Tuesday, July 20, 2010.
It’s the ol’ calm before the storm on the college football front. Call it “Media Days season.” First up is the SEC gathering, the unofficial start of the preseason, beginning tomorrow in Hoover, AL. ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach has a list of “media days storylines to watch.” One of them: “Given what Boise State and TCU accomplished in 2009—and what each team has coming back this season—it's going to be hard to ignore the non-BCS powers in 2010.” The teams that met in the Poinsettia Bowl two years ago and the Fiesta Bowl last January go arm-in-arm into the new season. The Broncos will be the talk of WAC Media Days in Salt Lake City Sunday through Tuesday. Same for the Horned Frogs at the Mountain West confab in Las Vegas next Tuesday and Wednesday.
As USA Today gears up for media days madness, it takes the same tack, pointing at the Broncos’ opener against Virginia Tech on Labor Day. “If they lose, the hopes for a non-traditional contender championship run turn to TCU (if the Frogs have beaten Oregon State two nights earlier),” write Jack Carey and Steve Wieberg. A year ago it was all about TCU being in the driver’s seat for a BCS bowl and Boise State waiting for the Frogs to stumble. As it turned out, TCU didn’t stumble, and the Broncos held up their end of the bargain—and both teams busted the BCS.
One of the highlights I haven’t mentioned from the Boise State Offense vs. Defense Charity Softball Game Saturday night was the entertaining running commentary on the field mic by Gerald Alexander. The former Bronco standout and current Jacksonville Jaguar took over about midway through the game and held court, interviewing guys like Kyle Wilson and Jeron Johnson and talking confidently about his alma mater’s chances in D.C. on Labor Day. Alexander’s a natural with a microphone—he might have a job in the booth waiting for him after his playing career. First, he tries to nail down a starting spot this season with the Jags, at either free or strong safety. Alexander is going into his fourth NFL season and second with Jacksonville. He was a second round pick of Detroit in 2007.
The cynical will say that Fresno State coach Pat Hill only accepted a pay cut to save his job, but no one has ever questioned his commitment to the city and the valley that surrounds it. Turns out Hill’s new contract extension, first announced in December, goes for three years and calls for a reduction in his $1 million a year salary. There was a time when Hill’s mantra of “anyone, anywhere, anytime” carried some clout and had him on the list of most sought-after head coaches. But the fact that his only WAC title in 13 seasons was a shared one back in 1999 has dogged him. Still, with Hill, the Bulldogs are stable and know they have a guy who is one of them.
The carrot dangled in front of Boise State basketball fans became a little clearer yesterday when new coach Leon Rice was on Idaho SportsTalk. Rice stressed that the contract hasn’t been signed yet, but the Broncos are close to landing that rumored home-and-home series with LSU, thanks in large part to Tigers coach and former BSU player Trent Johnson. Rice says the plan has Boise State traveling to Baton Rouge in the pre-conference season in 2011, and LSU returning the trip in 2012. The Tigers have actually played in Boise twice—in 1992 (Shaquille O’Neal’s final collegiate games) and in 2005 in the NCAA Tournament.
Former Idaho Stampede coach Larry Krystkowiak has landed back in the NBA, taking a job under incoming New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson. Krystkowiak was a finalist for the Boise State job this spring and talked about it yesterday on IST. “I was feeling pretty good about it, but they hired a pretty solid guy,” said Krystkowiak. “Sometimes you have to give credit to the team that wins, and that was Leon.” Krystkowiak played briefly for the Stampede at the end of his NBA career and, while injured, was an assistant coach of sorts for Bobby Dye. He returned to the Stamps six years later as head coach and led the team to the 2004 CBA championship game. Krystkowiak then had a successful run at his alma mater, Montana, before moving on to the NBA in Milwaukee. He was head coach of the Bucks for a little over one season before being fired in 2008.
The Boise Hawks were in danger of looking further up at Spokane in the standings last night, trailing the Indians 10-4 in the sixth inning. Then the Hawks started chipping away, and in the bottom of the ninth, it turned into that old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the runners are doing the cha-cha around the bases. Spokane’s Kevin Johnson walked in three (count ‘em, three) runs to give the Hawks an 11-10 victory. So instead of trailing by 2½ games, Boise is just a half-game back of the Indians with seven to play in the first half of the new split-season format.
There’ll be no Hayden Simpson in a Boise uniform this summer. The Statesman’s Brian Murphy reports that Simpson is dealing with mononucleosis, which will preclude him from playing this season. The Cubs’ first round draft pick out of Southern Arkansas was originally said to have been suffering from a viral infection a couple weeks ago. Simpson may skip the short season Class A step next year, which means we won’t get to see his specialty, a knee-buckling curveball.
The woeful Pittsburgh Pirates, despite a 3-1 loss to Milwaukee last night, have been playing a little better of late. And former Boise Hawk Ronny Cedeno is one of the reasons. Cedeno has upped his average from .219 to .247 since the 4th of July. Sunday he went 4-for-4 with three doubles in a 9-0 whitewashing of Houston, and he was 2-for-4 last night. Cedeno’s pro career started modestly. He played on the Hawks’ 2002 Northwest League championship team but batted just .218. Three years later, though, Cedeno made his big league debut with the Cubs. The 27-year-old Venezuelan spent the first half of last season with the Mariners before being traded to the Pirates.
This Day In Sports…July 20, 1976:
Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Brewers hits his 755th and final home run off pitcher Dick Drago of the California Angels. Aaron had gone back to Milwaukee for the final year of his 23-year big league career. Barry Bonds, of course, eclipsed Aaron’s career record in 2007 and ended up at 762 (a mark that begs for an asterisk). Speaking of asterisks, now we await Alex Rodriguez—11 years and three days younger than Bonds—now at 598.
(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.)