As the departures of Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 become inevitable, there’s a few conference-shifting scenarios, and none appears to favor Boise State. If the Big 12 is forced to expand by two—or even four—Cincinnati, UCF, Houston and BYU would be priorities. Or the Pac-12 could forge some kind of a merger with what’s left of the Big 12. Or the AAC could turn the tables and make a move of its own, trying to lure all or some of the remaining eight Big 12 teams in an effort to become a Power 5 conference at long last. “Perhaps, for those Big 12 schools, a move to the AAC would seem like a downgrade,” writes Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic. “But a stable home should be more attractive than ever. Can the AAC provide it? Will the league raid to avoid being raided? It’d certainly be wise to try.”
STATUS AND SITUATION
A deep dive by Don Day of BoiseDev.com on Boise State’s conference situation last week was well-timed (intentionally, no doubt, with the Oklahoma-and-Texas-to-the-SEC bombshell). BoiseDev’s analysis of information obtained through the Idaho open record act includes a report from MRJ Advisors. It shows that the Broncos are indeed the cream of the crop in the Mountain West but are not well-positioned to jump to the Pac-12—and consequently the Big 12, we can presume. Academics and fundraising are factors there. But Boise State would be in a strong position if it moved to the American Athletic Conference. According to BoiseDev, the report recommended the school operate on two tracks: boosting its position in the Mountain West while looking for opportunities elsewhere. I expect Boise State is doing just that.
Two things struck me about the Preseason All-Mountain West team last Thursday in Las Vegas: 1) Boise State occupies 40 percent of the offensive line, and 2) there’s only half as many Broncos picks as last year. Tackle John Ojukwu and guard Jake Stetz represent a vote of confidence for the O-line and new coach Tim Keane. Ojukwu is a repeat selection, along with wide receiver Khalil Shakir and nickel Kekaula Kaniho. But last season there were eight Boise State picks on the first team (Avery Williams had two of them). The interesting thing is, three Broncos were preseason picks last year—and not this year. So, ladies and gentlemen, here are your chip-on-the-shoulder guys: quarterback Hank Bachmeier, defensive tackle Scale Igiehon and linebacker Riley Whimpey. All of them could come up big this season.
THE IDAHO TIES IN TOKYO
Team Idaho, Olympians with ties to the state, is not as big as it was in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. The only repeat participant is former Boise State sprinter Jordin Andrade, who will represent Cape Verde in the 400-meter hurdles. Andrade was a semifinalist in Rio de Janeiro in that event, finishing 16th, and he was runnerup at the 2015 NCAA Championships. There are five others competing in Tokyo (not including athletes coached by Idahoans). Equestrian Adrienne Lyle, a former Ketchum resident, is entered in dressage. Lyle has trained in the Wood River Valley with 2004 U.S. Olympian Debbie McDonald. Lyle’s competition is already underway—on Sunday she qualified for the individual Grand Prix freestyle event on Tuesday.
Two former Idaho Vandals are competing: Alycia Butterworth will run the 3,000-meter steeplechase for Canada, and Liga Velvere represents Latvia in the 800-meters. Velvere is a 13-time Latvian national champion. Three-time Twilight Criterium women’s champion Jennifer Valente will race the team pursuit in cycling. Valente, who won the downtown Boise race three years in a row from 2017-19, was a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics. And Lewis-Clark State grad Sam Atkin is in the 10,000-meters field, representing Great Britain. Atkin was a nine-time NAIA All-American for the Warriors and is currently a track and field assistant coach at the Lewiston school.
OLD HOME WEEK, FOR A WHILE
A tie for the lead Thursday turned into a tie for 39th Sunday for Troy Merritt at the 3M Open in Blaine, MN. Many PGA Tour golfers who play the Open Championship take the following week off, but the 3M is played at TPC Twin Cities, just six miles from where Merritt grew up. He was energized by the familiar surroundings in the first round, firing a seven-under 64 to share the lead with with Rickie Fowler, Jhonattan Vegas and Roger Sloan. The former Boise State star hung in with a 71 Friday and a 70 Saturday, but he was undone by a three-over 74 in the final round. Symptomatic of Merritt’s day: an eagle on No. 16 was offset by a double-bogey on 18.
A KNOCK OUT IS THE HAWKS’ SAVING GRACE
The second half of the Pioneer League season has started better than the first half for the 3-5 Boise Hawks, but they could really use a win tonight to wrap up a six-game series in Billings. After an 11-5 defeat on Sunday, the Hawks have dropped four of five versus the Mustangs. The lone win was Saturday night, when Boise finally won a Knock Out (the home run derby that decides Pioneer games tied after nine innings). The Hawks nabbed a 4-3 win when Alejandro Rivero, on his final chance in the second round, blasted an eye-level lob from manager Gary Van Tol onto the leftfield concourse for a homer. Boise had been 0-3 in Knock Outs.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by COMMERCIAL TIRE…employee-owned, customer-driven!
July 26, 2013: Kris Bryant, making his home debut as the highest-drafted player ever to suit up for the Boise Hawks, smashes his first professional home run, a three-run shot that keyed a 9-1 victory over the Spokane Indians. Bryant was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 Major League draft by the Chicago Cubs and hit .354 in 18 games with the Hawks. He went on to be named 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and 2016 NL Most Valuable Player while leading the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years.
(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.)