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There are only three football towns in the Western United States

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on November 3, 2009 at 8:35 AM


Tuesday, November 3, 2009.
Brian Murphy’s column in the Statesman Saturday did what it was designed to do. It got some people riled up by saying Boise is not a “football town.” The points were well-taken. If Boise is a football town, the San Jose State game should have sold out. Instead, in typical and more than acceptable Halloween Day weather, it drew 31,684, the smallest crowd since 2007, before the Steuckle Sky Center was built. The economy and the rise in ticket prices have shown up at the turnstiles this year. And it’s hunting season, and it was a 1-5 opponent, and so on. In some places that would make no difference. But if Boise’s not a football town, well, that’s okay. It’s certainly not unique. There are only three true “football towns” in the Western United States: Eugene, Provo and Missoula.
Oregon, BYU and Montana sell out virtually every home game and have for years and years. It doesn’t matter who the Ducks, Cougars and Grizzlies play. And there have been plenty of marginal opponents in those stadiums. Boise State started drawing full houses for every game in 2006, and the opponent didn’t seem to be a factor. But the trend has reversed in 2009. 
How about some elite programs in the same boat as Boise State. USC rarely sells out the L.A. Coliseum. Much bigger facility, but much, much bigger population. TCU doesn’t sell out in Fort Worth. Slightly bigger stadium, but much bigger population (albeit with a lot of competition for the sports dollar). In the WAC, Fresno State just experienced a crowd of 27,721 for its win over Utah State Saturday. It was the smallest attendance at Bulldog Stadium in 23 years and the first time since then the place had drawn less than 30,000. Many college and pro organizations have taken a hit this year.
Side note: In case you think it’s odd that I threw in Missoula as one of the West’s three football towns, consider that Montana has expanded Washington Grizzly Stadium three times since 1995.  It now seats over 25,000, and the Grizzlies lead the FCS (Division I-AA) in attendance at 25,736 per game. It’s definitely a tough place to play—Boise State was 0-5 in that facility before leaving the Big Sky after the 1995 season.
Stewart Mandel of witnessed Oregon’s 47-20 bombardment of USC Saturday and has plenty to say about it. Here’s a highlight: “If Oregon had lost to any other team on its schedule besides Boise State (like Purdue or Utah), there's no question in my mind the Ducks would be sitting solidly in fourth right now in every relevant poll.  But most voters can't bring themselves to move Oregon ahead of an undefeated Boise team that beat the Ducks soundly in the teams' season opener—and I don't blame them.  The Ducks are a vastly better team than they were that Thursday night, they argued.  I don't disagree.  But what evidence is there that the Broncos have gotten worse?”
Boise State coach Chris Petersen proclaimed quarterback Kellen Moore to be “fine” yesterday after the sophomore star absorbed probably the hardest hits he’s seen in his 21-game college career against San Jose State. One first quarter shot in particular forced a fumble and brought Moore down hard on his right (non-throwing) shoulder, but that didn’t stop him from throwing mid-range and deep balls the rest of the afternoon. “I don’t think you can be a top-notch quarterback and not be one of the toughest guys on the field,” said Petersen. “He’s got that pretty face and kind of prances around back there, but don’t let the looks deceive you. He’s a tough guy—he really is.” Pete says one of the key reasons he named Moore the starter before his redshirt freshman season was that he passed the toughness test in fall scrimmages. 
Kyle Wilson professes to have been patient during the first seven games of the year, when he had few opportunities to make plays. But the eighth was a charm for the Boise State senior cornerback, as he was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week yesterday. Wilson’s first career pick-six was a backbreaker in the Broncos’ 45-7 win over San Jose State Saturday. And the tackle-for-loss Wilson recorded was, believe it or not, his first of the season.  The special teams award went to Idaho’s Justin Veltung, whose return of the opening kickoff for a touchdown appeared to set the tone against Louisiana Tech Saturday—until the Vandals were forced into a wild comeback to beat the Bulldogs. 
Louisiana Tech is faced with the unenviable task of facing Boise State without two guys who have given the Broncos considerable headaches in the past. Coach Derek Dooley said yesterday that running back Daniel Porter and wide receiver Phillip Livas are both questionable for Friday night’s game on ESPN2. Porter suffered a concussion early in the second half of the Bulldogs’ loss at Idaho, and Livas followed with an ankle injury shortly thereafter. In the Broncos’ 45-31 shootout victory in Ruston two years ago, Porter rushed for 131 yards on only 13 carries, including a 74-yard touchdown. Livas had a good game that night, too, including five catches for 50 yards.
First question surrounding Boise State men’s basketball this season: Is he going to be called Robert Arnold or “Reggie” Arnold. The answering process will begin tonight when the Broncos host their first exhibition game against Willamette in Taco Bell Arena. Arnold, a 6-6 forward, has been nicknamed “Reggie” because his game resembles that of former NBA star Reggie Miller. At least it did at Antelope Valley College, the school from which Arnold comes as a JC transfer. He averaged 19 points and six rebounds there last season. Now Arnold has to adjust to the speed and structure of Division I, and sometimes that’s a chore for JC guys. Also getting their feet wet tonight will be fellow transfers Westly Perryman and Daequon Montreal.
Kevin DeVergillio wants to play hockey. And he’s certainly capable, having made his professional debut last spring with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers and scoring two goals and two assists in just two games. But DeVergillio, a 23-year-old forward, has essentially been stuck on the bench this season with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Now he’ll get on the ice, as Texas has reassigned him to the Steelheads. DeVergillio is serious about the opportunity—he’s driving his car all the way from Austin to West Valley City, UT, in time to meet the team for tomorrow night’s game against the Utah Grizzlies.
Boise State’s track record (no pun intended) in conducting championship events has paid off again, as the NCAA has announced BSU will be the host for the 2012 Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. The meet will run two days, March 9-10, and will be held at the Jackson Indoor Track in Nampa’s Idaho Sports Center. BSU hosted the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1994 and 1999 and has handled 16 NCAA regional and national events in all, including eight appearances by the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
This Day In Sports…November 3, 1995:
Portland’s commitment to remain a major pro sports city is reinforced with the opening of the Rose Garden, the new 20,000-seat arena in the city’s Rose Quarter. The Blazers didn’t ride the hoopla well, falling to the Vancouver Grizzlies, 92-80. The sellouts that were the norm in the adjacent Memorial Coliseum would continue in the Rose Garden, at least until the team with tagged with the “Jailblazers” nickname at the turn of the century with the onset of numerous off-court problems.
(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.)