The Idaho Stampede, in their 17th season, are wrapping up their final one with local ownership. The Stampede have been acquired by the Utah Jazz and Miller Sports Properties, who have signed a one-year extension with CenturyLink Arena to play in Boise at least one more season. Jazz president Randy Rigby was non-committal on the team staying here beyond next season.
“We’re taking it a step at a time,” said Rigby. But the club’s general manager, Dennis Lindsey, sounded a bit more hopeful. “We want to take this next year to show the Boise market that we can be good partners,” Lindsey said. Pointing to Miller Sports Properties’ ownership of the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees baseball team, he added, “We have a pretty good idea of how to run a sports business.”
It was a bittersweet day for Stampede managing investor Bill Ilett, who founded the team in 1996 and saw it debut the following year. “Sports is the toy department of life,” said Ilett. “And I’ve been living in the toy department for 18 years. It’s with a little bit of melancholy (that I step away).” Steve Brandes, who has been with the Stampede for 13 years and president for the last eight, will continue in that role with the new ownership. The Jazz are the eighth NBA team to own a D-League franchise outright, and you can expect more clubs to follow suit. D-League president Malcomb Turner attended the press conference and reiterated the league’s aspiration to reach “30 for 30.” That means one D-League affiliate for every team in the NBA.
What changes can you expect? It’s not out of the question that there would be a name change to the “Idaho Jazz.” Said Lindsey,” Everything’s possible. We’ll exhaust every opportunity to grow this brand.” Despite how much local identity, autonomy and independence are treasured around here, that might not be a bad idea. (I’d like “Boise Jazz” better.) It would help drive home the fact that players really are a phone call away from the NBA. Nothing will happen on that front until after next season, though, according to Ilett. There were numerous hints dropped indicating the Jazz want the basketball ambience of CenturyLink Arena to improve and will work with local management toward that end—and that the team is seeking a reliable practice facility.
I noticed while updating my bracket that Boise State has played five of this year’s Sweet 16 teams over the past four seasons—and beat one of them. This season Wisconsin drilled the Broncos, 78-54, but North Carolina State didn’t finish them off until the final minute in a 60-54 decision. Last season Boise State hung in at Kentucky before falling 70-55 and beat Utah 69-67 in Taco Bell Arena. Two seasons ago, the Broncos took Michigan State to the wire in a 74-70 defeat. And hey—Iowa State should be in the Sweet 16 this year (shoulda-woulda-coulda). That was another close-but-no-cigar game last season, a 70-66 loss in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
Spring football is off for spring break at Boise State, but there are two important players who would probably just as soon keep going this week. One has a different role—the other is just happy to have a role this time of year. Chaz Anderson is getting in valuable work at wide receiver after moving to that spot at the beginning of fall camp last year. Anderson had 21 catches last season, many of them long ones—capped by the 55-yard touchdown grab in the Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. “You can see him developing his craft to fit him a little better,” said coach Bryan Harsin after last Thursday’s scrimmage. “He’s finding some different ways to manipulate a route.”
Ben Weaver is embracing every rep this spring. The junior linebacker didn’t participate in spring football a year ago while rehabbing an injury left over from 2013. That had hampered him down the stretch in his freshman year, causing him to miss the Wyoming game and see limited action in others. But Weaver led the Broncos with 89 tackles anyway. Last season he recorded 62 stops, mainly because of all the shared time due to the Broncos’ depth at linebacker. No telling what kind of 2015 Weaver can have with a spring’s worth of additional development.
Spring break was last week at the University of Idaho, so the Vandals are back on campus and are ready to kick off spring football today. They’ve been operating this winter without a defensive coordinator, but as least they know who it’s going to be. Former Washington State and Wyoming D-coordinator Mike Breske will officially be named soon, according to coach Paul Petrino. Breske was fired at WSU after the Apple Cup loss to Washington last season. On offense, there’s no question about the trigger man as sophomore-to-be Matt Linehan is a solid No. 1 at quarterback. Idaho’s Silver & Gold Game is set for Friday, April 24.
The race for the ECHL’s Brabham Cup and home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup Playoffs is still wide open, as the top six teams in the league standings are separated by just five points. Going into a three-game series against Utah beginning tonight in West Valley City, the Idaho Steelheads have 91 points, one behind the Toledo Walleye and two back of the Florida Everblades. On the Steelheads’ heels are the Allen Americans and Fort Wayne Comets, tied with 90 points, and the Reading Royals at 88. The Steelies are in the mix thanks to a 13-1-1 run over their last 15 games. They’re the only team in the ECHL to have won at least 20 games at home and on the road so far this season. The bigger news for tonight’s game: goalie Olivier Roy has been activated after almost eight weeks on injured reserve.
Today’s rundown on spring sports: It’s the Battle of Canyon County, baseball edition, when Northwest Nazarene visits the College of Idaho this afternoon at Wolfe Field. NNU, which has lost seven of its last eight games, comes in at 14-15, led in hitting by Kyle Thomson and his .402 average. The Coyotes split a four-game series at the University of British Columbia last weekend—they are 20-11 and are topped by Cole Mansanerez, who’s batting .370. And the Boise State men’s tennis team has its marquee home match of the season this afternoon, hosting Stanford at the Appleton Center.
This Day In Sports…March 25, 1972:
UCLA captures its sixth straight national championship and completes a perfect season with an 81-76 win over Florida State at the L.A. Sports Arena. Bill Walton had 24 points and 20 rebounds, with Keith Wilkes adding 23 points and 10 boards for the invincible Bruins, who finished the season 30-0 with an NCAA record average scoring margin of 30.3 points. It was the last NCAA title game played in the afternoon. The tournament final would move to Monday night in 1973—and UCLA would win again.
(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.)