Cool the expansion talk

I’m glad Boise State hasn’t undertaken the hard-sell lobbying effort that some schools have in the quest for the Big 12. I’m glad Boise State hasn’t undertaken the hard-sell lobbying effort that some schools have in attempts to talk the Big 12 into letting them in. On May 17, just two weeks before the Big 12
presidents met in Irving, TX, Central Florida president John Hitt made the case for UCF to join the Big 12 in a letter to Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis. ESPN.com obtained a copy of the letter, in which Hitt touted the growth of the Orlando market, UCF’s popularity with high school students, and its willingness to expand its stadium to 65,000 if the Knights could get a Big 12 invite.

Oklahoma president David Boren, who created this scramble in the first place with his wish for Big 12 expansion, wishes everybody would back off now. “I don’t think we need any more phone calls or material in the mail,” said Boren. “I think that every member in the conference is well aware of all of the schools that have expressed interest,” he said. “There are presidents I haven’t heard from in a long time that I’m hearing from. There’s a lot of desire to join this conference, but they don’t need to do anything. It’s a matter of our own internal evaluation that we’re continuing to move forward.”

Affecting UCF’s hopes in a negative way is the Big 12’s tabling (for now) of any pursuit of a conference TV network. The push for a network had been one of the biggest drivers behind expansion talk. Orlando is the largest market in the country without an NFL franchise, but that isn’t as important anymore. Football equity now carries more weight again—if expansion is even a possibility. That helps BYU and Houston. And the long-shot hopes of Boise State, for that matter. “Yes, TV markets are important,” Boren said in an ESPN.com story. “Yes, the financial aspect is important. But…our fans want to see our teams play against great teams. They don’t want to see them play mediocre teams. We have to determine what that’s going to do to the longtime reputation of the brands at each of the schools.” Don’t get your hopes up.

Yesterday was “Leg Day” at Louisiana-Lafayette. It sounds politically incorrect, but it’s a football drill, and it’s a doozy. Boise State has “the decks” at Albertsons Stadium, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have this. Players line up and do “wall sits,” leaning against a wall with their legs bent at 90-degree angles. Here we know it more as a skiing exercise. Down on the Bayou, ULL players do it with big weight plates on their thighs—then a strength and conditioning coach walks across them. Seriously. “Leg Day” indeed. The Ragin’ Cajuns hopes it helps them get a leg up on Boise State on September 3 (rim shot).

Trouble greeted Boise’s Brian Scott early in the rain-delayed Axalta 400 yesterday. Scott spun out on Lap 23 and completed only 81 of 160 laps, finishing 39th in the Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono. Tweeted Scott: “Really disappointed that my mistake ruined our day and I let my team down. Thankful to have a group that never gives up!” Along those lines, Scott is still bent on plugging away in NASCAR. “I want the fans to know how much I appreciate all the support,” Scott said in a Richard Petty Motorsports interview. “I’m working hard to get my team into Victory Lane.”

No local flavor in the U.S. Open this year, unless we track a few old Albertsons Boise Open favorites. At Sectional Qualifying yesterday, Troy Merritt was three-over in the 36-hole ordeal in Springfield, OH, and tied for 16th. Only four from the event advanced to Oakmont next week). At Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, WA, Eagle’s Josh Gliege was two-over and finished in a tie for 25th. Former Boise State standout Ty Travis struggled and ended up nine-over for the two rounds, in a tie for 43rd. Only three qualified out of Vancouver. And Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge withdrew after the first-round om Memphis.

If the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup—and they now lead the San Jose Sharks three games-to-one—former Idaho Steelheads play-by-play man Will Hoenike suggests you keep your eyes peeled for a couple of former Idaho Steelheads on the ice during the celebration. Kael Mouillierat and Steve Oleksy are currently with the Penguins as “Black Aces” (similar to practice squad players) after spending most of the season skating in the AHL. Neither has played in the postseason for the Pens, but both are eligible should the need arise. If Pittsburgh wins it all, it’s fairly common practice for the “scratches” to suit up really quickly so they can be on the ice after the game. Idaho players did this following the 2004 and 2007 Kelly Cup titles. So it wouldn’t be completely unexpected to get a glimpse of either guy on the ice.

As far as anyone can remember, no former Steelheads player has ever helped hoist the Stanley Cup, active or not. It would be fitting for Mouillierat and Oleksy to do it, because both are big-time Steelies success stories. Oleksy was about to retire from hockey when coach Derek Laxdal signed him midway through the 2009-10 season. Mouillierat made his first appearance at the end of that season as an amateur tryout from Minnesota State. He came back the following fall, earned a spot on the team and went on to earn ECHL All-Rookie honors. Mouillierat made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders last season.

We don’t often delve into former Boise Hawk Joel Peralta because, well, he made only four appearances for the club way back in 2000. But we’ll mention him today, as his big league career may be over. Peralta, now 40 years old, was released by Seattle over the weekend after allowing 14 earned runs and seven homers in 23 1/3 innings this season. This was Peralta’s first year with the Mariners—he had previously pitched for the Angels, Royals, Rockies, Nationals, and Rays during his 12-year big league career.

This Day In Sports…June 7, 1996, 20 years ago today:

Unbeaten former Olympic champion Oscar De La Hoya fights living legend Julio Cesar Chavez for the WBC junior welterweight title. The 23-year-old De La Hoya opened a cut over Chavez’s eye in the first round and then pummeled him until the fight was stopped in the fourth round. De La Hoya improved to 22-0, while Chavez fell to 97-2-1. It was the first time in his monumental career that Chavez had been stopped.

(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.)