Say it ain’t so, Phil

No sooner do we recap the three college football preview magazines already out than we get a sneak peek at one of the biggies. Phil Steele his very own self was on KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk yesterday, and we found out he’s going against the grain. Steele’s magazine, the one with a bazillion pages and tons of information (thanks to tiny type) will be on newsstands June 27. And for the first time in nine years, according to Steele, he has not picked Boise State to win its division and/or conference. Unlike, Street & Smith’s, Athlon and Lindy’s, he has Colorado State winning the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. Presumably it’s for more reason than that shiny new object in Fort Collins.

Steele cites numerous factors in picking Boise State second. One is the schedule, which sends the Broncos on the road to play Washington State, BYU, San Diego State and CSU. There’s also the experience factor, as the Broncos return only nine starters, the fewest in the Mountain West. And as good as many of us think Alexander Mattison will be, Steele contends he’s a dropoff from those stat machines named Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols. “Mattison should be good, but I don’t see him in the same category as the Broncos’ past two running backs,” said Steele.

Steele’s bowl projections stir a lot of mixed emotions. He projects Boise State to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It would be great for bowl organizers, of course. How does Bronco Nation feel about that? The Broncos haven’t played in their hometown bowl since 2005. The following year came the first Fiesta Bowl, and the paradigm regarding the team shifted. Can it ever shift back to the point that staying home to play in December is acceptable?

Three bogeys on the back nine soured Troy Merritt’s first-ever round in the US Open yesterday. Merritt finished two-over par with a 74 at Erin Hills and sits in a tie for 82nd, needing a strong showing today to play the weekend. The former Boise State star was battling all day, hitting only eight of 14 fairways in regulation. It happens, though. Among those below Merritt on the leaderboard are Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy. It wasn’t the golf course’s fault, though. Rickie Fowler torched the Wisconsin layout with a seven-under 65, equaling the lowest score in relation to par in US Open history.

In a few years, the Idaho Vandals may have a new basketball arena built with wood. A story by Peter Harriman in the Spokane Spokesman-Review says the university “is aligning itself with the state’s widely recognized timber industry” in building its long-awaited hoops home adjacent to the Kibbie Dome. Writes Harriman, “Mass timber construction, while a well-established technology in Canada, is still new in the U.S.” Idaho got the idea from the attractive plant nursery on campus that was built with wood.

Opsis Architecture of Portland will design the arena. Now it’s about assuring Vandal fans that it’s indeed going to happen. “It’s really important to get a shovel in the ground to show we are serious after 50 years of talking about this,” said athletic director Rob Spear. Harriman reports that fundraising for the $30 million, 4,700-seat facility is two-thirds complete and that it is targeted to open in 2020.

The Boise Hawks remain undefeated. The Hawks’ 2017 season opener last night in Spokane was rained out, to be made up as part of a doubleheader on Sunday. That means if they get an opener in tonight, it will fall precisely on the 30th anniversary of the Hawks’ debut, also in Spokane on June 16, 1987. It was a different time, as the Hawks were an independent club, playing their home games at Borah High’s Wigle Field. I don’t what we all would have thought had a sparkling new ballpark like the one proposed at Americana Boulevard and Skyline Drive been dangled in front of us.

Caldwell’s James Britton will be in uniform tomorrow afternoon when top-seeded Oregon State opens the College World Series in Omaha versus Cal State Fullerton. Britton has nine appearances, three of them starts, with a 2-0 record and a 2.45 ERA. He hasn’t pitched since May 28, when he went six innings in a 4-2 win over Abilene Christian in the final game of the regular season. The Beavers have two opponents tomorrow: the Titans and distractions. Star pitcher Luke Heimlich has entirely removed himself from the team in the wake of revelations that he was convicted of molesting a six-year-old family member. Heimlich was subsequently passed over in all 50 rounds of this week’s MLB Draft.

Boise State’s Allie Ostrander is getting some coveted rest after winning the national championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last Saturday. Now she has another trophy to set beside her. Ostrander has been named the Mountain West Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Student-Athlete of the Year in a vote by the conference’s coaches. She becomes the second Bronco to earn the outdoor honor, joining Emma Bates in 2014. Ostrander was the Mountain West Women’s Indoor Track & Field Student-Athlete of the Year in 2016.

This Day In Sports…June 16, 1999:

Chris Childs becomes the first former Boise State player to appear in the NBA Finals in Game 1 of the New York Knicks’ series against the San Antonio Spurs. Childs, the Knicks’ starting point guard, scored just two points with three assists and totaled only 12 points in the Finals as the Spurs won the NBA championship four games-to-one. The 1989 Big Sky Player of the Year was in the fifth season of a nine-year NBA career, by far the longest of any ex-Bronco.

(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.)