San Diego State brings its No. 4 standing in the polls into ExtraMile Arena on Sunday. As you may have heard, the Aztecs are the second-highest ranked team ever to play Boise State in the facility. The highest-ranked squad was Cincinnati in December of 1999, and that one has an interesting back story. In 1997, there was a lot of competition for college football bowl games, and the brand new Humanitarian Bowl was looking at its choices out of Conference USA to face Big West champion Utah State. The Bearcats were 7-4, and one carrot they dangled put them over the top. They offered a future trip to Boise by their perennially powerful hoops squad. It happened two years later when Cincinnati was No. 3, and the Broncos were rewarded with a 78-46 beatdown. This time it’s a conference game in the middle of February, a whole new world.
THE MOST ELECTRIC NIGHT
Tied for second is the game in December, 1987, against fifth-ranked Wyoming. That season saw Boise State field its best team ever to that point, and basketball was at an all-time peak in town. Three days before Christmas, the Broncos drew 12,265 fans, still the biggest crowd for a non-conference game in school history. The game wasn’t televised, but KTVB wiped out all of its prime time commercial breaks, and Mark Johnson and I did live updates from the Pavilion. The atmosphere was unbelievable.
On the court, Boise State’s Chris Childs and Arnell Jones battled the Cowboys’ Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner to the end. Boise State had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Childs slipped while driving the lane, and Wyoming prevailed, 59-55. The teams would have a rematch in Laramie in early March—the Pokes won that game as well, 56-50. Both the Broncos and Cowboys would end up in the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City in March.
THE CLOSEST CALL
The other fifth-ranked team to visit what is now ExtraMile Arena was none other than San Diego State in February, 2014. It had the look of the biggest win in school history, but it turned into a gut-punch of a loss for Boise State. The Broncos mounted their biggest lead of the night, 14 points, with 13:45 left in the game. They still led 59-46 with 11½ minutes remaining. Then SDSU put ice water in its collective veins and lead in Boise State’s heels. The Broncos didn’t score another point for more than eight minutes as a 15-0 Aztecs run put the visitors ahead. Boise State finally got the lead back and was up 65-62 with under a minute to go. But a Dwayne Polee three-pointer with four seconds on the clock spelled defeat. The despondent Broncos fell, 67-65.
HARSIN’S NAME FLOATS OUT THERE AGAIN
With Mel Tucker having left Colorado in the lurch after one season, the Buffaloes are dreaming of bringing favorite son Eric Bieniemy back as head coach. But Bieniemy had a tough two-year go as offensive coordinator at CU once upon a time, and he’s one of the hottest names in the NFL right now after winning a Super Bowl as Kansas City O-coordinator. And so Bryan Harsin’s name follows. Here’s the take from Tom Fornelli at CBSSports.com: “Of coaches who currently have a job, Harsin is probably the biggest target Colorado could get. Still, Harsin has proven plenty of times that, like the coach who preceded him at Boise State, he’s not itching to jump for any Power Five job. It’s hard to imagine Colorado is the kind of offer that would lure him from Boise, particularly considering the timing of it all.”
That would be an interesting conundrum for Harsin, though. He would be in the Pac-12, and he’d be in the West and wouldn’t have to drastically change his recruiting philosophy or footprint. And he’d make a lot more money. But at the age of 29, when Harsin was tight ends coach at Boise State, he watched his head coach, Dan Hawkins, head to Boulder. And that didn’t work out so well. It’s hard to imagine Harsin doing to the Broncos what Tucker did to the Buffs.
MERRITT TEES OFF AT RIVIERA
The PGA Tour moves down the coast to Riviera Country Club today for the Genesis Invitational (known as the Los Angeles Invitational in the olden days). Troy Merritt is in the field, coming off a 25th-place finish last Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Merritt is currently 143rd in FedExCup standings with a lot of golf to go this year. His season earnings are $211,494. Graham DeLaet is not entered. No word yet on when DeLaet’s latest back ailment will allow him to return to the tour. He’s been out since withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines three weeks ago.
‘NOT THIS TIME,’ SAY THE BRONCO WOMEN
The Boise State women led Air Force by 18 points with 4½ minutes left in the third quarter Wednesday night in Colorado Springs. Then it started unraveling again, and the Falcons came all the way back to tie it 61-61 with 4½ minutes left in the fourth. But the Broncos followed with a Riley Lupfer three-pointter, her sixth of the game, and they went on to win 74-69. Lupfer scored 23 points, but it was Jayde Christopher who left her mark on this one. With her fifth assist of the game, she became Boise State’s career leader in that department at 193. Thing is, Christopher had seven more to go. She dished out 12 helpers on the night and now has exactly 200.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON…breakfast and brunch all day!
February 13, 1988: The 15th Winter Olympics kick off in Calgary, Alberta. The Games were dominated by the Soviet Union and East Germany, as they finished first and second, respectively, in the final medal standings. The hosts from Canada would have a disappointing games, as they failed to win a gold medal. Canada would have to wait until the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to win the country’s first ever winter gold on home soil. The competition also included popular underdogs Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards of Great Britain in ski jumping and the Jamaican bobsled team.
(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.)