Staying the championship game course

Officials from Mountain West schools decided to leave well enough alone. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com got this out there last week—that the Mountain West would discuss changing the format for its football championship game at the conference’s spring meeting in Phoenix to allow the two “best teams” to qualify. For example, last December that would have taken Fresno State out of the equation and put Colorado State in to challenge Boise State on the blue turf. The idea would be to guarantee the Mountain West its best chance of getting a team into a New Year’s Six bowl. It all worked out last year when the Broncos beat the Bulldogs and nabbed the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six, beating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. Well, the meeting is over, and officials from MW schools decided to leave well enough alone in a “don’t even bring it up” kind of way, according to commissioner Craig Thompson.

This issue will fade for the time being. Such a “deregulated” format is one that would theoretically be used by the Big 12 to establish a conference championship game. That league has only 10 teams and no divisions. But on Tuesday Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby reversed his recent course and said his league isn’t in the market for a title tilt. Furthermore, the Big 12 has come up with a tiebreaker system to decide a one-and-only football champion for the conference so it can avoid the TCU-Baylor mess it had last fall. Still, deregulation is expected to be approved by the NCAA in time for the 2016 season.

There was a lot of other news yesterday. CBS has declined its option on the Mountain West championship game telecast for 2015, leaving the conference seeking a new network partner. The Boise State-Fresno State matchup last December was the lowest-rated game of the season on the network. The game hardly had a chance to succeed on CBS, what with its 8:10 p.m. kickoff (10:10 p.m. Eastern). But here you can refer to the first two paragraphs. Would a Bronco-Colorado State matchup in the title game have been more appealing to CBS—and the viewing audience? Probably.

Then there’s the Mountain West bowl situation. Thompson said yesterday the conference has been talking to the Pac-12 over the past five months about playing a bowl game in Australia. Officials from Melbourne were reportly in Phoenix to discuss the idea (the Pac-12 was holding its spring meeting there, too). It’ll take time for a game like that to happen, though. The NCAA has approved yet three more bowl games to debut this season—in Tucson, Orlando and Austin The Tucson game will include a Mountain West representative against a team from Conference USA. BYU, if it’s bowl-eligible (and it will be), will take the MW’s spot in either the Hawaii Bowl or Las Vegas Bowl this year. The Mountain West still gets a game against a Power 5 school, though, taking a slot in the Armed Forces Bowl against a Big Ten team.

UNLV is on Boise State’s conference schedule this year and next. And next year, the Broncos may face former Alabama running back Altee Tenpenny in a Rebels uniform on the blue turf. Tenpenny, one of the nation’s top high school backs when he signed with the Crimson Tide in 2013, is transferring to UNLV. He’ll have to sit out this year—then he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining. Tenpenny had offers in high school from Arkansas, Auburn, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Tennessee and others, but he rushed for only 218 yards on 48 carries over his first two seasons at Alabama.

San Jose State’s athletic department gets financial help that most others don’t, and it needs it. The department will receive an additional $1.6 million from the university in the next school year to cover cost-of-attendance stipends and additional meals for student-athletes in every sport beginning August 1. But, cautioned athletic director Gene Bleymaier in the San Jose Mercury-News, “It’s a one-time allotment for athletics, with the understanding that we need to figure out how to pay (for the increase in services) going forward.” Tough to do at a school that can’t draw fans.

As the low-program-on-the-totem-pole in the Bay Area, San Jose State is always going to find it difficult to be relevant there. But the ever-resilient Bleymaier, the former long-time AD at Boise State, insists that the Spartans are Mountain West-worthy. “We have tremendous potential upside in football and men’s basketball that we haven’t realized,” he said. “It’s important to get those programs headed in the right direction.” SJSU was 3-9 in football last year and finished this past men’s basketball season a woeful 2-28, taking a 20-game losing streak into the offseason.

Some call The Players Championship the “fifth major.” If that’s the case, this is the closest Troy Merritt has ever been to a major. The former Boise State star, who finished third in the RBC Heritage three weeks ago, tied for 61st in his only other appearance in The Players during his rookie year in 2011. One-time Bronco teammate Graham DeLaet is also in the field. DeLaet could use a good week, as he’s missed four of his last five cuts. One other golf note: sophomore Genevieve Ling becomes just the second women’s golfer in Boise State history to play in the NCAA Regional Championships when she tees off in the East Regional today in Raleigh, NC. Ling posted four top-10 finishes this season.

Here’s an update on Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich’s climb up the minor league ladder. The former Oregon State Beaver is pitching for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the San Francisco Giants’ Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League. Osich registered his second save of the season Tuesday night, and that’s saying something considering Richmond is 5-17. He closed with two scoreless, hitless innings and struck out three in a 10-7 win over the Altoona Curve. Osich, a sixth-round draft choice of the Giants in 2011, is 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA in nine appearances this season.

This Day In Sports…May 7, 1988:

Caldwell native Gary Stevens, who got his horse racing start at Les Bois Park while a student at Capital High in the late 70’s, rides Winning Colors to victory in the 114th running of the Kentucky Derby. It was the first of three victories for Stevens in the Run For The Roses, as Winning Colors became only the third filly ever to win the Derby. Stevens gave a shout-out to Boise on ABC cameras immediately following the race.

(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.)