Hard to fathom it’s really happening

From the “wow” department comes today’s press conference from University of Idaho president Chuck Staben. From the “wow” department comes today’s press conference from University of Idaho president Chuck Staben, who is expected to announce that Vandal football is indeed moving back to the Big Sky after being cut loose last month by the Sun Belt after the 2017 season. Idaho has had a standing invitation to return its football program to the conference it played in for 31 seasons through 1995. Various reports say 2018 will be the Vandals’ first season back. That makes Idaho the first program in history to move from FBS to FCS football. At least UI will keep on playing. Four Division I-A schools have dropped football since I-AA (FCS) was formed in 1978—Wichita State (1986), Long Beach State (1992), Cal State Fullerton (1993) and Pacific (1996).

Idaho’s only option to remain FBS was to go independent, as it was in 2013, as well as from 1959-64 after the Pacific Coast Conference (the forerunner of the Pac-12) parted ways with the Vandals. It wasn’t an ideal situation in those days, but listen to Idaho’s opponents in 1964, the year before they began play in the Big Sky: San Jose State, Iowa State, Utah, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Pacific, Arizona, Utah State and Arizona State. Who wouldn’t settle for a slate like that? Scheduling was far, far different a half century ago, though, and those opportunities simply don’t exist today. Independence just wouldn’t have worked.

The Boise State-Idaho football rivalry has been buried on the back burner for years (the two schools haven’t played since 2010). But with this move by the Vandals, might the chances of a renewal be more likely? One of the sticking points during the hiatus has been the Broncos’ stance that they would never play in Moscow again. Now that it’ll never happen anyway, maybe Idaho eventually hits the blue turf again. Consider that the Broncos have played two FCS schools the past three seasons—Tennessee-Martin in 2013 and Idaho State last year. Of course, the scores of those games were 63-14 and 52-0, respectively. That could be a deterrent.

There aren’t many mock NFL Drafts out there that go all seven rounds, but there is one at NFL.com, and that would seem to have more credibility than most. Chad Reuter has three Boise State products being selected, led by soon-to-be outside linebacker Kamalei Correa. Reuter sees Correa going in the second round as the No. 45 overall pick to the Tennessee Titans. Ironically, the projections agent Kenny Zuckerman collected on Correa had him anywhere between No. 25 and 45, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Last year’s 45th pick, inside linebacker Eric Kendricks, signed a four-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings totaling $5,155,920, including a signing bonus of $2,009,760. That sounds really good. We’ll likely find out tomorrow night how it all comes together.

Reuter tickets former Boise State safety Darian Thompson for Oakland in the third round. The hope is that he’ll go higher than that, but his illness-affected struggles at the Combine and a focus by scouts on one of his worst games as a Bronco—when a couple Cougars got behind him in the 35-24 loss at BYU—is influencing predictions right now. I choose to subscribe to these points from Thompson’s draft profile at NFL.com: “Tall, angular build for the position. Eye­popping interception numbers. Soft hands and can make difficult, diving interceptions. Willing to take a chance to undercut throws and will run through receivers catch point to disrupt. Ready hitter with desired physical demeanor to play around line of scrimmage.” He has a place on Sundays.

The other Bronco in Reuter’s seven-round draft is Rees Odhiambo, who gets a fourth-round projection, going to Minnesota. That’s as high as anything we’ve seen for Odhiambo. If he is indeed selected Saturday, he’ll be the fifth straight Boise State left tackle to be drafted, joining Daryn Colledge, Ryan Clady, Nate Potter and Charles Leno Jr. You can envision injury concerns getting in the way for Odhiambo, considering the drama he had to go through in his college career. Remember Jay Ajayi falling to the fifth round last year? Ajayi had just a fraction of the training room history that Odhiambo had as a Bronco.

Here’s the Mountain West scorecard in the NFL Draft since Boise State’s been in the conference. In 2012, the MW had 12 picks overall and four in the first three rounds—two of them Bronco first-rounders Shea McClellin and Doug Martin. The count slipped in 2013, with 10 selections overall and three in the first round. Two years ago we saw a landmark haul, as there were 16 total picks and six in the first three rounds. Included were prominent second-rounders Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State (currently detoured in Dallas), and Derek Carr and Davante Adams out of Fresno State. Last year it was way down, with only 10 picks overall and two in the first three rounds. Hopefully that’s not symptomatic of where the Mountain West is headed these days.

It’s too bad the Idaho Vandals’ announcement and the NFL Draft have overshadowed this, because what a Game 7 it was last night between the Idaho Steelheads and Allen Americans. The ECHL Western Conference quarterfinals went to overtime in Allen TX, where the Americans’ Tristan King, a former Steelhead, deflected a shot into the net off a Steelie skate 3½ minutes into the OT to give the defending ECHL champions a 3-2 victory. The Steelies had carried a 2-1 advantage into the third period before Allen rallied.

Idaho goalie Philippe Desrosiers, pulled midway through the second period of Game 6 on Tuesday night, stood up to an Allen onslaught last night and made 39 saves before the game-winner. It was the 35th Game 7 in ECHL postseason history and the Steelheads’ first in 10 years. The Americans are now 6-0 when facing elimination in the Kelly Cup Playoffs over the last two seasons and advance to face the Missouri Mavericks in the conference semifinals.

It was at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans that Troy Merritt had his first breakthrough on the PGA Tour. The former Boise State star finished third at the tournament in 2010, his rookie year, and made $435,200. Since then, Merritt’s missed two of three cuts in the Zurich. He tees off in New Orleans today, hoping to regain some of the momentum he built with his third-place result at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge is also in the field today.

And back to football—five former Boise State Broncos were named to the 2016 class of the National Football Foundation’s prestigious Hampshire Honor Society: Robert Ash, Jack Fields, Jake Hardee, Deuce Mataele and Kelsey Young. To be eligible, players completing their final year of eligibility must have maintained a cumulative grade-point average of 3.2 or higher. Only three FBS schools had more honorees, Akron, Duke and Fresno State. It’s especially gratifying for Mataele, who joined the BSU program in early 2013 only to be suspended by the school for the 2013 fall semester—and declared ineligible in 2014 by the NCAA over an academic infraction tied to his junior college. Mataele finally played in 2015, logging 12 tackles.

This Day In Sports…April 28, 1966, 50 years ago today:

The Boston Celtics defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 95-93 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. That gave the Celtics their eighth straight championship, a record that still stands today. It would be Boston’s final game under legendary coach Red Auerbach, who became the Celts’ general manager and remained in that post until 1984. (Imagine that…an NBA season ending in April!)

(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.)