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Mountain West football: Players are feeling empowered

Commissioners and administrators and university presidents think they have the season figured out—tentative as it is. But players are finding a voice.
Credit: Andres Leighton/AP Photo
Boise State players take the field for a Mountain West game against New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. Boise State won 45-14.

BOISE, Idaho — Friday, August 7, 2020.

I asked this question just two days ago: “Will it be players who bring down the 2020 season?” The theory is not implausible. A group of Mountain West players has formed #MWUnited. Unlike the the #WeAreUnited group in the Pac-12, the Mountain West faction’s grievances deal exclusively with the COVID-19 crisis, not revenue sharing or fighting racial injustice. “It is difficult to believe that hundreds of 17 to 22-year-old college students are capable of social-distamcimg effectively enough to travel state-to-state for 10 weeks,” said the #MWUnited statement. 

The well-constructed list of conditions addresses testing, prevention and safety, eligibility and scholarships, and player assurances. Boise State’s Jalen Walker retweeted the statement with the comment, “From us athletes.” Tyreque Jones and Chase Cord also retweeted.

RELATED: Boise State football: The countdown resets now

MOUNTAIN WEST SCHOOLS NAVIGATE THE MADNESS

Reactions around the Mountain West on the conference’s “8 + 2” plan and delayed start vary from “oh well” to “what are we gonna do?” From the Fresno Bee, for example: “The question now is whether Fresno State will take part in football and its other fall sports.” All four of Nevada’s nonconference games were scheduled before September 26, so the Wolf Pack has to figure that out. 

At Colorado State, this buys a little time for the Rams to get their act together. According to the Coloradoan, CSU President Joyce McConnell is launching an independent investigation of the university’s athletic program after athletes and athletic staff alleged that members of the department have worked to hide the extent of COVID-19 spread among student-athletes.

BUBBLING UNDER – JUST UNDER 

There are real, live college football rankings out there now, as the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll was released Thursday. And while Boise State is not in, it’s as close to the surface as possible. 

RELATED: Boise State football: One month from today…?

The Broncos are first in line among “Others Receiving Votes”—effectively No. 26, tied with Tennessee with 111 votes. Boise State was on top of Eddie Timanus’ list of “five teams snubbed” in the poll in USA Today. Writes Timanus: “For whatever reason, the Broncos have appeared frequently on this list in recent years. The lack of consistent depth in the Mountain West is certainly a factor, but the Broncos always contend for—and often win—the league title and wind up ranked at some point. Expect that to be the case again with QB Hank Bachmeier and a talented receiving corps expected to put up big numbers.”

Also of note in the Coaches Poll, two Group of 5 teams did make the Top 25: UCF at No. 21 and Cincinnati at No. 22. Air Force, which was one spot behind Boise State in the final 2019 Coaches Poll, received 12 votes (the two teams flip-flopped in the final AP Poll). And Florida State, who is the Broncos’ major coronavirus scheduling casualty this year, received nary a vote from the coaches.

RELATED: Boise State football: Pitching the tents for camp

COMMIT NO. 6 IS A TIGHT END

Amidst all of this week’s chaos, Boise State picked up its sixth commitment of the 2021 recruiting class on Thursday. Matthew Lauter, a 6-4, 222-pound tight end from Torrey Pines High in Encinitas, CA, had just visited campus Wednesday, according to Greg Biggins of 247 Sports, who called him one of the state’s top two-way athletes. “I loved it there,” Lauter told Biggins. “It’s an awesome place and I loved the campus.” Biggins’ capsule: “He's a long athlete who caught 20 balls for 316 yards and three touchdowns last season. He added 47 tackles, forced three fumbles and had one interception that he returned for a touchdown.”

A QUIET KIBBIE DOME, HOLT ARENA THIS FALL

The Mountain West’s delay-and-contraction plan for the football season probably wiped out any pie-in-the-sky thoughts of an “emergency” Boise State-Idaho football game this season, but reported action by the Big Sky Thursday would leave no doubt. It appears the conference has called off league football this fall. 

RELATED: Boise State football: The Florida State shoe drops

However, Brian McLaughlin of HERO Sports tweeted, “Recommendation by ADs today to Presidents was 8-game conf schedule in spring ... with schools' choice to play 3 non-conference games in fall if school can/chooses, 2nd source confirms.” Nothing’s official yet. But that idea of trying to get three nonconference games in the fall is odd. What would be the point? Trying to save those paydays, I guess.

HARDING PARK HAMSTRINGS MERRITT

Troy Merritt teed off on No. 10 and clocked a birdie to open the PGA Championship Thursday afternoon in San Francisco. But then he bogeyed Nos. 12 and 13. The former Boise State star was even at the turn but blew up down the stretch, with a bogey and double-bogey over his final three holes. Merritt’s tied for 109th at three-over 73 and is unlikely to play the weekend.

RELATED: Boise State football: Albertsons Stadium 50th anniversary, Part XVII

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…August 7, 2015, five years ago today:

Neil Graham is named the seventh head coach of the Idaho Steelheads—and in turn becomes the youngest coach in the ECHL and the youngest in club history at the age of 30. Graham was a player-coach for the Steelheads in 2012-13 before becoming Brad Ralph’s full-time right-hand man behind the bench. Ralph had resigned three days earlier to take over the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. He went 132-64-20 in three seasons with Idaho.

(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.) 

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