Home sweet home in the MW

Monday, July 7, 2014.

With that extended vacation over, it's back to the business of local sports. The book has finally been closed on Boise State's tumultuous three-year relationship with what used to be the Big East. What is now the American Athletic Conference and BSU agreed last Thursday on a $2.3 million exit fee for the university (the original amount was to be $5 million). Now, what if the Broncos and San Diego State had gone through with their moves to the AAC? Here's the new lineup as of last Tuesday: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and Tulsa. No regional opponents (and it goes without saying no rivalries), and monstrous travel. It would have been the Sun Belt on steroids.

Idaho is nearly a week into its reunions with the Sun Belt in football and the Big Sky in other sports. If there's any question about the wisdom of returning to the Big Sky, which is Division I in non-football sports, check out the new WAC lineup as of last week. Again, this is the WAC: Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Missouri Kansas City, New Mexico State, Seattle, Texas Pan-American and Utah Valley. The Big Sky is clearly the more desirable, more stable, more competitive place to be. And that's before you even say the word geography. It's sad to see what an unrecognizable hodge-podge the WAC has become in three short years.

Recapping the Boise Hawks weekend, we start with Friday night, of course. Memorial Stadium may be 25 years old and aging, but it's still pretty cool when it's full. And that it was, with 3,704 packing the place for the 4th of July. The Hawks lost 7-1 to Eugene, but the fireworks show made up for it. From there it was the Hawks offense that shot off fireworks the remainder of the weekend. Saturday night Boise batted around in two different innings and got home runs from Justin Marra and Jeffrey Baez in a 15-3 victory. Last night, the Hawks scored in spurts to hold the Emeralds at bay, 10-5. Rashad Crawford and Chesny Young each recorded three-hit games, with Crawford driving in three runs and Young two. Young is now 4-for-4 as a Hawk. Boise has its first off-day of the season today.

There is now a second former Boise Hawk on the Oakland A's roster, joining Josh Donaldson. Oh, and one former Treasure Valley Community College Chukar as well. The A's trumped a number of other suitors and picked up pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a blockbuster six-player trade with the Cubs revealed late on the 4th. Samardzija, a 2006 Hawk when he was still a Notre Dame wide receiver, got the start in Oakland yesterday against Toronto and was solid, picking up his first American League victory. He scattered four hits over seven innings and allowed one earned run in the A's 4-2 win. Hammel, the one-time TVCC hurler, is scheduled to debut Wednesday night in the Bay Bridge Series against the Giants. Hammel, who notched one last win with the Cubs Friday night at Washington, is 7-5 with a 2.98 ERA.

Here's a first four former Hawks have been named to the All-Star Game a week from tomorrow night in Minneapolis. Samardzija was named to the National League squad and will receive full All-Star honors, but he won't be eligible to play because of the trade. Donaldson was announced yesterday as the starting third baseman for the American League. Donaldson is batting only .241 but has hit 19 homers and knocked in 62 runs. He's the first former Hawk to start in the Midsummer Classic since the Angels' Garret Anderson in 2003. Anderson was the All-Star Game MVP that year after winning the Home Run Derby the day before. Also, Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison becomes the first utility player to be named to the All-Star Game in four years, and Milwaukee s Francisco Rodriguez will suit up as an All-Star for the fifth time in his career.

Troy Merritt put together a strong finish yesterday and tied for 16th at the Greenbrier Classic in Sulphur Springs, WV. The former Boise State star earned $91,186, the second-biggest payday of his return season on the PGA Tour, bringing his season winnings to $688,064. Merritt completes a stretch of four straight tour events this week when he plays in the John Deere Classic.

The Dallas Stars knew Derek Laxdal well from his five seasons with the Idaho Steelheads, and the two teams AHL comrades with the Texas Stars did, too, what with all the shuffling of players that goes on between Boise and Austin. The Dallas organization recognized it had a good thing at the time and hired Laxdal last week to coach Texas. He just finished turning around the WHL s Edmonton Oil Kings, capping his four-year tenure with the WHL s Chynoweth Cup and Canada s major junior championship, the Memorial Cup. Laxdal has NHL written all over him two of the three previous coaches for the Texas Stars left for head coaching jobs in the NHL, including Willie Desjardins, who is the new bench boss of the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Boise State athletes entered in the USATF Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships turned in top 10 results at the over the weekend. Jordan Ward, a freshman from Rathdrum, tied for ninth in the high jump Saturday night at Eugene's Hayward Field. Allison Jeffries, the standout freshman from Eagle, tied for 10th yesterday in the pole vault. Jeffries is already the school pole vault record-holder in both indoor and outdoor competition.

Boise State may be branded nationally, but internationally is another story (and it seems to be that way for any major American college program). In two weeks in the U.K., with my traveling party occasionally sporting a Bronco logo somewhere, only one Brit mentioned it. That was a bartender at a pub in Oxford who professes to be a fan of U.S. college football he exclaimed, Oh, that's the university with the blue pitch.

Watching the U.S. World Cup matches in Britain was an experience, but not particularly memorable. The Brits didn't seem to care one way or the other about the Americans' fortunes. The BBC versions of the telecasts were respectful toward the U.S., but--particularly during the match versus Belgium--very defensive of soccer. Seems there was a New York Times column that struck a nerve, calling soccer boring. The announcers often pushed the notion of a 0-0 match being gripping. You don't need to see 200 points scored to have an exciting match, they said. Now we will see if soccer has finally taken root here, or if it reverts to a once-every-four-years phenomenon like the Olympics. So here s the question: Would you seek out a Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers regular season MLS game on ROOT Sports?

This Day In Sports...July 7, 1979:

NBC conspires with Roscoe Tanner to delay the start of his championship match against Bjorn Borg. It was NBC s first Breakfast At Wimbledon telecast, and the network wanted the final to start at five minutes after the hour instead of exactly 9 a.m. Eastern time as it always had been. But Wimbledon protested. So Tanner pretended he had to go to the men s room and spent five minutes there. Borg won the title anyway, his fourth of five straight Wimbledon crowns.

(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 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)


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