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The WAC would sure like to know what Montana’s thinking

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on June 24, 2010 at 7:23 AM


Thursday, June 24, 2010.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson has said the conference is going to be deliberate while deciding when and how to expand to replace Boise State. That’s partly because Montana is going to be deliberate on deciding its athletic future. The Grizzlies can afford to be, because they wouldn’t even be able to apply for WAC membership until a year from now due to the NCAA’s moratorium on schools moving up to the FBS level. But Benson would love to be a fly on the wall in Missoula the next couple of months. The WAC would gladly take North Texas, already an FBS member and building a new stadium in Denton, TX. But the Mean Green would not be as appealing as the Griz. After Montana and North Texas, the candidates’ worthiness and wherewithal take a dive: Cal Poly, UC Davis, Portland State, Sacramento State, Texas State, Eastern Washington…
Montana has been taking its time getting its task force going. Grizzly athletic director Jim O’Day has said for some time that he would employ an outside firm to examine his department and determine the feasibility of a move to the FBS (in other words, the WAC). Now O’Day says he’s hopeful the $15,000-$25,000 study can start in the next few weeks. At the root of the assessment is funding, as Montana’s budget is currently just two-thirds of the WAC average. The costs of increasing football scholarships from 63 to 85 and adding two sports are big, big issues at Montana. If the Grizzlies reconcile that, then they (and the WAC) would have to deal with the question of Montana State tagging along.
Through everything that’s happened in college football this year, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News has always provided some of the most level-headed interpretations of the situation. He’s in the middle of Pac-10 land, yet he’s in tune with the WAC because of his familiarity with San Jose State. Here are some of Wilner’s locally-relevant thoughts on realignment results. “Loser: Mountain West.  The cold, hard truth?  Boise State for Utah is not an even trade. Loser: WAC.  Lost its headliner, its BCS-buster, its moneymaker.  And the options for replacing Boise State are not very good—not very good at all. Winner: Boise State. Better off financially in the MWC, even without Utah.  But the road to the BCS gets tougher, even without Utah.”
If you’re looking forward to that shine coming off the blue, your wait is about over. The equipment is being jockeyed into place as we speak to replace the blue turf at Bronco Stadium. The current carpet was laid down in 2008 but has brought waves of complaints over the glare off the blue on TV broadcasts. It was never more evident than on that rainy Friday night on Thanksgiving weekend last year, when ESPN2 viewers had to squint to make out Boise State’s 44-33 win over Nevada. Field Turf is replacing the blue at no charge. The crew should start removing the rubber later this week—actual removal of the turf probably won't start until after July 4.
After a very pleasing 6-2 victory Tuesday, the Boise Hawks were stricken by their old Salem-Keizer jinx again last night. The Hawks absorbed an 11-0 pummeling at the hands of the Volcanoes, managing only two hits while the visitors were pounding out a Northwest League season-high 18. That’s one of the lowest points in more than six years’ worth of low points. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, Boise is 14-49 against Salem-Keizer. 
Hawks manager Jody Davis hinted last week that reliever Chris Huseby could pull double-duty—as a pitcher and batter. That pretty much explains Huseby’s week in Boise so far. Monday night he pitched one inning and allowed one unearned run to Salem-Keizer. Tuesday night Davis inserted Huseby as an imposing 6-foot-7 designated hitter for the Hawks, and he responded by ripping the first pitch for a double. Huseby went 1-for-4 and scored two runs. Then last night, he tossed a scoreless ninth inning against the Volcanoes. The Cubs still want the one-time 11th-round draft pick to make it as a pitcher, and he’s off to a good start in Boise. It’s just nice for Huseby to know that he has options, and that Davis will let him show it.
It could be an historic night for the WAC in the NBA Draft. Two of the conference’s stars last season, WAC Player of the Year Luke Babbitt of Nevada and Paul George of Fresno State are in New York by invitation for tonight’s event. Both are expected to go in the first round, and Babbitt’s Wolf Pack teammate, Armon Johnson, could make it a trifecta for the league. One thing the Pack points out: both Babbitt and Johnson played their high school ball in Reno.
Doug Plagens occupies a considerable amount of airtime on KTIK during the fall, winter and spring. Let’s call it airtime well-spent, as the Idaho Steelheads play-by-play man has been named ECHL Broadcaster of the Year in voting by league media relations directors and broadcasters. Plagens was chosen to be part of the TV crew for last season’s ECHL All-Star Game. He came to the Steelheads in 2008 from Syracuse of the AHL. A hearty congrats to Plagens.
This Day In Sports…June 24, 1922:
The National Football League is born. The league had formerly been called the American Football Association. Coinciding with the name change to the NFL, Curly Lambeau paid $50 for the franchise rights to the Green Bay Packers, formed the year before by Lambeau’s employer, the Indian Packing Company. The Packers are one of three franchises remaining from the original NFL 88 years ago—the other two are the Chicago Bears (then the Decatur Staleys) and the Arizona Cardinals (then the Chicago Cardinals).
(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.)