Williams, who said he noticed how Gates arrived early at Sacramento Kings games last season to work with players. Gates is the ultimate dues-payer as he climbs the NBA ladder. Woven into the 11 different seasons he spent with the Stampede in various capacities were stints with the IBA’s Rapid City Thrillers, the CBL’s Hickory Nutz, the USBL’s Oklahoma Storm, and the Beirut Blue Stars in Lebanon.
Wesley Moodie has cleared a major hurdle in his quest to win a second Wimbledon men’s doubles championship. Moodie and playing partner Dick Norman upset the second-seeded Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, in four sets yesterday in a rematch of last year’s semifinal. Moodie, the 31-year-old Boise State Hall of Famer, and Norman, the 39-year-old Belgian, used their big serves to neutralize the skillful Bryans, who have nine career Grand Slam wins and a record-tying 61 tournament titles overall. Moodie and Norman thus advance to the semis against unseeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Philipp Petzschner of Germany. Moodie won Wimbledon in 2005—he’s also in the quarterfinals of mixed doubles with Lisa Raymond.
Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt are in the same threesome for the first time in this, their rookie year on the PGA Tour. They’ll tee off today with J.J. Henry at the AT&T National in Newton Square, PA. Let’s update the former Boise State stars. DeLaet has made two of his last three cuts and has earned $514,465 this season. Merritt has survived the cut in only one of his last five tournaments but is sitting at $624,822 for the season—over two-thirds of it coming from his third-place finish at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April.
This Day In Sports…July 1 in many a year:
The day when new conference affiliations traditionally take effect. On this day in 1970, Boise State officially became a member of the Big Sky. In 1996, Boise State and Idaho joined the Big West on July 1st. In 2001 on this day, BSU and Idaho went their separate ways—the Broncos off to the WAC while the Vandals began to split time with the Sun Belt (for football) and the Big West (for all other sports). And Idaho joined BSU in the WAC five years ago today. Now we’re exactly one year away from Boise State’s next seismic shift.
(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.)