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The second-most important hire of Gene Bleymaier’s long career

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on March 17, 2010 at 7:29 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 17 at 12:34 PM


Wednesday, March 17, 2010.
Gene Bleymaier took over as athletic director at Boise State 28 years ago. Less than a year into his tenure, Bleymaier faced his first major task: replacing football coach Jim Criner, two seasons removed from a Division I-AA national championship. Bleymaier promoted defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich. That didn’t work out so well (although the Broncos continued to win). About a month and a half later, Bleymaier had to make his first firing in a major sport, letting men’s basketball coach Dave Leach go. The replacement was Bobby Dye, and that worked out great. Bleymaier’s gone through this drill many times since. 
No hire was bigger during the Bleymaier era than that of Dirk Koetter in December, 1997. That completely changed the dynamic of Bronco football and launched it on the run it enjoys now. There’s no rule that says you can’t be elite in two major sports at the same time. In theory, anyway, it’s a lot easier to build a winner in basketball with only 15 players on a roster. Considering the times we live in, where appearances count as conference realignment trickle-down lurks, let’s place the decision on Greg Graham’s successor a close second on the list of the most important Bleymaier hires.
Not meaning to speculate on candidates here—just bringing up coaches who appear to be primed to make the next step. The surprise team in the Big Sky this season was Northern Colorado, which has compiled a 24-7 record in just its third season of Division I competition. The Bears’ coach is Tad Boyle, who has taken what had been a 4-24 team three years ago and has turned it into a contender. Northern Colorado plays its first postseason game in Division I tonight when it hosts Portland in the College Tournament in Greeley. Of course, Boyle’s name has already surfaced at Hawaii, a team his Bears beat in Honolulu in November.
Jason Robinson, suspended by Boise State coach Chris Petersen at the beginning of spring football, doesn’t look like he’s going to be back with the Broncos anytime soon—if ever. The senior nickelbacker had violated a team rule. We don’t know exactly what it was, but you can assume one of the team’s rules is not to break a man’s jaw outside a Downtown Boise bar after midnight, no matter what the circumstances. That’s what Robinson is accused of, as he was arrested yesterday on a felony aggravated battery charge after turning himself in on a warrant. The story is getting splash across the country—that’s the nature of the beast for Boise State right now. When you’re up on a pedestal, you’ve gotta expect to be knocked off it once in a while.
A couple NFL notes: the league has “Performance Based Pay” money it sets aside to basically fill the gap between a player’s salary and his actual playing time. The funds have now been distributed, and former Boise State cornerback Orlando Scandrick of Dallas earned an extra $306,000 for the 2009 season because of it. Scandrick also led the Cowboys in PBP money in his rookie season, with $262,000. Each team gets about $3.4 million in PBP funds from the NFL. Scandrick had 51 tackles, an interception, a sack, and two forced fumbles for Dallas last season. Also, former Idaho star Eddie Williams is now a Chicago Bear after being signed away from the Redskins. Williams had just been activated off the practice squad last November when a broken leg ended his season in Washington.
The Idaho Steelheads have been doing it with defense this season, allowing the fewest goals in the ECHL. They showed last night they can weather a track meet, though, as they beat Utah in Qwest Arena, 7-5, to clinch a coveted first-round bye in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelies led 4-1 in the second period after Mark Derlago potted his 37th goal of the season, but the Grizzlies kept it interesting. Derlago now has 28 goals in his last 29 games—he’s on a roll as good as any the team has seen in its ECHL era. The game ended with a fight between the Steelies’ Adam Huxley and former Boise fan favorite Lance Galbraith, and it’s on that note that the two clubs meet again tonight.
The Idaho Stampede probably relish a second chance at the Sioux Falls Skyforce tonight, because they let one slip right through their hands last night in South Dakota. The Stampede blew a seven-point lead in the final 40 seconds of regulation, allowing Sioux Falls to force overtime. And the Skyforce got it done, 117-115, handing the Stamps their third straight loss and dropping them below the .500 mark. That wasted a solid double-double by Stampede mainstay Lance Allred (23 points, 12 rebounds). Andre Barrett led Idaho with 27 points.
Longtime Boise Hawks fans will remember former manager Tom Kotchman throwing batting practice to his young son Casey after games in the 90’s. Now, of course, Casey’s a major leaguer, but he’s in demand not because of his bat, but his glove. Seattle engineered a trade with Boston in the offseason to get him and sees Kotchman as a key to their pennant hopes this year. Mariners infielder Chone Figgins, who was a teammate of Casey’s with the Angels, calls the 27-year-old one of the best-fielding first baseman he has ever seen. That’s backed up by the numbers. Kotchman has not made an error since June of 2008, and his career fielding percentage of .998 is the best all-time among first basemen. Casey has only eight career errors in six big league seasons.
We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the 94th birthday of Lyle Smith today. Smith, the “father of Bronco football” who built Boise Junior College into a powerhouse in the late 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s is the man who laid the groundwork for the Boise State program to grow into what it is today. His career record at BJC was 156-26-6, with five undefeated seasons, a 37-game winning streak, 51 shutouts, and the school’s original national championship—in the JC ranks in 1958. Happy 94th, Lyle.
This Day In Sports…March 17, 1983:
Boise State hosts rounds one and two of the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The field back then was only 52 teams, so there were just two first-day games in the Pavilion instead of four. Washington State beat Big Sky champion Weber State, and Utah upset Illinois in the first round. Two days later, the Utes would shock UCLA, 67-61, after Virginia and Ralph Sampson edged Wazzu, 54-49.
(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.)