Monday, May 17, 2010.
This was out there a few days ago but got bumped by news of the Boise State-Ole Miss game in 2011. Then the thing exploded Friday with the generally unsubstantiated but very interesting report from a Fresno TV station, and—more significantly—a comment by Joe Schad Friday on ESPN. There was also this tweet from Schad late Friday: “Two people close to situation said MWC more likely than not to offer membership in June.” Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, you know “MWC” is “Mountain West Conference,” and “membership” means Boise State. So, will the Mountain West be proactive in the conference realignment wars? Will the Broncos get the required seven of the nine MWC presidents in their corner?
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, who has written many a thoughtful passage about conference expansion as it pertains to the Pac-10 and the West, surmises that “Boise State’s days in the WAC could be numbered.” Here’s how Wilner sees it: “The Mountain West Conference presidents meet next month, and there’s at least a decent chance that they will formally invite BSU—if not immediately after the gathering, then before July 1.”
Wilner’s reasoning: If the MWC wants Boise State’s performance in the 2008-10 seasons to be included in the formula that determines automatic BCS bids for the next cycle of games—and it sure as heck does—then the Broncos must be a member of the MWC in 2011. And for them to be a member in 2011, they must be invited by July 1, 2010.” There’s quite a bit of stuff like this out there, but Wilner’s column of the most-quoted. We have about 47 days to find out if Wilner is right.
One of the only reasons skeptics can put forth for Boise State declining a possible invitation to the Mountain West is that conference’s woeful TV contract. It’s a seven-year, $82 million deal that created “the mtn.” and began in 2006, affecting two Bronco road games that season—at Wyoming and Utah. The inaccessibility of those games (and just about everything else from the MWC since) has stuck in the craw of a number of fans, but the TV deal is not even close to something that would make Boise State say no. Any change in the Broncos’ rather rewarding relationship with ESPN would only be temporary.
The WAC has to have a backup plan in case Boise State (or anyone else) leaves the conference. You know WAC commissioner Karl Benson has gone over all the what-ifs. He spoke to the media during the WAC Softball Tournament late last week and said four or five schools have expressed interest in joining the WAC. Sacramento State and Portland State would probably be two of them, although Benson mentioned Sac State, UC Davis and Cal Poly to Dave Reardon of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The WAC would love to have some interest from Montana, but mum’s the word currently in Missoula. Reardon says without Boise State, Hawaii would be the WAC’s flagship program. “You'll get arguments from Fresno and Nevada,” writes Reardon. “Then again, is it any good to be the flagship of a fleet of garbage scows?” Harsh.
During the Idaho Steelheads’ first two playoff tilts against Utah and Stockton, the hope was that the series wouldn’t return to Boise after Games 1 and 2. The Steelheads are now left to pray that this one does after absorbing a couple heartbreaking losses to Cincinnati in the Kelly Cup Finals at Qwest Arena over the weekend. The Cyclones scored in the final minute each night to record one-goal victories and take a two games-to-none lead back to Ohio for Game 3 tomorrow night. The Steelheads had scored 26 home playoff goals going into the Finals—they scored just two in the first 120 minutes versus Cincinnati.
The weekend developments have been a blind-side to the Steelheads and their fans. The Steelies didn’t give Utah a chance to come up for air in their sweep of the Grizzlies in the ECHL National Conference semifinals. Then the Steelheads handed the Stockton Thunder a glimmer of hope before slamming the door on them last week. The Kelly Cup was starting to seem like Idaho’s destiny. Everything was so symmetrical—2004 championship, 2007 championship, and now it’s 2010. But suddenly, things couldn’t be more out of kilter.
The Boise State men’s basketball team will get a test run in the new venue for the WAC Tournament when it faces UNLV in a non-conference game on December 8 at Orleans Arena. The Rebels annually play one game at Orleans. The Broncos can talk to their Steelheads friends about the nuances of that venue, as the Steelies play the Las Vegas Wranglers there every season. It won’t be new to Boise State coach Leon Rice, as he was on the bench at Orleans Arena for four games with Gonzaga during the West Coast Conference Tournament the past two seasons. UNLV will return the game in Taco Bell Arena in 2011-12.
Around the horn with spring sports: The Boise State men’s and women’s tennis teams were ushered out of the NCAA Tournament Saturday, with each suffering a 4-0 loss. The Bronco men fell to Florida State in the first round and the BSU women to Notre Dame in the second. The women had advanced with an upset of No. 21 Iowa Friday. After a surprise third-place finish in conference during the regular season, the Boise State softball team showed well at the WAC Tournament. Both of its losses in the double-elimination event came by one run to eventual tourney runnerup and NCAA Tournament-bound Fresno State. And the BSU men finished second at the WAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, with Bronco field athlete Kurt Felix the meet’s high scorer. On the women’s side, Idaho was second, with the Vandals’ Allix Lee-Painter the top scorer of the meet.
This Day In Sports…May 17, 1997:
Boise’s Gary Stevens rides Silver Charm to victory in the closest Preakness Stakes in 65 years. Silver Charm came from behind to beat Free House by a head and Captain Bodgit by another head to duplicate his slim win at the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier. But Stevens’ bid for the Triple Crown would be dashed in the Belmont Stakes—narrowly—by Touch Gold.
(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.)