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The WAC may be looking to the north after all

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 7:20 AM

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010.
 
So much for “mum’s the word in Missoula.” I said that yesterday because there was nothing new on a debate in Montana I talked about the first week in April. WAC commissioner Karl Benson au-contraired that on Idaho SportsTalk later in the day. Early this spring, Montana athletic director Jim O’Day had his staff looking at what might happen if the dominoes start falling on conference realignment, but things had been quiet since. Benson said on IST Montana has indeed indicated interest in the WAC as he discussed the possibility of Boise State leaving the conference.  While not giving anything away, Benson sounded like he was braced for change. The Grizzlies, with their incredible track record in FCS football and their outstanding attendance, would be as good a replacement as the WAC could hope for should the Broncos depart.
 
It seems that you can usually read between the lines in a Benson interview—consequently it seems like Benson is expecting something to happen when the Mountain West presidents gather in Jackson, WY, in three weeks. It’s increasingly apparent that the MWC doesn’t want to be at the mercy of whatever is dictated by expected Big Ten expansion and possible Pac-10 expansion. If Utah is lured away by the Pac-10, and if TCU leaves to fill a spot in the Big 12, Boise State would provide the conference with some massive reinforcement. And it would still be a more stable place for the Broncos to be.
 
ESPN.com’s Graham Watson headlined her Monday blog, “Boise State, Mountain West on the clock.” Watson says BSU is caught in a “love triangle” between the WAC and the MWC. But she also plays devil’s advocate: “If the Mountain West loses teams—and some expansion models call for almost the entire conference to be dissolved—Boise State would find itself still without an automatic BCS bid, only slightly better competition than it had in the WAC and no ESPN TV deal.” Point well taken. But I don’t see the Mountain West breaking up, and I don’t think the MWC’s TV deal has to last through the 2012-13 athletic year in its current form without some modification in reaction to the changing landscape.
 
One thing you hear a lot about is the increased revenue Mountain West membership would bring for Boise State. What a lot of people forget is the cost savings. It wouldn’t affect football that much, since the Broncos fly by charter to their road games. But it would make a huge difference in all the other sports, which travel by commercial air, or bus, or van. The trips to Hawaii and Louisiana Tech—and even hard-to-reach New Mexico State—would go by the wayside.
 
Cincinnati’s hockey team is on the fast track to a championship, having won the first two games of the Kelly Cup Finals in Boise over the weekend. So, do Cincinnatians notice the Cyclones as Game 3 is set to unfold there tonight? Well, last night I went to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website, and there at the top of the Sports homepage was “Cyclones reward their fans,” right next to “Reds stay hot, beat Brewers.” Yes, they are taking notice. The Cyclones drew 5,340 faithful to see their Game 7 stunner over Reading in the ECHL American Conference Finals last week. And there’ll be noise in U.S. Bank Arena this evening. After all, it’s “Macaroni & Cheese Night.” Fans will make a racket by shaking their macaroni & cheese boxes—then they’ll donate them to a local food bank ministry at the end of the game.
 
A look at who’s been there and done that in the Kelly Cup Finals: Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal and captain Marty Flichel were both members of Idaho’s 2007 championship team. Cincinnati’s Barret Ehgoetz and Mathieu Aubin, along with coach Chuck Weber and assistant Dean Stork, hoisted the Cup with Cincinnati in 2008.  Another Cincinnati player, Maxime Lacroix, was on South Carolina’s Kelly Cup-winning club last year. So the Cyclones have the advantage there—just like on the scoreboard in the first two games of the series.
 
The season resumes today for the College of Idaho baseball team. The Coyotes are in Riverside, CA, to face Madonna University of Michigan in what’s officially called the NAIA Baseball National Championships Opening Round. The Yotes are seeded third in their five-team group. The goal is to get past this preliminary tournament and into the actual NAIA World Series in Lewiston a week from Friday.
 
Davey Hamilton got 36 laps in during a refresher test during practice Sunday at the Indianapolis 500, with a top speed of 220.321 miles per hour. Hamilton, now with deFerran Dragon Motorsports, is trying to make the Indy 500 field for the 10th time in his career. The deFerran team, lauded for its wealth of engineering talent, is putting a new motor in Hamilton’s car, which Davey hopes gives him “one more mile per hour.” Hamilton blogs that he’s the oldest driver in qualifying for this year’s race. He’ll be 48 years old next month.
 
This Day In Sports…May 18, 1996:
 
The University of Idaho wins the Big Sky Men’s Track & Field championship over Boise State, nosing out the Broncos in the final event—the 4x400 meter relay. It would be the final competition as Big Sky members for Idaho and BSU (the Vandals had been in the conference for 33 years, the Broncos for 26). Both would begin Big West competition in August of that year. In 2005, Idaho and Boise State resumed competing together in the same conference after a five-year hiatus, as the Vandals were admitted to the WAC. Five years later, we’re wondering how long that will last.
 
(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.)

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