Big 12 talk: a paradigm shift in the MW

“Sorry, Boise State, CSU has become the darling of the Mountain West. Not necessarily in athletic success. But in terms of conference expansion.” So wrote Kelly Lyell yesterday in the Coloradoan in Fort Collins. That may sound harsh to Bronco fans, but that’s actually the feeling that came out of Mountain West Media Days last week. If the Big 12 is going to take two schools from the West, the one likely to be paired with BYU is Colorado State. “If college sports fans, coaches or athletic directors were the ones deciding what schools should play in which conferences, the Broncos would be a strong candidate for the Big 12,” Lyell continued. “Maybe even the strongest. But university presidents make these decisions. And the strength of a school’s academic programs, real and perceived, matters.”

Colorado State is trying to spin it to the Big 12 this way: “While Boise State is a Power 5 football program, we are a Power 5 university.” CSU will pitch its growing enrollment, now at 32,000, and its Forbes academic ranking of No. 297 (BSU is No. 612). And, of course, the Denver TV market, the 17th largest in the country. Not that the Rams own that market, but there are lots of Big 12 fans in the Mile High City. Not to forget Colorado State’s new $220 million jewel, the on-campus stadium that will open in 2017. Seems the Rams are convinced they’re in the driver’s seat. Boise State has accomplished unthinkable things on the football front and has ramped up rapidly on the academic side, but while it could win the Big 12 popular vote, it could lose the electoral college.

Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said at Media Days that he and his team had been blocking out the Big 12 noise just fine—until the Las Vegas confab last week. But Bobo doesn’t mind CSU’s case being splashed around the national media. “You want expectations, you want people talking about your university,” said Bobo. “August 3rd (fall camp) is when we ignore the noise.” Added tight end Noel Peralta, “The higher-ups will decide whether we go or stay. For us, it’s just live for the day and prove who you are.”

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson revealed at Media Days that the conference would consider new members, depending on what happens with any Big 12 shuffle. That may actually play into New Mexico State’s decision to play as an FBS independent after the Aggies and Idaho leave the Sun Belt in 2018. Thompson said he’s had “more than one and less than five schools ask, ‘Can we be members of the Mountain West?’” A prevailing theory is that some of the Texas schools from Conference USA are in the middle of it. UTEP, for example? Whether new Big 12 members come from the Mountain West or the AAC, there could be mutual interest in the Miners landing in the MW. C-USA, as a result, could be looking for new members, and New Mexico State hopes it would be considered. borrowed from Phil Steele’s magazine for this over the weekend: “What are the 15 best QB situations in college football?” It serves as a primer for the two biggest home games of the season on the blue turf. No. 13 is Boise State. Steele likes Brett Rypien’s touchdown-to-interception ratio as a true freshman (20-8) but adds, “I am concerned about the depth here.” No. 9 is BYU. Steele notes that the Cougars have a QB battle between Taysom Hill, who’s missed 21 starts the last two seasons, and Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum. “Either QB will be a star,” says Steele. No. 7 is Washington State. Steele cites Luke Falk’s size (6-4, 214 pounds) and says he’s “soon to be the next hot NFL prospect.” But Steele also notes Falk “had minus-115 rushing yards.”

Speaking of quarterbacks, we’re into the final two days of voting for Boise State’s 30-Year All-Blue Team, and the signal-callers serve as the grand finale. You’re able to pick two, and we know who one is. On the “candidates page,” Kellen Moore has 21 awards and major career records listed, and that doesn’t include things like “winningest QB in college football history (50-3).” The other spot is surely between Bart Hendricks and Ryan Dinwiddie. Hendricks was at ground zero for the Broncos, helping launch the Golden Era as Big West Offensive Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000. Dinwiddie was at the helm when the Boise State offense became an unstoppable force in the early part of the new century.

All 32 NFL training camps are underway now, and Moore’s status as Tony Romo’s backup in Dallas remains unchanged. There were writers who thought it would change, and fans who wanted it to. But the Cowboys knew what they were doing. They passed up chances to talk to and/or sign Matt Moore, Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy, Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown and Nick Foles during the offseason. When the NFL Draft rolled around, Dallas tried to trade to get in a position to take quarterback Jordan Lynch, but it didn’t work out. So the Cowboys selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round and focused on Moore as their No. 2 guy. Dallas had a second chance to pick up Foles over the weekend after he was released by the L.A. Rams, but owner Jerry Jones said he is “not an option.”

Boise State’s men’s basketball players have actually been together for three weeks, but today they start their official practices for the Broncos’ upcoming tour of Costa Rica. Coach Leon Rice will be able to conduct eight practices before the departure to Central America on August 11. Assimilating the new talent into the system will be priority No. 1 during the tour. The wild card this season might be guard Malek Harwell, the redshirt freshman from Pocatello. The coach has high expectations for Harwell, who USA Today named the 2015 Idaho Player of the Year while averaging 25.7 points per game.

The Boise Hawks saw their season-high three-game winning streak come to an end in a 7-6 loss to Eugene last night. But the Hawks still took two out of three in their series against the Emeralds. The highlight of the weekend was Friday night, when the Hawks went into the bottom of the ninth trailing 7-2. They plated five runs to tie the game—then Willie Abreu connected on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th for an improbable 8-7 victory. The Hawks have what I believe to be an unprecedented three days off now surrounding tomorrow night’s Northwest League-Pioneer League All-Star Game in Ogden.

The last few days preceding baseball’s trade deadline (which is today) have seen one major deal involving a former Hawk, as San Diego right-hander Andrew Cashner was sent to Miami as part of a seven-player deal. Cashner made his Marlins debut yesterday against St. Louis and allowed one earned run on four hits over six innings in a no-decision. The former TCU star had already been pitching well, posting a 2.55 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings over his last three starts before the trade. Cashner was a first-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2008 and went 1-1 with a 4.96 ERA in six appearances with the Hawks that summer. Mountain West Factoid of the Day: Since the 2013 football season, the conference has been half “old WAC” and half “older WAC.” Six of the charter members of the Mountain West are left: Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming. All were part of the WAC mutiny in 1998 and split off into the Mountain West the following year. The other six football schools are the more recent WAC refugees: Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State and Utah State. The records for each group since 2013? The “older WAC,” the remaining charter members of the MW, are 108-122. The more recent refugees are 115-116.

This Day In Sports…August 1, 2012:

Boise’s Kristin Armstrong wins her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the women’s time trial with a dominant performance in London. Armstrong, who just 10 weeks earlier had broken her clavicle at the Exergy Tour in Boise, won by more than 15 seconds. At the age of 38, Armstrong became the oldest road cyclist ever to capture a gold medal. She had retired after winning the 2009 world time trial championship to have son Lucas, but mounted a comeback in 2011—then retired again after London. But Armstrong embarked on yet another comeback in 2015 and is now headed for the 2016 Rio Summer Games, her fourth Olympiad.

(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.)