Remnants of the rivalry

Tomorrow night, Boise State hosts Idaho in men’s tennis at the Appleton Center. That’s unique these days. Tomorrow night, Boise State hosts Idaho in men’s tennis at the Appleton Center. There’s not much more than that left of the Bronco-Vandal rivalry. This is only the third head-to-head competition between the two rivals in the 2015-16 school year, joining a women’s soccer match on Labor Day weekend last year and a women’s swimming and diving meet last October (the Broncos won both events). There’s never been a year with fewer Boise State vs. Idaho events since the Broncos joined the Big Sky in 1970. No football, no men’s or women’s basketball, no women’s volleyball, etc. Contrast that with five years ago, BSU’s final year in the WAC, when the Broncos and Vandals faced off in just about everything. It would be nice if the universities could work something out (just don’t get the Legislature involved).

This will be the sixth straight year the Boise State-Idaho football rivalry has been on hiatus. Theoretically, this season would have been a possibility, since the Broncos have the right to play 13 regular season games thanks to their road trip to Hawaii. But teams are generally shunning that Hawaii exemption these days in favor of a cherished bye week. The next year both Boise State and Idaho have non-conference openings is 2019, but the Vandals already have three non-league road games on the docket that season and are unlikely to absorb a fourth. Do I hear 2020? The Broncos and Vandals each have a date to fill that season, too.

The bitter pill this past men’s basketball season was the end (hopefully just a hiatus) of the Boise State-Idaho series after 45 consecutive seasons. The two rivals had settled into the ideal solution as non-conference opponents, the holiday matchups at CenturyLink Arena (and before that at the Ford Idaho Center). The Broncos and Vandals played on a neutral floor, and it was—half of the crowd was made up of Idaho fans, and they were loud. The attendance for the last matchup, on a Tuesday during Thanksgiving week in 2014, was 5,672. At the Idaho Center on New Year’s Eve 2011 it was 7,540. That event, at least, needs to return.

When the news of the hoops demise came out last summer, we speculated on a possible sentiment at Idaho similar to the one in football—if Boise State won’t play in Moscow, the Vandals aren’t going to play in Boise. Too bad, because last season it would have been a compelling matchup with Idaho basketball ending up 21-13, the program’s best record in 23 years. Incidentally, tomorrow night’s men’s tennis tussle should be a dandy—BSU, the four-time defending Mountain West champion, is 16-9 this season after winning seven of its last eight matches. The Vandals are 14-5 overall and 8-2 in the Big Sky.

Idaho wraps up spring football with its annual Silver & Gold Game tonight in the Kibbie Dome. In two scrimmages this spring, the Vandals have gotten their reps—lots and lots of reps, just the way coach Paul Petrino likes it. Between the two sessions, Idaho amassed 2,112 yards of offense on 214 snaps. So how do you put the pinball numbers in perspective for the defense? Maybe via yards per play. Well, that doesn’t ease the D’s pain. The Vandal offense racked up 9.9 yards per play in the first two scrimmages. The onus is on the defense tonight. Meanwhile, spring ball concludes tomorrow at the College of Idaho with the Coyotes’ Purple & Gold Game. This is the third spring since the program was reinstated in 2014. “We are probably 50 times better than we were the first year,” C of I coach Mike Moroski told KTVB.

They’re not on the ropes per se, but they are backed into a corner. The Idaho Steelheads dearly need a win tonight in Game 4 of the ECHL Western Conference quarterfinals in CenturyLink Arena. Defending ECHL champion Allen, who toppled the Steelheads 3-1 in Boise Wednesday night, is a handful. One place the Steelheads need to buckle down is special teams. The Americans are now 4-for-7 on the power play in the past two games of the series. They had two decisive tallies on the man-advantage Wednesday, with ECHL scoring champion and Player of the Year Chad Costello contributing an assist on each. The Steelheads are hoping for a playoff hockey crowd and an atmosphere to match tonight—and the same for Game 5 tomorrow night.

Boise State has had its success with Australians, namely Anthony Drmic, Igor Hadziomerovic and Nick Duncan. Now apparently it’s Fresno State’s turn. Coming off their first Mountain West Tournament championship and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 15 years, the Bulldogs have landed a commitment from a five-star recruit, Australian guard William McDowell-White. The 6-5 guard reportedly chose Fresno State over Arizona State and Texas A&M, among other power conference schools. Coach Rodney Terry’s program has finally turned the corner. The balance of power in basketball appears to be shifting in the Mountain West, with the likes of the Bulldogs and Nevada on the upswing—and traditional powers UNLV and New Mexico struggling.

A couple pro sports notes: It was an inauspicious start yesterday at the Valero Texas Open for Tyler Aldridge and Troy Merritt. Both will have to rally to make the cut in San Antonio. Aldridge was even at 72 and is tied for 60th. Merritt was two-over and tied for 110th through 13 holes before the first round was called due to darkness. On the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, Boise’s Brian Scott is gearing up for the Toyota Owners 400 Sunday at Richmond International Speedway. Scott started 27th and finished 30th last week in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

We have a bunch of former Boise Hawks to mention today. It starts with Kris Bryant, who supported Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter last night with two home runs, including a grand slam, and six RBIs in the Cubs’ 16-0 waxing of the Reds. Steve Clevenger hit his first home run as a Mariner, and Tony Zych picked up his first big league victory in Seattle’s 10-7 win at Cleveland. Ricky Nolasco, who I talked about yesterday, came through with his first win of the season as the Twins routed the Brewers 8-1. Rich Hill evened his record at 2-2 with six strong innings as the A’s downed the Yankees 7-3 in the Bronx.

Welington Castillo leads the Diamondbacks home to Phoenix after a nice week in San Francisco. Castillo hit a two-run homer Wednesday night off Madison Bumgarner, accounting for the D-Backs’ only runs in a 2-1 win over the Giants. It was Castillo’s second home run of the series. And Marco Hernandez became the first former Hawk to make his major league debut this season—and the 116th in history—when he was called up last Sunday to play second base against Toronto. Hernandez went 1-for-2 and scored a run in Boston’s 5-3 win over the Blue Jays. Then he was sent right back to Pawtucket.

This Day In Sports…April 22, 1876:

The first game in National League history, with Boston defeating Philadelphia, 6-5. The winning pitcher was Joe Borden, who was rewarded with a then-unheard of $2,000-per-year salary. When he failed to live up to expectations, Borden was forced to moonlight as a groundskeeper to earn his pay.

(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.)