Bilbao’s brief break from Barcelona

Time for a primer on the Basque Soccer Friendly Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium. Time for a primer on the Basque Soccer Friendly Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium. First we have the official names of the combatants: Athletic Club Bilbao from the Basque region of Spain and Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles (Xolos de Tijuana for short) from just over the border in Baja California. Athletic Bilbao is one of only three clubs that have never been relegated from La Liga, Spain’s top professional league. The others are international powers Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Bilbao played Barcelona in Spain’s Copa del Rey on May 30, falling 3-1. That’s why the Basque Country favorites are going to be here Saturday instead of the originally-scheduled July 29 date. The loss meant that Bilbao is slated to start play in Europa League qualifiers July 30. Athletic Bilbao is second only to Barcelona in all-time Copa del Rey titles with 23.

It was announced yesterday that Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona will open the 2015-16 La Liga season against each other in Bilbao on August 23. Not only that, the two rivals will also meet twice in the Supercopa de Espana in the 10 days preceding the opener. Club Tijuana will provide Bilbao with excellent prep going into the Europa League and the Spanish season. Tijuana became the fastest club to win a championship following promotion to Mexico’s top pro circuit, Liga MX, in 2012.

Watch list season has been busy for Boise State this summer. There are four Broncos on the docket for the Rotary Lombardi Award: offensive linemen Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo, defensive end Kamalei Correa and linebacker Tanner Vallejo. The Rotary Lombardi, won last year by Arizona’s Scooby Wright, is a prestigious honor, if not complicated. It’s defined as going to the best player in the nation from among “down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.” Also, Bronco wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes was also named a nominee for the 2015 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team yesterday.

Columnist Ferd Lewis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser picked up on this: the Mountain West is now the second-most transient conference in the country when it comes to coaches. “Among the 11 entities that make up the FBS—10 conferences and the independents—the MWC is 10th in average tenure at 3.4 years per head coach, according to a study by CoachingSearch.com,” notes Lewis. If Chris Petersen was still at Boise State, he’d tilt the scales as the second-longest tenured coach in the Mountain West. But he’s not. Only one Mountain West coach has been at his school more than five years, Air Force’s Troy Calhoun (nine seasons). The national average is 4.8 years with the Big 12 (7.7 years) and SEC (6.5) leading the way. Only the Mid-American Conference, at 3.3 years, has seen more turnover than the MWC.

At the IFAF World Football Championship, the U.S. team, led by former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins, defeated Japan 43-18 Sunday to move into the semifinals tomorrow night against France. Former Bronco Bryan Douglas had one tackle and added two punt returns for 18 yards and two more kickoff returns for 37 yards. Don’t be dissin’ the French—they won their first two games by a combined 84-9.

This tournament, by the way, was an NFL table-setter for former Boise State captain Richie Brockel in 2011. Brockel, an undrafted free agent who had been cut by the San Diego Chargers at the end of training camp in 2010, accepted an invitation to join the U.S. team in Innsbruck, Austria. He proved himself to be a dependable fullback and had a touchdown catch during the Americans’ run to the title. The Carolina Panthers then brought Brockel into camp, and he stuck. He’s now heading into his fifth NFL season.

Checking former Boise Hawks in the All-Star Game last night. Cubs rookie Kris Bryant made his Midsummer Classic debut—and walked and flew out in his two at-bats in the American League’s 6-2 victory. Toronto’s Josh Donaldson, trying to make a circus throw from third base on a short hopper in the second inning, lofted the ball about 10 feet over Albert Pujols’ head at first base. It ended up costing the AL a run. Donaldson, the AL’s top vote-getter, walked in both of his plate appearances. There was a third ex-Hawk in the game, reliever Francisco Rodriguez of Milwaukee. The 33-year-old K-Rod was touched for two AL runs in the seventh. The trio’s old team, the Hawks, try to pull it together tonight as they open a three-game series at Salem-Keizer. Boise is 8-18 and is in last place in the Northwest League’s South Division.

Graham DeLaet apparently has golf clubs for the Open Championship. And that’s news. His bag was lost on the flight to Scotland Sunday, and he had to play his practice round with replacements yesterday. I’m not familiar with Aer Lingus, but this has not been good P.R. for the airline. The former Boise State star will tee off in the British Open before the strike of midnight tonight (Mountain time). He earned the spot at St. Andrews with his fourth-place finish at the Travelers Championship three weeks ago. This will be DeLaet’s third Open Championship—he missed the cut last year and finished 83rd in 2013.

The Idaho Steelheads’ cupboard is being stocked, slowly but surely. The Steelies have agreed to terms with defenseman Daniel Johnston, a third-year pro who has played 124 ECHL games with Evansville and Colorado. Johnston has posted 10 goals, 31 assists and 161 penalty minutes in the ECHL. The 23-year-old from Calgary has an interesting local tie-in—he played for the Colorado Eagles when they faced the Steelheads in the longest game in ECHL history, the four-overtime marathon during the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs won by Idaho.

In case you haven’t heard, former Idaho Stampede guard Justin Holiday, late of the Golden State Warriors, has signed a two-year contract with Atlanta. Holiday was an unrestricted free agent after the NBA champions declined to extend him a qualifying offer. The former Washington Husky played in 59 games for the Warriors this past season and started four, averaging 4.3 points in about 11 minutes per game. His NBA career high was 23 points against Denver in March. With the Stampede in 2012-13, Holiday led the team’s regulars with 17.3 points per game.

This Day In Sports…July 15, 1973:

The California Angels beat the Detroit Tigers, 6-0, as Nolan Ryan strikes out 17. More importantly, Ryan became the first pitcher since the Tigers’ Virgil Trucks in 1952 to throw two conventional no-hitters in the same year. Ryan had no-hit the Kansas City Royals exactly two months before for the first of his eventual seven no-hitters, a major league record.

(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.)