Famous Idaho Potato Bowl catches a break

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl gets an afternoon kickoff this year—on a Friday—set for December 22 at 2 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium. That should be a relatively easy afternoon to take off from work, heading into Christmas weekend as it is. Of course, it’s all about the matchup when it comes to attendance. This will be the Mountain West’s fifth straight appearance in 20-year-old bowl, with the MAC penciled in as the other representative for the eighth time in nine years. Last season was the gigantic exception, of course, as Idaho helped draw 24,975 fans for its 61-50 win over Colorado State in a game that produced two 600-yard offenses for only the third time in college football bowl history.

The dates-and-times announcement of this season’s bowl games serves as a reminder that the Mountain West is now down to five tie-ins. And if Hawaii keeps improving and scoops up an automatic bid to the Hawaii Bowl again, it’s down to four for the rest of the league. With the demise of the Poinsettia Bowl—and no replacement due to the moratorium on new bowls for at least two more years—there’ll be a premium on performance in the MW, as there should be. Outside of Hawaii, there’s the Las Vegas Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, the Arizona Bowl, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. You’d think at least six Mountain West teams are bowl candidates: Boise State, San Diego State, Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force and New Mexico. A 7-5 season might not be good enough for somebody this year.

The NCAA unleashed its full 2015-16 Academic Progress Rate lists yesterday, and the first thing that went viral locally was Idaho finishing dead last in FBS football multi-year APR at 927. But the Vandals’ single-year scores continue to rise—up to 957 in the latest ratings. Boise State slipped a bit in football from its 2014-15 numbers, to 968 from 991. In multi-year, the Broncos are second in the Mountain West and 27th in the country at 979. Eight Boise State sports received perfect scores of 1,000: women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, gymnastics, men’s cross country, men’s track and field, swimming & diving and women’s tennis. The Bronco men’s basketball team’s multi-year APR increased by 10 points for the second year in a row. In the last three years the program’s APR is up by 40 points to 971.

Sometimes contracts are only as good as the paper they’re written on, but Eric Musselman seems to be serious about a long stay as Nevada men’s basketball coach. The Wolf Pack has inked Musselman to a five-year extension through the 2021-22 season. The deal is reported to be around $1 million per year, making him the highest-paid coach of any sport in Nevada history. Musselman has won 54 games in his first two years and led the Pack to its first Mountain West championship—and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years. As important as anything is the fact the Pack drew six crowds of 10,000-plus to the Lawlor Events Center last season. The turnstiles talk.

They say The Players Championship has the strongest field in golf, so for former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt, there’s some prestige attached to being in the field as the tournament gets underway today at TPC Sawgrass. And a good performance would have some staying power. DeLaet has played only two events since the 1st of April, but he recorded top 25 finishes in both. Merritt tied for 24th two weeks ago in team competition at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but he missed the cut last week at the Wells Fargo Championship after a pair of 76’s.

The Mountain West Outdoor Track and Field Championships are underway in Logan, with Boise State entrants entering the fray beginning tonight. It’s to be determined if the team points they earn can help Boise State contend, but the Broncos’ renowned distance stars are set on the women’s side. Allie Ostrander has opted for both the 5,000 and 10,000-meters, Clare O’Brien joins Allie in the 5,000, and Sadi Henderson, fresh off a title at the Oregon Twilight, is featured in the 800-meters. Broncos to watch in the men’s meet include Yusuke Uchikoshi, the top-ranked Mountain West athlete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and Alexandru Terpezan, who’s second-ranked in the 100-meters.

Two Game 7 tussles in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night—and two former Idaho Steelheads involved in the different series. Sam Carrick, just called up from the AHL Tuesday by the Anaheim Ducks, was sent back to San Diego before last night’s tussle against Edmonton. Maybe he’ll have another chance at some point, as the Ducks edged the Oilers 2-1 to move on to the Western Conference Finals. Jay Beagle is the other Steelheads alum who’s been toiling in the postseason—but no more. Beagle and the Washington Capitals were blanked 2-0 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, ending the Caps’ season and their quest to make the Eastern Conference Finals. He was scoreless in the playoffs. During the regular season, Beagle tallied 13 goals and 17 assists in 81 games.

Former Boise Hawk Kyle Schwarber is the centerpiece of what ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield calls a “lead-off hitter revolution” baseball. The Chicago Cubs slugger was moved by manager Joe Maddon to the top of the lineup this season; at least five other unconventional lead-off men have done the same thing. Schwarber has hit leadoff in 29 of the Cubs’ first 34 games. “There’s a pause there,” Maddon said. “If you don’t want to pitch to him, the guys coming up behind are pretty interesting. It’s formidable, so it’s uncomfortable from the other side.” Maddon may have another cause for pause, though—Schwarber is hitting just .195 so far this season. He batted in the third spot in yesterday’s 3-0 loss to the Rockies.

This Day In Sports…May 11, 1977, 40 years ago today:

Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, his team in the midst of a 16-game losing streak, assumes the role of manager. With Turner in the dugout, the Braves continued their losing ways, dropping a 2-1 decision to Pittsburgh. The next day, the National League ruled that no team stockholder can manage his own team, and Turner’s career as manager was over after one game.

(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.)