Opportunity missed for the Mountain West?

One news item that stood out to me last week was Wichita State’s move to the American Athletic Conference. Less than a year ago, Wichita State’s athletic department was said to have approached the Mountain West about membership. Initially the Shockers would have sought non-football status, but they had an ongoing feasibility study to bring back football, dormant for 30 years. At the time, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said if Wichita State plans to park its basketball program in a new conference, “It ain’t going to be us.” We’re talking about a school that’s been to the NCAA Tournament six consecutive years now, including a Final Four berth and a 35-1 record three seasons ago. But the MW didn’t want to further divvy up its money.

I liked Wichita State. The Shockers would have added enough basketball revenue to make it worthwhile, wouldn’t they? They’ve certainly fattened the coffers this decade in the Missouri Valley Conference, where they’ve played the last 70 years. NCAA Tournament payouts are given to conferences on six-year cycles, so continued success by Wichita State would still benefit the MVC for some time, but the Shockers program has staying power. And the MW needs help in hoops right now.

As the theory goes, the real value in any expansion is the addition of football equity. In this case, I’d have been willing to wait out a reinstatement of football at Wichita State. The city of Wichita seems ripe for major support of a football program. The population is 386,000 in the city and 673,000 in the metro area—and there’s no major college football (the area is far enough away from Kansas and Kansas State to stand on its own). Shockers football could be to Wichita what Bronco football is to Boise, if it was given the chance. I believe Wichita State would have brought the sport back (they won’t have to now). Will the Mountain West someday regret passing the Shockers over and watching them prosper in the AAC?

Doug Martin did indeed report for Tampa Bay’s OTAs yesterday, and he was welcomed with open arms by Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. The former Boise State star is out of rehab and fresh off an energizing visit to Boise. “He looks great,” said Licht at NFL.com. “He looks, right now, as good as I’ve seen him since I’ve been here from a physical standpoint. Seemed to be in very good spirits. Excited to have him. Excited to see how he does out here in OTAs.” Licht and the Bucs could have cut Martin and his $7 million salary without penalty due to his four-game NFL suspension for Adderall use, but they’re giving him another chance to right the ship.

Martin has had two great seasons and three tough ones since being drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay in 2012. The suspension in December came at the end of a campaign that produced just 421 yards and a career-low 2.9 yards per carry. Just two years ago, Martin racked up 1,402 rushing yards, the second-most in the NFL, and earned a new five-year, $35.75 million contract. He ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012. Martin will be eligible to play again in Week 4 at the end of September.

Former Boise State linebacker Tanner Vallejo has a busy audition agenda ahead of next week’s NFL Draft. The past two days Vallejo was hosted by the Atlanta Falcons—now he heads to Charlotte to meet with the Carolina Panthers. Hopefully NFL teams will look past Vallejo’s injury-affected junior and senior seasons and see his sophomore year as representative of his body of work. That’s when Vallejo racked up 99 tackles, capped by a Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP trophy. CBSSports.com’s latest ratings have him as the ninth-best inside linebacker in the draft and projects him to be taken somewhere in the final two rounds.

Desiree Reed-Francois, the deputy athletic director at Virginia Tech, is being introduced today as the new athletic director at UNLV. A key angle of the story in Las Vegas is that Reed-Francois and the athletic department will be given control of the Thomas & Mack Center and Sam Boyd Stadium, which are currently overseen by the university. It’ll be interesting to see what that really means to the Rebels program. First and foremost, Reed-Francois’ task is to make UNLV football relevant, a challenge that becomes even bigger with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, and to bring UNLV basketball back to its glory, even with winter competition from the NHL’s new Vegas Golden Knights.

Can some NHL experience translate into excellence in the playoffs? The Idaho Steelheads are hoping to discover it does as they prepare for Game 3 of their first-round series against Colorado tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena. This spring marks the first pro playoff experience for Kellan Lain, who played nine games for Vancouver in 2013-14, and Bryce Van Brabant, who appeared in six games for Calgary in that same season. Lane and Van Brabant have played 167 and 156 pro regular season games, respectively, before getting a taste of playoff hockey. The stat sheet has been quiet for both so far—Lain had an assist on the Steelheads’ first goal of the postseason last Friday.

Senior Dana Clary put together her best round of the season yesterday, firing a one-under 71 to lead Boise State in the first round of the Mountain West Women’s Golf Championship. Clary is in fourth place individually, while the Broncos are in seventh in team standings at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, CA. Clary’s 71 ties for the second-best single-round score at a conference championship in school history.

This Day In Sports…April 18, 1995:

Joe Montana, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, announces his retirement from the NFL. Montana’s 16-year Hall of Fame career included four Super Bowl championships with the San Francisco 49ers, and he earned MVP honors in three of them. Montana wasn’t selected until the end of the third round in the 1979 NFL Draft, but he went on to throw for 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns in 14 seasons with the 49ers and two with the Kansas City Chiefs

(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.)