It was a reasonably somber press conference yesterday at the University of Idaho. It was a reasonably somber press conference yesterday as University of Idaho president Chuck Staben officially announced the Vandal football team’s move to the Big Sky in 2018. “Competing as an FBS independent would be irresponsible,” said Staben, adding that “we can’t provide stability by ‘hoping’ another conference will ask us to join them, or that an FBS conference ‘might’ be realigned in the future to better fit UI.” Very true. Staben seemed to have an underlying message—that the university’s priority is academics, saying “Idaho’s prestige and relevance will be complemented by our football program, not defined by it.”
What happens to Idaho’s previously contracted money games with Power 5 schools? The one would seem to be certain to go by the wayside is the date at Penn State in 2019, as the Big Ten instituted a ban on its members playing FCS opponents last summer. The games at Florida in 2018 and LSU in 2020 have a chance at survival, although athletic director Rob Spear said the Vandals “will need to evaluate that.” The payouts would be slashed. “We’ll adjust that schedule accordingly,” said Spear. Idaho received $2.4 million total for games at USC and Auburn last season, and it’s set to make a combined $1.4 million for this year’s games at Washington State and Washington. Those numbers would figure to be cut in half for an FCS school.
Then there’s the issue of wins and losses, and there have been lots of the latter in the new century. Idaho’s record since the dawn of 2000 is 46-144, with no championships and one bowl game (the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl victory). “The Big Sky allows us to renew traditional rivalries and offers our athletes the opportunity to excel at an appropriate level of competition,” said Staben. The Vandals, who were regular participants in the Division I-AA Playoffs from the mid-1980’s through the early 1990’s, will have a legitimate shot at the postseason again. (They won’t be eligible for the FCS Playoffs in 2018, however, unless they get their scholarship count reduced from 85 to the FCS maximum of 63.)
Idaho coach Paul Petrino spoke yesterday but didn’t address any plusses or minuses associated with competing in the Big Sky. “My number one job as the head coach is to graduate student-athletes,” said Petrino, who went on to detail the Vandals’ big strides in APR results over the past two years. Petrino did talk about how excited he was about this year’s team. As for Idaho’s dormant football series with Boise State, Staben said, “We’re certainly ready to cooperate on renewing that rivalry.” If the Broncos can fit the Vandals in, there could be a game on the blue turf now with no return-game strings attached.
As expected, the NFL Draft wrapped up the first round last night with Boise State’s Kamalei Correa still on the board. Not to mention Darian Thompson and Rees Odhiambo. Correa, at least, is on virtually everybody’s NFL radar as the second and third rounds are chosen tonight. His agent, Kenny Zuckerman, said 30 different teams interviewed Correa at the NFL Combine in February. They had to be intrigued by one piece of video they saw.
Correa’s defining moment came during one of Boise State’s darkest ones last season, the 52-26 loss at Utah State. It happened in the first quarter when the Broncos actually led 3-0. Kent Myers dumped off a pass to running back LaJuan Hunt, and he bolted down the field in Logan, seemingly headed for paydirt. To Hunt’s surprise (and most everybody else’s), he was run down by Correa, who caught him from behind from the other side of the field after a 51-yard gain. At the Combine, Correa ran a 4.69 in the 40-yard dash. But more importantly, the guy has football speed.
Well, at least the NCAA listens. It does, doesn’t it? The organization’s decision to ban satellite camps was as widely panned as any in recent memory, and yesterday the Division I Board of Directors rescinded the ruling. Sure there are recruiting advantages, but the NCAA didn’t think through the impact that banning the camps would have on athletes who don’t have the means to travel to schools’ campus camps—and on those who haven’t been heavily recruited. Word is that Boise State has gone back to Plan A, with the Bronco staff set to participate in satellite camps in five different states over the next couple of months.
The D-League Finals brought things full-circle for the now-departed and renamed Idaho Stampede. The Sioux Falls Skyforce won their first NBADL championship Wednesday night with a 91-63 Game 3 victory over the L.A. D-Fenders. It was the Skyforce who served as Opening Night guests when the Stampede played their first game in history in November, 1997, at the Idaho Center. There’s some closure. Incidentally, the D-League website team listing hasn’t switched yet from “Idaho Stampede” to “Salt Lake City Stars.” But click on “Idaho Stampede” and you get the Stars’ temporary landing page, the one that went up as soon as the announcement of the franchise move was made earlier this month.
One day after the Idaho Steelheads were eliminated from the Kelly Cup Playoffs, they got some details on next season. The ECHL unveiled its 2015-16 schedule yesterday, and the Steelheads will open the season on October 14 at Utah. The home opener will be October 21 versus those same Grizzlies. Also during the season, Idaho will host Cincinnati in a rematch of the 2010 Kelly Cup Finals and will get visits from Reading and Wheeling for the first time. All Steelies home games will be on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays again next season. That was easier to accomplish this time since they no longer share CenturyLink Arena with the Stampede.
Troy Merritt is faced with playing as many as 29 holes today at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans after the tournament was knocked sideways by a five-hour weather delay yesterday. Merritt only got through seven holes and was one-under when the first round was called by darkness. Tyler Aldridge was able to finish his round and carded a solid two-under 70.
Campus notes: Boise State guns for its fifth straight Mountain West men’s tennis championship when the conference tournament starts today in Las Vegas. The Broncos are seeded second and will open this afternoon against Nevada, seeking to avenge a stunning 4-3 loss to the Wolf Pack two weeks ago. Coach Greg Patton is seeking his 15th conference title at Boise State coach and his 25th overall as a college coach. And the Boise State men’s and women’s track teams host the Border Clash today and tomorrow, their only home meet of the outdoor season on Ed Jacoby Track at Dona Larsen Park. The Broncos will be joined by BYU, College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon, Idaho, Idaho State, Lewis-Clark State, Northwest Nazarene, Utah State, Utah Valley, Weber State and Wyoming.
This Day In Sports…April 29, 2006, 10 years ago today:
Daryn Colledge becomes Boise State’s highest NFL Draft choice in 20 years when he’s taken in the second round, and 47th overall, by the Green Bay Packers. The All-WAC offensive tackle from North Pole, Alaska, who started all 52 games in his BSU career, would move to guard and start there for the Pack. Colledge thus protected Green Bay great Brett Favre in his final two seasons with the Packers—and Aaron Rodgers when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.
(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.)