Garth gets to play on the new blue first

The installation of the new blue turf at Albertsons Stadium is on pace for its planned completion on May 30.  And it’s now official: the Boise State Broncos won’t be the first ones to play on the new carpet, Garth Brooks and his band will be. Brooks will take over the blue on Saturday, July 20, and will play in the round.  There haven’t been many large-scale events in the stadium.  There was a sparsely-attended concert featuring local bands in 1979, the closing ceremonies of Idaho’s Centennial celebration in 1990, and a rain-spattered Jordan Sparks concert following the Broncos’ spring game in 2015.  On Idaho SportsTalk, Caves & Prater have speculated that the only artists other than Brooks who could fill the stadium are Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Pearl Jam. Hey—what about the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney?


Speaking of IST, former WAC commissioner Karl Benson, who finished his stint as commish of the Sun Belt with his retirement a week ago, was a guest on the show Wednesday.  Benson wistfully recalled his start as a Boise State assistant baseball coach following his Bronco playing days, and said the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was the highlight of his 30 years as a conference commissioner.  As for the future of his alma mater, Benson said the massive economic gap between the Power 5 leagues and the Group of 5 “is always going to be there.”  Can Boise State find its way into a power conference?  “I’m not going to bet my retirement package on it,” said Benson.  He did say that the only hope might be for former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny’s long-ago prediction to come true—one last Power 5 expansion from 65 to 80 institutions.


Speaking of the new blue turf, the photo released by the university Wednesday showed work on the main field, but the turf hasn’t yet been placed on the sections of the old track that are still visible.  That will be prove to be a stark difference.  The “Boise State” in the north end zone is coming into view, while the new yard-line numbers with the distinctive Bronco font have not been laid in yet.  The field definitely is a richer, deeper blue than the old version, but let’s check back in about five years.  The little itty bitty black rubber pellets have not been poured yet—between that and wear-and-tear, the color will dull at least slightly.  But it will be impressive on ESPN2 on Friday, September 6, for the home opener against Marshall.  


With guards Justinian Jessup, Alex Hobbs and Marcus Dickinson all staring down their senior years, Boise State coach Leon Rice is taking care of things long term in his backcourt.  He already has new signee RayJ Dennis, who could contribute as a true freshman, and his son Max, a redshirt freshman.  But those two are likely to be more of the mainstay variety in 2020-21.  Now Rice has added a difference-maker to that future lineup, as combo guard Marcus Shaver Jr. is transferring from Portland.  Shaver Jr. was the Pilots’ leading scorer last season as a sophomore and will have two seasons of eligibility left after he sits out a year. It’s telling that Rice used his last scholarship on Shaver Jr. instead of grabbing a grad transfer who’d be eligible this fall.  Rice is supremely confident in this year’s group.  (And certainly next year’s.)


After a week off, Troy Merritt is back at it on the PGA Tour with the AT&T Byron Nelson beginning today in Dallas.  It’s been a wild ride for the Meridian resident and former Boise State star, with two major surgeries in the past year.  Yet Merritt is No. 100 in the FedExCup standings.  His season earnings are up over $600,000 now—if you base it on the number of events he’s played, that’s more than $19,000 per tournament. Merritt is playing hungry.


There’s been a handful of Idaho Steelheads players who, thanks to long careers in Boise, became local icons.  One of them was Scott Burt, who spent eight seasons with the Steelheads and had his No. 12 retired last year.  Now Burt is building a coaching career and recently completed his sixth season as an assistant with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League, the elite junior circuit that produces a ton of NHL talent.  Burt has been named head coach of Team British Columbia for the upcoming 2019 WHL Cup, which is played in October every year and features the top under-16 players from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  There’ll be a hoard of NHL scouts at the tournament, and they’ll be eyeing coaches as well as players.


The first of Boise State’s athetes at the Mountain West Outdoor Track and Field Championships hit the 10,000-meters course tonight in Clovis, CA.  Allie Ostrander is No. 1 in the conference on the women’s side, but she isn’t entered. Fourth-ranked Clare O’Brien leads the Bronco contingent.  Ostrander also has the fastest time in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, but she’s not running that, either (presumably because she’s a shoe-in for a bid to the NCAA Championships).  The only event Ostrander is competing in is the 1,500-meters.  Boise State’s other top-ranked are Bryce Kirby in the 100-meters and Alexis Fuller in the 1,500.  

Elsewhere, the Northwest Nazarene baseball lost 10-2 to Western Oregon in the first round of the GNAC Baseball Championships Wednesday in Portland.  NNU will play an elimination game this afternoon.  And at the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Division II National Championships in Salt Lake City, College of Idaho faces second-ranked St. Thomas of Minnesota in the semifinals this afternoon.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by FRANZ WITTE NURSERY…where everyone is part of the flock!

May 9, 2014, five years ago today: DeMarcus Lawrence becomes the seventh-highest NFL Draft choice in Boise State history when he is taken with the second pick of the second round—No. 34 overall—by the Dallas Cowboys.  Lawrence, who had foregone his senior year to turn pro, had logged 20 sacks and 34 tackles for loss in two seasons with the Broncos after transferring from Butler Community College in Kansas.  Also in that year’s draft, center Matt Paradis, the one-time walk-on from Council High, went in the sixth round to Denver, and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was taken in the seventh round by Chicago.

(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.)