Bronco Nation not alone enduring late nights

Curt Apsey’s specialty is fundraising, and the quickest way to raise funds is filling seats at Albertsons Stadium. It’s almost a coincidence that the day after Curt Apsey was named athletic director, the kickoff time for Boise State’s date at BYU was announced. It’ll be at 8:15 p.m on ESPN2. At least the game stays on a Saturday (September 12). So why is it a coincidence? Because Apsey’s specialty is fundraising, and the quickest way to raise funds is filling seats at Albertsons Stadium. And one of the main issues in not filling them these days is late kickoff times dictated by the ESPN networks and CBS Sports Network. That’s something Apsey can’t do much about, so he has to figure out how to average 36,000 fans a game in spite of it. BYU has had to deal with this, too, obviously. The Cougars, through their ESPN deal, have had some November games the past few years with those dastardly start times, and their crowds have also been affected.

Those start times have also had an impact on Boise State men’s basketball, where attendance dipped more than 1,000 fans per game last season, from 6,810 in 2013-14 to 5,774. The Mountain West released next season’s conference schedule yesterday (without the tipoff times that will be dependent on TV, though). Of note, the Broncos’ one-time opponents for 2015-16 are Air Force and Fresno State, so they’re guaranteed those coveted home games with San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV (and you can throw Colorado State in that group, too). CSU is the opponent for the Mountain West opener on January 2 or 3 in Taco Bell Arena. Four of Boise State’s first six games will be at home.

Boise State landed its fourth football commitment in five days late Tuesday night, as offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland of Spanaway, WA, has given his verbal. Cleveland is 6-6, and his weight is anywhere from 270 to 300 pounds, depending on which website you check. He played both ways at Bethel High but made his biggest impression as a left tackle. Cleveland also had offers from Oregon State and Washington State, among others. The Broncos now have eight commits in the 2016 class—two on the O-line, one defensive lineman, two wide receivers, a quarterback, a running back and a cornerback.

The NBA Draft unfolds tonight in Brooklyn, and former Boise State star Derrick Marks will be paying attention. Unlike the other major sports, there are only two rounds, so a lot of good players go undrafted. Realistically, Marks, the Mountain West Player of the Year last season, will be one of those, but he’ll be ready for whatever free agent audition comes after that. The 6-3 guard sat down for a pre-draft interview with DraftExpress and said he’s been working hard in Santa Barbara to shore up his shortcomings. One of those, he says, is his “body getting tight.” Interesting from a guy who was playing hurt for the Broncos at the end of last season. So he’s embraced a new routine. “When I come out I just stretch those muscles, loosen them,” said Marks. “It’s a type of training I’ve never done before. My body is reacting well to it.”

The Mountain West has a shot at landing two first-rounders tonight, and they’re both from UNLV. ESPN’s Chad Ford has guard Rashad Vaughn going 20th overall to Toronto and Christian Wood 28th overall to Boston. Boise State has actually faced six of the players in Ford’s mock draft first round. The others are center Frank Kaminsky and forward Sam Dekker of Wisconsin, center Willie Cauley-Stein of Kentucky and guard Delon Wright of Utah.

Former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt are back into it today at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, CT. Merritt is actually ahead of his former teammate on the money list this year, with $752,848 in earnings to DeLaet’s $634,967. DeLaet was over $2.1 million at this point last year—he has just two top 10 finishes this season compared to eight at US Open time in 2014. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge, another former Bronco, tries to keep it going on the Tour at the Air Capital Classic in Wichita, KS. He’s No. 7 right now on “The 25” and is all but guaranteed a PGA Tour card for next season. Aldridge is primed for the Albertsons Boise Open, starting two weeks from today.

Former Boise State coach and one-time PGA Tour pro Kevin Burton begins play today in the US Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento. Burton survived a tense four-player playoff at Sectional Qualifying in Molalla, OR, last month. “Going into the qualifier I didn’t really have a lot of expectations,” Burton told KTVB. “There were 76 guys for only two spots, so it’s a pretty big shootout. You’ve just gotta go out and play well.” Burton has been on this perch before, having played in in the 1993 U.S. Open and in four PGA Championships.

Tyler Matzek’s road back to the majors just got a bit longer. Matzek, who began the season with the Colorado Rockies, is trying to get his rhythm back with the Boise Hawks. Last night, with the Hawks nursing a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, he walked five batters and allowed six runs while recording just one out, and the Emeralds went on to an 8-3 victory. Another former Hawk was in the lineup last night for the Ems. Justin Marra, who hit .268 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs over three seasons in Boise, was 1-for-3 and singled in Eugene’s first run in the sixth before being lifted for a pinch-runner. Marra is in his fourth year of short-season Class A ball. That’s a long time.

Other notes for a Thursday: Four Idaho teams have already advanced past pool play at the Far West Youth Soccer Regionals at the Simplot Sports Complex. The U17 boys Boise Nationals Liverpool, the U14 girls FC Nova, the U18 girls Coeur d’Alene Sting and the U19 girls Nova-Nationals are among those playing on. And five Boise State athletes are set to compete at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships beginning today. Emma Bates, Mackenzie Flannigan, Marisa Howard, Jordin Andrade and David Elliott are right back at Hayward Field in Eugene, where the NCAA Championships were held two weeks ago.

The weekend of July 17-18 will be an eventful one in Boise. The Seattle Seahawks’ “12Tour” visits, with an entourage of players, alumni, Sea Gals and Blitz the mascot keeping with the team’s “12th man” theme. There’ll be a 12th man flag-raising ceremony at City Hall on Friday the 17th, and a “12Fest” Saturday the 18th at Dona Larsen Park. That’ll be convenient—fans can then just walk down Broadway to the Basque Soccer Friendly at Albertsons Stadium.

This Day In Sports…June 25, 1999:

Two years to the day after being drafted in the first round by San Antonio, Tim Duncan is named Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals after the Spurs finish off the New York Knicks, four games to one. Playing alongside eventual Hall of Famer David Robinson, Duncan averaged 27.4 points and 14 rebounds per game in the series. It was San Antonio’s first-ever trip to the championship round. Incidentally, the point guard for the Knicks was Chris Childs, the first former Boise State player ever to appear in the NBA Finals.

(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.)