Attendance appears to be on the rise finally at Boise State, with the Broncos coming off their two largest crowds of the season, including the 7,560 for Utah State last week. As Air Force comes to town late Saturday afternoon for BSU’s annual Black-Out Game, the Taco Bell Arena average has risen to 4,783. But that number is still more than 1,400 per game under last year’s final figure. A precipitous drop. Amid all the “what is goin’ on” questions—rest assured it’s not just a concern in Boise. When San Diego State drew “only” 11,881 a couple weeks back versus Colorado State, it marked the first time in 81 regular-season home games that the Aztecs had not sold out 12,414-seat Viejas Arena.
Then there’s New Mexico, UNLV and even Utah State, where numbers have plummeted. The Lobos, with fans having soured on coach Craig Neal, have dropped from 14,571 fans per game two seasons ago to 11,619 now. UNLV has plunged from its accustomed 14,000 per game a few years back in Thomas & Mack to an average under 10,000 (9,560—and that’s probably generous). And Utah State, once guaranteed a near-sellout every game in Logan, has gone from 9,158 per game two years ago to just 6,801 this season. In that same two-year span, the Mountain West average has slipped from 7,692 to 6,254.
Nevada is the aberration. Attendance was not a problem last night in Reno, and it hasn’t been this season as a whole. The Wolf Pack drew a school-record 11,841 fans in Lawlor Events Center, posting its third consecutive crowd of at least 10,000 fans for the first time in program history. The Pack drilled rival UNLV 104-77 after renowned boxing announcer Michael “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” Buffer delivered the starting lineups for a reported $10,000. Only once before had Nevada drawn 10,000 for back-to-back games, and that was back in 2007.
The Pack drew even with Boise State atop the Mountain West following its rout of the Rebels. Both teams are now 8-3. Elsewhere in the conference last night, an epic battle in Laramie, as Wyoming outlasted Fresno State 102-100 in quadruple overtime. The Cowboys would have won after one OT had the Bulldogs’ DeShon Taylor, who had a game-high 32 points, not canned three pressure-packed free throws with two seconds left after being fouled on a three-point attempt. And in Colorado Springs, New Mexico notched a 74-67 victory over Air Force. The Falcons now pack their bags for Boise.
Safety/linebacker Kameron Miles had some baggage when he arrived at Boise State. He created some more early yesterday with a misdemeanor arrest for domestic battery. Misdemeanor or no misdemeanor, there is zero tolerance for domestic battery, and Miles has been dismissed from the Bronco squad. The Statesman reports that Miles was also arrested four weeks ago on a drug paraphernalia charge and notes he had been kicked off the Texas A&M team in the spring of 2014. Miles’ Boise State career thus ends prematurely—in two seasons, he made 35 tackles in 23 games. He’s the sixth player to be kicked out of the Bronco program since the end of the 2015 season.
After a pretty good week at the Phoenix Open, Graham DeLaet is taking this one off from the PGA Tour. DeLaet, who tied for ninth at TPC Scottsdale, will miss out on some fun at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but his back could probably use the rest. Troy Merritt is in the field at what we used to call the Crosby Clambake, coming off his first made cut of the new year. Merritt tied for 24th in Phoenix. Tyler Aldridge still lands occasional starts on the big tour, and this is one of them. He played the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines two weeks ago and missed the cut. Both Merritt and Aldridge will play Spyglass today.
Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham shook up his roster going into the series opener with Wheeling last night, sending high-scoring forward Travis Ewanyk to Fort Wayne and getting All-Star defenseman Aaron Harstad from the Norfolk Admirals in a three-team trade. Something worked for the Steelheads, as they snapped their six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win in their first-ever meeting with the Nailers in CenturyLink Arena. Joe Basaraba scored 47 seconds into the game, and the Steelies didn’t look back. Goaltender Landon Bow, in his second game back from the AHL, stopped 25 of 26 shots from Wheeling, who made it to the Kelly Cup Finals last spring.
Back to hoops—one of the hottest teams in the Big Sky is Idaho, winner of six of its last seven games. The Vandals have climbed to fourth place with a 7-4 record and are 12-10 overall, riding the hot hand of Victor Sanders. The junior guard is now fourth in the Big Sky in scoring at 21.4 points per game and put up 40 points in last Thursday’s win over Portland State. And he did it on just 16 field goal attempts. Idaho embarks this week on the conference’s longest road trip. Tonight the Vandals will be at Northern Colorado, where former Boise State assistant Jeff Linder has the Bears at 8-14 (4-7 in the Big Sky) in his first year as a head coach. Idaho visits North Dakota Saturday night.
This Day In Sports…February 9, 2010:
As a sidebar during a press conference introducing his new chief operating officer, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announces the conference will be exploring expansion over the next year. And boom—it was a top story, with speculation running wild. For good reason. The most plausible scenario immediately painted was Utah and Colorado moving to the Pac-10, creating a chaotic trickle-down effect that would influence the future of the Mountain West and the WAC.
(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.)