The Athletic’s Chris Vannini has penned an essay on NCAA FBS attendance guidelines. Whatever happened to those? “The NCAA requires an average attendance of 15,000 fans per game once every two years to maintain FBS status,” notes Vannini. “But the reality is a number of programs don’t reach that mark. As a result, schools have to boost their numbers through artificial means.” Okay, let’s apply that to the Mountain West. Last year, San Jose State averaged only 14,255 per game (and the turnstile count wasn’t anywhere close to that). New Mexico, UNLV and Nevada were just over the 15,000 threshold. “Distributing” tickets is the only way many of these schools get there. But the tickets have to be paid for. They can only be given away for free if somebody else has already bought them. Vicious circle.
“In these cases, schools are essentially buying tickets from themselves,” writes Vannini. “Even a school like Northern Illinois, which has won four MAC championships in the past eight years, has to boost its numbers.” Boise State doesn’t have to inflate the gate. The Broncos are still close enough to capacity to be the envy of the Mountain West, having averaged 33,068 fans per game last year. Attendance issues are the way of the world. In 2018, the Mountain West and Conference USA had their lowest average attendance in conference history, according to CBS. But even the Big Ten was at its lowest since 1993, and the SEC was at its lowest since 2003. One quick way to achieve contraction in FBS football: enforce NCAA attendance regulations, but base it on turnstile count. The Mountain West would suffer, though.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE THUNDERING HERD
Marshall will likely bring a confident squad to the blue turf for Boise State’s home opener on September 6. Conference USA’s preseason media poll is out, and the Thundering Herd are picked to win the league’s East Division. Marshall was 9-4 last season and dominated South Florida 38-20 in the Gasparilla Bowl. The Herd have nine starters back on offense and six on defense. That offense could be dicey for the Broncos, as it returns the C-USA co-Freshman of the year, quarterback Isaiah Green, and a two-headed rushing attack—Tyler King and Brenden Knox combined for 1,233 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018. On the other side of the ball, Marshall did not allow a 100-yard rusher all season.
FIESTA BOWL LEGO LAND
If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to. Google “Boise State Fiesta Bowl in Lego.” Stop-animation specialist “Gold Yeller,” which is apparently from Boise, recreated the the three trick plays that shocked the world in the Broncos’ 43-42 win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl—with Legos. It uses the KBOI call by Paul J. Schneider and Jeff Caves. The detail is spot-on, far beyond the fact that all the uniform numbers match: Jerard Rabb’s dive to the pylon on the hook-and-lateral touchdown, the shifts and Vinny Perretta’s pop over the top to Derek Schouman on the halfback pass TD, and Ian Johnson tossing the ball into the stands after Statue Left. There’s also Bob Stoops shaking his head and Chris Petersen’s little dance when the game ended—plus Ian’s proposal to Chrissy. It is must-see YouTube TV.
EIGHTH ISN’T ENOUGH
Now that Big Sky Media Days have come and gone, Idaho’s primary goal should be to seriously overachieve the predictions in the preseason polls. The Vandals are picked to finish eighth by both the conference coaches and the media. They were ninth last season in their first year back in the Big Sky, underachieving the fourth-place prediction a year ago (which also foresaw an FCS playoff bid). To be sure, 2018 had to be a letdown for a number of Vandals who were recruited as FBS athletes and found themselves playing down a level. That will change with time. Two Idaho players were named first-team Preseason All-Big Sky, offensive guard Noah Johnson and punter Cade Coffey. By the way, Mountain West Media Days are set for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Las Vegas.
ANOTHER CORNERSTONE FOR COACH SHEEN
The return of Will Merchant tells you the Idaho Steelheads organization has its culture intact under new coach (and former assistant) Everett Sheen. After all, Merchant is returning for a fourth season with the Steelheads, Sheen announced Tuesday. The 25-year-old forward spent most of last season with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits but came back to Idaho in a March trade. As a Steelie, Merchant has logged 101 points (42 goals and 59 assists) over 152 career games.
THE HAWKS’ PARRA NEEDS THREE MORE
The Boise Hawks had a chance to get back to .500 Tuesday night, but it didn’t go so well at Memorial Stadium. Eugene thumped the Hawks 8-1. One followup on Monday night’s 4-2 Boise win. Red-hot Frederis Parra started the game but left after one inning. That was by design, though, as the team had slotted him for the first. It was not because of an injury to Parra. It was planned to get extended innings for Eris Filpo in the game. Parra threw a scoreless inning, extending his streak without allowing an earned run to 29 1/3 innings. He now needs only three more shutout innings to break the Northwest League record of most consecutive innings without an earned run. The current mark of 32 innings is 54 years old—set by Larry Loughlin of Eugene back in 1965.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!
July 17, 2012: Stephen Fife becomes only the third native Boisean to make the major leagues, and his debut is a dandy. Fife was called up for a spot start for the Los Angeles Dodgers opposite two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and allowed just one run on four hits over six innings. Fife left the game with a 2-1 lead over Philadelphia—he took a no-decision when the Dodgers ended up with a 3-2 loss. Fife was a member of the 1999 South Central Boise team that made the Little League World Series and helped Borah High to the 2005 state championship.
(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.)