It was rather chaotic five years ago

Remember the day Boise State was invited to the Mountain West Conference? It’s been quite a ride since. We start today, as promised, by revisiting yesterday’s “This Day In Sports” item: the five-year anniversary of the day Boise State was invited to the Mountain West Conference. It’s been quite a ride. At the time, Utah was already a goner from the league, but it looked like the Broncos were going to be joining up with BYU and TCU in America’s top mid-major conference beginning in July, 2011. Less than three months later, the Cougars announced they were going independent in football, and before the year was out—after one shared season with Boise State in the Mountain West—TCU announced its intention to move to the Big East. The Horned Frogs made the move thinking the Big East was going to remain a BCS conference; TCU was able to escape to the Big 12 before ever playing a game in the Big East.

In late 2011, hoping to finally find a path to automatic-qualifying status in the BCS system, Boise State announced a move of its football program from the Mountain West into the Big East, effective with the 2013 season. Non-football sports were going to return to the WAC until that conference crumbled—then were slated for the Big West. But less than a year later the Big East started to splinter when Rutgers was invited to the Big Ten (along with Maryland of the ACC). The dominoes kept falling, with Louisville moving to the ACC and the seven Catholic non-football schools in the Big East choosing to break away. At the 11th hour on New Year’s Eve 2012, the Broncos elected to stay in the Mountain West. The Big East, of course, is now the American Athletic Conference.

Stewart Mandel takes note of the anniversary with “Biggest winners, losers five years after realignment hell broke loose” at Today, Mandel notes, 43 FBS schools—more than one third of the current membership—compete in a different conference than they did five years ago. One of Mandel’s seven “losers” is Boise State. “To be fair, the Broncos are in a better spot than they were in the now-defunct WAC,” writes Mandel. “But while fellow BCS crashers Utah and TCU moved up to the Power 5, Boise, despite all those wins over Oklahoma/Oregon, etc., is still stuck on the outside—and the gap between Power 5 and Group of 5 is only growing. Furthermore, rising into the top four of the polls, as the Kellen Moore-led Broncos did in 2010, will be close to impossible in the selection committee strength-of-schedule era.” At least they’re not in the AAC.

Two of Mandel’s other realignment losers are Idaho and New Mexico State. He writes, “When the dominoes finally stopped falling, the last two WAC members left standing found themselves temporarily without a home. Both played the 2013 season as independents before the Sun Belt finally threw them both a life raft. It’s hardly an ideal solution. The Vandals will make four trips of at least 2,000 miles this football season, while the Aggies will play just five games in their own stadium.” Idaho is showing no interest in relinquishing its FBS status for the sake of geography. By the way, among Mandel’s seven winners were TCU and Utah. Do ya think?

For a fleeting moment—for a fleeting lap—it looked like Boise State’s Emma Bates was going to successfully defend her national championship in the women’s 10,000-meter run last night. Bates made her move with about four laps to go, breaking away from the pack and leading by as many as 40 meters. Then she hit the wall and faded quickly, and ended up 10th in the NCAA Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene. ESPN’s announcing crew bemoaned Bates’ decision. She now looks for consolation tomorrow in the 5,000-meters final.

Earlier, the Broncos’ Marisa Howard finished second in her heat in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and qualified for tomorrow’s final. Howard posted the fourth-fastest time among the 12 runners advancing. The Broncos’ David Elliott, who put up the fastest time in Wednesday night’s semifinals, runs the men’s 1500-meters finals this evening, followed by teammate Jordin Andrade in the men’s 400-meter hurdles final. Andrade won his heat Wednesday.

Memphis is decidedly different for Troy Merritt this year—at least after one round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The former Boise State star, who was runnerup in this tournament last June, was saddled with a five-over 75 yesterday. The exclamation point was a double-bogey on No. 18. Merritt will need a Herculian round today to make the cut. Another former Bronco, Tyler Aldridge, was middle-of-the-pack yesterday on the Tour. Aldridge opened with a one-under 71 in the first round of the Rust-Oleum Championship in Westlake, OH, after a breakthrough win at the Greater Dallas Open last week.

Seeing FC Barcelona win the Champions League last Saturday reminds us of the level of play we’ll see at the Basque Soccer Friendly July 18. Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in Berlin, exactly one week after topping Athletic Bilbao by the same score in Spain’s Copa del Rey. Now it’s time to learn some of the names who (we hope) will suit up for Bilbao against Club Tijuana. One is Aymeric Laporte, a budding French star who just re-signed with Athletic, resisting overtures from Manchester United in England. Laporte, who just turned 21, has appeared in all 49 games for Bilbao this season as it qualified for the Europa League.

The Utah Jazz are hosting a mini-camp this week, and there may be somebody on the Idaho Stampede’s 2015-16 roster who emerges from it. Among the 27 invited players are four who were members of the Stampede at one time or another this past season: Jared Cunningham, Brandon Fields, Shane Gibson and Nick Wiggins. Jack Cooley participated in the camp last year, and he was a Stampede standout once he recovered from an Opening Night thumb injury. Cooley, who pulled down a D-League record 29 rebounds for the Stamps in a March 13 game, signed a multi-year deal with Utah late in the season.

North Fork Championship IV is underway on the Payette River, and today’s event is a wild one. Two years ago North Fork organizers introduced “boatercross,” a derivative of skicross and snowboardcross from the Winter Olympics. They now call it “BoaterX,” and it’ll ride down the S-Turn rapid about 12 miles north of Banks. Elsewhere, this year’s Ironman 70.3 Boise has flown under the radar, but it’s set for its 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run tomorrow. The field is watered down a bit this year thanks to the increasing number of similar events around the country. In fact, there’s no pro division in Boise. Still, 1200 athletes will descend upon the city. Good for the economy. Hopefully this isn’t the last one.

This Day In Sports…June 12, 2011:

Trailing at one point two games-to-one in the NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks win their third straight game to claim their first championship in a 105-95 win over the Miami Heat. And heat is what LeBron James took after consistently fading in the fourth quarter. James, in his first season in Miami after “The Decision,” scored almost nine points per game less in the Finals than he did during the regular season. Conversely, the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki was outstanding, taking Finals MVP honors as he hugged an NBA championship trophy for the first time in his 13-year career.

(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.)