BOISE, Idaho — Friday, February 8, 2019.
Not to pile on, because I’m not the first one to broach this subject this week. But isn’t it time we did away with 9 p.m. tipoffs on weeknights? We knew it would be bad in Taco Bell Arena Wednesday, but a crowd count of 3,200? (Props to Boise State for reporting turnstile count instead of “tickets distributed,” like many other schools do.) There were 10,137 fans for this game last year on a Saturday night. This one was on a school and work night. If the game had been telecast on ESPN or ESPN2, then maybe the exposure would have been worth it. But it was seen by a miniscule audience on ESPNU. What is this doing to fans? New Mexico beat writer Geoff Grammer protested a 9 p.m. start for the Lobos Tuesday night and tweeted a photo of a swath of empty seats in the normally-packed Pit.
With that said, the Boise State roster is going to be so different in the next couple of years, maybe a 9:00 tip won’t scare as many people away as it did Wednesday. Utah AAU program Exum Elite tweeted yesterday that Emmanuel Akot, a 6-7 power forward and originally a five-star recruit, is transferring to the Broncos from Arizona. Akot started 11 games for the Wildcats this season, averaging 19 minutes with 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds a game. He’s appeared in Taco Bell Arena before—in the NCAA Tournament last March. Akot hasn’t played since a January 12 game at Cal (he’ll still have to sit out next season before becoming eligible at Boise State). But add Akot to Oregon transfer Abu Kigab, plus all the redshirts coach Leon Rice is stockpiling this season, and it’s going to be interesting indeed.
We come to praise Justinian Jessup today. With two three-pointers against UNLV, Jessup now has 200 treys in his Boise State career. He is the fastest Bronco to get to 200 threes in program history. Jessup did it in 87 games, surpassing the previous record held by Bronco radio analyst Abe Jackson, who reached 200 in his 91st game around the turn of the century. Jessup is now No. 7 on Boise State’s all-time three-pointers list. The Broncos just look for him to be normal Saturday versus San Jose State, and all should be well. The Spartans visit Taco Bell Arena saddled with a 3-18 record, an 0-9 mark in Mountain West play, and a 12-game losing streak that includes an 87-64 setback to Boise State last month in San Jose.
THE 3-4 TRANSITION APPEARS TO BE COMPLETE
Since the topic often strayed from National Letter of Intent Day signings on Wednesday, here’s one of my takeaways from the press conference. Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos declares that Boise State is officially a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3, the alignment the Broncos had preferred for more than 30 years. There used to be two defensive ends and two defensive tackles in Boise State’s 4-3. One of the ends became a STUD end when Avalos took over as D-coordinator on Bryan Harsin’s first staff. The STUD’s responsibilities expanded into pass coverage over the years. Now the STUD is classified as a linebacker. Avalos says that allows Boise State to be a multiple defense. The STUD can be an off-ball ‘backer or an edge rusher. “That’s where the game’s going,” said Avalos.
HOKE HOOKS UP WITH THE AZTECS AGAIN
Former San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke is going to rejoin the Aztecs as defensive line coach. Hoke left SDSU eight years ago for Michigan, then was fired after four seasons with the Wolverines. He has since been on college staffs at Oregon and Tennesee and in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. San Diego State’s current run began when Hoke led the program. When the Aztecs finished 9-4 in 2010 it was their first nine-win season in 33 years. Hoke’s boss will be a guy who used to work for him—Rocky Long was his defensive coordinator and was promoted to head coach in 2011.
ANGST IN ALBUQUERQUE
The good news for Lobos fans: New Mexico beat San Diego State 83-70 Tuesday night. The bad news: just about everything else surrounding the program this week. First there was the UNM football recruiting class—27 players, 19 of them junior college transfers. Yikes. Then, New Mexico watchdog website NMFishbowl.com reported that former Lobos athletic director Paul Krebs would be indicted by the state’s attorney general for fraud and money laundering related to a 2015 booster golf junket to Scotland. The scandal led to Krebs’ downfall. Krebs allegedly used public funds to cover a $25,000 shortfall in the trip’s budget and had his wife, a professor at New Mexico, craft a fake email to cover his tracks. Yikes again.
TWO POTENTIAL TIEBREAKERS IN UTAH
It’s now truly a battle for first place this weekend for the Idaho Steelheads. The Steelheads and the Utah Grizzlies are now knotted atop the ECHL Mountain Division, and they go head-to-head tonight and Saturday night in West Valley City. The Steelies have had the luxury of three good goalies on the roster recently. It’s down to two for the rest of this series, as Colton Point has been recalled by the Dallas Stars to their AHL affiliate in Texas. Point appears to be a pet project of the Stars. The 20-year-old from North Bay, ON, has been steadily improving—he’s 3-1 with Idaho since his last AHL stint.
STAYIN’ AWAKE IN SAN JOSE
The Boise State women venture into the sleepiest atmosphere in the Mountain West Saturday when they face San Jose State at the Events Center. The Spartan women’s season—2-18 overall and 1-8 in conference—is basically mirroring that of the SJSU men. The College of Idaho men, ranked No. 3 in NAIA Division II, have already reached the end of the regular season as they host Multnomah tonight and Warner Pacific Saturday night in Caldwell. And Northwest Nazarene’s nationally-ranked teams are both on the road. The 24th-ranked Nighthawk men fell 78-77 at Simon Fraser last night and travel to Western Washington Saturday. The seventh-ranked NNU women stifled Saint Martin’s 70-43 last night and visit Seattle Pacific on Saturday.
This Day In Sports…February 8, 2006:
Just two days after being seemingly left in the lurch by the resignation of Nick Holt, Idaho announces the return of Dennis Erickson as head coach. Holt had a 5-18 record in his two seasons, but Erickson—with two national championships and a legacy of college football turnarounds in his career—was expected to flip those numbers. We never found out, as Erickson lasted just 10 months before bolting for Arizona State, going 4-8 in his one season with the Vandals. He had started his head coaching career with Idaho in 1982, going 32-15 in four seasons. Erickson is now bound for the College Football Hall of Fame.
(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.)