Thursday, January 28, 2010.
Now for the 2010s. That’s what we call the new decade, right? Get a load of a couple of Mark Schlabach’s predictions for the next 10 years at ESPN.com. Here’s one: “After breaking through the BCS ceiling at the end of the previous decade, Boise State will finish a future season with an undefeated record and will actually get to play for a national championship. The Broncos will beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, winning the game—and a national championship—on a fumblerooski play in the final minutes.” Schlabach also sees the Big Ten following through with expansion and inviting Missouri. Then what happens? Writes Schlabach: “With Missouri leaving, the Big 12 will add TCU to its lineup of schools. Not to be left out, the Pac-10 will add Boise State and Utah, giving it 12 teams and a moneymaking championship game.” Ah, not so fast my friend.
That takes us to that ol’ bump in that road, and the numbers I covered on Sunday Sports Extra this week. Even the Mountain West would be reticent to invite Boise State with its men’s basketball attendance in the shape it is. The school will be judged as a whole, not just on football. And the next most important sport is men’s basketball. The Broncos are drawing just 2,656 fans a game. Their biggest crowd this season (3,896 for New Mexico State) doesn’t even match last season’s average (4,044). That will change, as BSU’s next three games are in Taco Bell Arena against Fresno State, Idaho and Utah State.
But the Broncos are a distant sixth this season in WAC attendance. The average conference game is drawing 4,895. In the Mountain West it’s 7,604. Boise State’s lack of fan support is a detriment to any effort to move up in conference affiliation. I firmly believe the potential still exists to get the fans back. The Broncos have the population pool in a great city and a 12,000-seat facility that, despite being 28 years old, has stood the test of time (and eight visits by the NCAA Tournament). Things just don’t happen to be clickin’ right now.
On the court, where does Boise State hoops go from here? The Broncos are still 1-7 in the WAC, but they certainly have a different aura after rallying to beat Idaho 77-67 in overtime Monday night. At first glance, they’d appear to be in trouble in Taco Bell Arena Saturday night against Fresno State, which is coming off an energizing upset of Nevada. But BSU led the Bulldogs most of the way in the WAC opener in Fresno before falling 71-68. That was the beginning of an erosion of Bronco confidence—now we’ll find out if they have it back. And (refer to preceding paragraphs) we’ll see if fans are believing again. Meanwhile, Fresno State starts its week with a game at Idaho tonight.
Idaho Stampede coach Bob MacKinnon pointed out yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk that, in the past four weeks, the club has lost four starters and 80 percent of its offense. A look at last night’s box score would suggest the Stamps have lost 80 percent of their defense, too. Maine rolled over the Stampede in Qwest Arena, 133-115, putting up the highest point total of the season on Idaho. The Red Claws were torrid, shooting 75 percent in the first quarter and 58 percent for the game. MacKinnon didn’t see the bitter end, as he was tossed from the game with 3½ minutes left after being slapped with his second technical foul. By the way, part of that “80 percent” is going to be away awhile longer (if not for the rest of the season), as Anthony Tolliver has signed another 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Back to football—Matt Hayes has this in the Sporting News Today daily online edition: “Where again is that public relations firm the WAC hired last year? Uh, fellas, now is the time to pump Boise State. The Broncos lose one starter from the unbeaten 2009 team and need to start high in the 2010 preseason polls to have bigger dreams than winning (another) BCS bowl. It’s time to think big in Boise. Everyone else in the WAC—hold onto the blue and orange coattails for a wild ride of national prominence.” I’d say the ride has been underway for awhile.
The uncertainty of practice squad status after the season ends didn’t last long for Ian Johnson and Vinny Perretta. The former Boise State stars have been re-signed by the Minnesota Vikings to free agent “future” contracts already, giving them some peace of mind going into the offseason. It also ensures that the Vikings will retain their rights. Both Johnson and Perretta performed well during their infrequent touches in the exhibition season last year—than were among the Vikes’ final cuts. They spent most of the season on Minnesota’s practice squad.
At the Senior Bowl this week, there are other names familiar to local fans beyond Boise State’s Kyle Wilson and Idaho’s Mike Iupati. They’re both getting high marks, and so is this guy: Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount. The massive running back is having to answer questions about his Opening Night punchout of BSU’s Byron Hout like never before. Blount told reporters in Mobile, “It’s going to continue to be on YouTube, it’s going to continue to be on TV every time you see my face. It was a hard time in my life. I got past it. I had a whole bunch of support from family and friends. Me being here for these past few days, people have seen a whole different LeGarrette than they saw on September 3.’’ It’s up to NFL personnel people to believe it now.
Last weekend was an interesting one for coach Derek Laxdal, as twice he had to pull his goalie. Laxdal yanked Rejean Beauchemin 11½ minutes into last Friday night’s game after three goals and inserted Richard Bachman. Then Sunday night, Laxdal sat Bachman after a three-goal first period in favor of Beauchemin. The coach would prefer the scenario in the middle game of the series versus the Wranglers—Bachman yielded one goal in a solid 60 minutes. The Steelheads visit Pacific Division-leading Bakersfield tomorrow and Saturday nights.
Whew—what a relief. For awhile I thought the San Diego Open was going to be called the San Diego Open again, but Farmers Insurance has come to the rescue to sponsor the tournament at Torrey Pines. And former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt are in the field. After their first two tournaments as PGA Tour rookies, DeLaet has earned $94,186 and Merritt has picked up $72,320.
This Day In Sports…January 28, 1984:
Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers sees his record-setting 51-game point-scoring streak come to an end, as the visiting Los Angeles Kings not only ice “the Great One” but win the contest, 4-2. During the streak, Gretzky amassed an amazing 61 goals, 92 assists, and 153 points.
(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.)