BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, January 23, 2020.
“We will not support any change to this provision and are in the process of weighing our options to move forward,” said Boise State in a statement last Friday. The university was upset about Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson’s insinuation that this will be the last time the Broncos’ home football games will be sold separately outside of the conference's TV contract. Turns out Boise State was executing one of its “options” at the same time, as it filed a lawsuit (or complaint, depending on who you talk to) against the league that day in Ada County District Court. The terms sheet signed in December, 2012, when Broncos football returned to the MW after an annulled marriage with the Big East, contains no expiration date attached to the separate marketing of Boise State home games.
This is not just posturing for 2026, when the new Mountain West contract ends. Despite assuring Boise State the week of the Mountain West championship game that it was “the driving force behind the new, and much more favorable and profitable, deal with Fox” (according to the university), the meetings that followed discussed phasing out the Broncos’ bonus—even eliminating it immediately. Sometimes you’ve got to suck it up to keep the peace. Co-exist, you know. But this has gone beyond kumbaya. There was already motivation for any team facing Boise State, as the resentment has been building for years. It’s doubly so with this latest development. Then again, it might work both ways now.
Late in the day, both sides walked it back a bit when they released a joint statement: “Last week Boise State filed a complaint regarding media rights against the Mountain West Conference, however, that action alone does not formally begin a lawsuit. The University and the Mountain West are currently in discussions in hopes of bringing this matter to a resolution without litigation.” In his story at ESPN.com, Mark Schlabach calls it a “lawsuit.” Repeatedly. Whatever. Sounds like Boise State called the Mountain West’s bluff—and that the conference, perhaps, wasn’t expecting that. (We’ll see if the American Athletic Conference thinks about striking while the iron is hot.)
OUT OF THE WAY EARLY, FORTUNATELY
Boise State only plays Colorado State once this season, and it’s already done: the 75-64 win during the Mountain West’s early-bird week last month. Are you beginning to think the Broncos got the Rams at the right time? CSU has won seven of its last eight games, the latest an 86-68 cruise past Fresno State Wednesday night. Before that was a 105-72 humiliation of New Mexico last week. The Rams have climbed into a tie for third in the conference at 5-3 (they’re 14-7 overall).
ANOTHER HARD-TO-GAUGE FOE
As for Fresno State, it’s been a struggle for the Bulldogs this season. They’ve dropped six of their last eight games and have fallen to 6-13 overall and 2-6 in the Mountain West as they await Boise State Saturday evening in Save Mart Center. Fresno State is shooting just 41 percent from the field for the season. But the Bulldogs are deceiving, having lost a lot of close games. And they swept the Broncos last season. Boise State legendarily went 1-9 in games decided by one possession or in overtime in 2018-19, and one of the those was a 65-63 loss in Fresno. The Broncos are 3-1 in such games this season, including the epic comeback win over Utah State last Saturday night.
HIGHTOWER RAMPING UP
There’s not a lot of report card stuff out there on former Boise State star John Hightower following the East-West Shrine Bowl last Saturday in St. Petersburg. Hightower did fine, with two catches for 24 yards, one carry for 12 yards and a kickoff return for 16 yards. His next stop, hopefully, is the NFL Combine in Indianapolis late next month. If he does get his invite, scouts would like to see Hightower put on some low-bodyfat weight between now and then. He was listed at 6-2, 172 pounds on the Broncos roster last fall. There’s concern about Hightower’s ability to play off press coverage from NFL athletes. Once he finds space, though, look out.
DELAET TEES IT UP IN LA JOLLA
All eyes will be on 44-year-old Tiger Woods today as he makes his 2020 debut on the familiar grounds of Torrey Pines at the Farmers Insurance Open. Toiling in relative anonymity will be former Boise State star Graham DeLaet, making his second start of the new year. DeLaet, who turned 38 on Wednesday, missed the cut two weeks ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Fellow former Bronco Troy Merritt is taking this week off from the PGA Tour.
We’ve always talked about college baseball in the Treasure Valley in terms of College of Idaho and Northwest Nazarene. This is the year we add in Boise State, and it happens in about four weeks when the Broncos open at Texas. But the Coyotes start first. C of I makes its 2020 debut today with a doubleheader against Taylor University in Chandler, AZ, the fourth straight year the Yotes have opened the season in January. They’re looking to rebound from last year’s difficult 16-35 campaign. NNU’s season opener is Friday, February 7.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…January 23, 1980, 40 years ago today:
In his State of the Union message, President Jimmy Carter announces the U.S. Olympic team will not participate in the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous December. The U.S. was one of 65 countries that did not go to the Moscow Games, although those missing presented a number of reasons for their absence. To retaliate, the Soviet Union led a boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles that included 14 countries.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)