Is Boise State’s best hope a Big 16?

Boise State athletic director Curt Apsey said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk that the university will tell its story to the Big 12 in its own way and without public posturing or pleas for support. That’s the way it should be handled. Hopefully the Big 12 will listen, because it’s awfully hard to find Boise State included in the public conversation as the conference begins to seriously explore expansion. Over here you have West Virginia needing a travel partner, either Cincinnati or UConn. Over there you have BYU and Houston head-and-shoulders above the rest (not forgetting yesterday’s tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: “Big 12 expansion is a non-starter unless it includes University of Houston”).

The latest analysts giving their two-cents’ worth yesterday were Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News and Jake Trotter of ESPN.com. DeCourcy doesn’t even rank Boise State on his list—and does place Colorado State, UNLV and San Diego State among his top 10 candidates. Trotter includes CSU among his seven hopefuls and lists the Broncos as a longshot. Writes Trotter: “Boise State has won 10 or more games 13 times since 1999, and the football appeal of the Broncos to the Big 12 fan bases would be stronger than most candidates out there. But would that alone capture the Big 12’s attention? Boise doesn’t have much else to offer.” Tough deal.

Maybe if the Big 12 added six and became a Big 16 (the math is still funny), Boise State would have a chance as a football-only member. But there’s no way the conference is going to go that far. And let’s say it did get to that point. Where would the Broncos’ other sports go? Would the Mountain West stand there and say, “Fine—take away the winningest football program of the new century and we’ll provide your other sports safe harbor?” The Big West was already left hanging by Boise State and San Diego State four years ago. The West Coast Conference, home of BYU’s non-football sports, is made up of private religious schools. There’s the Big Sky…

Mountain West Media Days takes the stage in Las Vegas next Tuesday and Wednesday. First, there’s Sun Belt Media Day Monday in New Orleans. It could be an awkward affair for Idaho and New Mexico State, whose stay in the Sun Belt was ended by the conference after the 2017 season. Idaho coach Paul Petrino will be joined at Media Day by senior tight end Buck Cowan and senior defensive lineman Tueni Lupeamanu. The league released its preseason coaches poll yesterday, and the Vandals were picked to finish eighth in the 11-team circuit.

Idaho was generally treated better by college football’s preseason magazines than the Sun Belt coaches poll. The Vandals were ranked sixth by Phil Steele, seventh by ESPN, Lindy’s and Sporting News, and eighth by Athlon. Their national rankings range from No. 113 to No. 119. Many of the publications give Idaho a shot at a 6-6 record and a bowl game after improving to 4-8 last season and missing the postseason by blowing big leads at New Mexico State and South Alabama. “It’s a goal we should accomplish this year, no question,” said Petrino in Athlon. “I think this year we can take a big step forward.” It is pointed out that this season the Vandals don’t have to face Arkansas State and Georgia Southern—the last two Sun Belt champions—and add Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

The consensus of the magazines was the need for a healthy and productive season from quarterback Scott Linehan and the need for improvement from Idaho’s ever-struggling defense. Here’s a sampling of observations. From a Sun Belt head coach in ESPN’s mag: “(Linehan’s) a guy where, if you let him sit in one spot, it will be a long day. You have to make him uncomfortable.” From Phil Steele: “Idaho has improved from 15.8 points per game pre-Petrino to 18.2, 25.0 and 30.3 ppg his first three years. My computer calls for that trend to continue.” From Lindy’s: “Defenses coached by Mike Breske have conceded more than 32 points per game in each of the last four years, including last year—his first at Idaho—when the Vandals allowed 42.1 ppg.”

Graham DeLaet wants to succeed so badly at his country’s biggest golf tournament. But the former Boise State star pressed yesterday in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open and came in with a five-over 77, absorbing five bogeys and two double-bogeys. And he did it without the massive beard that had become his signature. It disappeared sometime last week. Joel Beall of Golf Digest mourns the loss of DeLaet’s beard: “I would say this is a tragedy on par with Tom Selleck shaving his mustache, yet given last week’s performance at the Barbasol was his first top 10 since March, clearly DeLaet is no Samson.” Er, maybe he is. It was Tyler Aldridge who performed the best of the locals yesterday, shooting a three-under 69. Aldridge is tied for 11th, three strokes off the pace. Troy Merritt carded a two-over 74.

It was a game last night at Memorial Stadium—until Spokane blew it up with a seven-run eighth inning. The Indians increased a 4-2 lead to 11-2 with the help of four walks, a wild pitch and two errors and routed the Boise Hawks by that latter count. Reliever Austin Moore yielded four of the runs in 1/3 of an inning. Moore saw his ERA catapult from 6.00 to 16.20. The Hawks, who had won seven of their previous 10 games, lost their 20th of the season against 14 wins. The five-game series between Boise and Spokane continues tonight.

Two former Idaho Steelheads goaltenders, Colin Zulianello and Kory Cooper, are on the NHL coaching track now. Zulianello has been hired by the Calgary Flames and Cooper by the Ottawa Senators to serve as AHL goalie coaches. Zulianello played for the Steelheads in 2004-05 and went 8-7-2. He was assistant hockey director at Idaho IceWorld after his playing days were done. Cooper was a Steelie during the old WCHL days in 1999-2000, with a record of 15-15-4.

Fans who attended Idaho Stampede games over the years came to appreciate the talent they got to see. There just were never enough of them. Another case in point: Tyus Jones, who played six games for the Stampede last season on assignment from the Minnesota Timberwolves, was named MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League. Minnesota lost the Summer League championship, falling to Chicago 84-82 on a buzzer-beater in overtime. Jones posted 27 points and 10 assists in the title game. He was impressive in his stint with Idaho, averaging 24.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and five assists.

This Day In Sports…July 22, 2006, 10 years ago today:

In an emotional ceremony at Memorial Stadium, the Boise Hawks retire long-time manager Tom Kotchman’s No. 11. Kotchman paid tribute to Boise as his “second home” and listed some of the favorite players he helped develop—Troy Percival, Garret Anderson, Scot Shields and John Lackey were all among the former Hawks who won World Series rings with the Angels in 2002. As skipper of the Hawks from 1990-2000, Kotchman won four Northwest League championships and seven division titles, becoming the winningest manager (by far) in NWL history with 501 victories.

(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.)