The piecemeal announcements of bowl changes and affiliation switches this week leave the Mountain West mostly in the same boat. It’s a Group of 5 thing. The conference, as expected, will lose the Las Vegas Bowl after this year, as that game moves to the new Raiders stadium in 2020 and will feature the Pac-12 against a rotation of the SEC and Big Ten. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Bowl appears to be official, and in 2020 it will become the Mountain West’s flagship bowl game in the new Rams and Chargers stadium in Inglewood. The matchup will be the same as Vegas, with a mid-level Pac-12 team filling the other slot. It’s the best possible outcome, all things considered—L.A. will be the only one of the Pac-12’s eight bowl tie-ins that doesn’t include a Power 5 opponent.
The Mountain West presently has six bowl tie-ins, the same as last year. And six was not the magic number in 2018. There were seven bowl-eligible teams, and Wyoming was left out in the Laramie cold. When a deal was worked out to send Boise State to Dallas for the First Responder Bowl, a spot theoretically opened up in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. But the Cowboys had played in the blue turf event the previous season, and ESPN owns both bowls. So the Worldwide Leader was behind the switch to BYU in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and you can bet Pokes fans are still unhappy. Sure, it would be nice if the Mountain West could secure a seventh bowl game to avoid this kind of thing, but if you’re 6-6, rolling the dice with the postseason. Bowl teams should have winning records anyway, shouldn’t they?
DEEP JUST GOT DEEPER
The NCAA men’s basketball rules committee wants to open up the game and has voted to extend the three-point line back to the the international distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches. The change is effective with the upcoming season. That’s about 1 1/3 feet beyond the current line. That will benefit pure shooters and weed out the more streaky ones. The purist among the three-point marksmen on Boise State’s roster is Justinian Jessup. The senior can hit from that deeper range—and this move will make him harder to defend. The women’s line will remain at 20 feet, 9 inches. However, the NCAA will experiment with it at the new men’s distance in the 2020 postseason, including the NCAA Tournament. There’ll be a sudden adjustment required of women’s teams next March. Doesn’t seem fair.
MOUNTAIN WEST ALUMNUS OF THE DAY
Boise State came into the Mountain West in 2011. As Maxwell Smart would say, the Broncos missed Kawhi Leonard by “that much.” Before Leonard was a San Antonio Spurs star, and before he had the falling out with coach Gregg Popovich, and before he became the gamble that has paid off big-time for the Toronto Raptors, Leonard was a San Diego State Aztec. He was recruited by then-SDSU assistant and current Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson. This is 2008, when the Aztecs were on the way up but were not yet a power. But Leonard had no other major scholarship offers in high school, and he became the cornerstone that put San Diego State over the top.
By the time Leonard was a sophomore, San Diego State was going 34-3 and advancing to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. And Leonard decalred for the 2011 NBA Draft, where he became the 15th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers—traded to the Spurs on draft night. Now he’s a candidate for NBA Finals MVP. In the postseason, he has averaged 30 points per game. And guess what. Wednesday night Leonard scored 30 points in the Raptors’ 123-109 win over the Warriors in Game 3. So how smart was San Diego State? Well, a year before signing Leonard, the Aztecs had passed on offering a scholarship to a guy named Damian Lillard.
ALLIE O IS READY TO GO
Allie Ostrander has always handled pressure well. Will the Boise State star feel the hype as she tries to become the first Bronco ever to win three national championships? The quest begins tonight, as Ostrander runs in the 3,000-meter steeplechase prelims at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, TX. It’s going to be oppressively hot on the track, but Ostrander figures everybody else has to run in it, too. Boise State’s Kristie Schoffield and Alexis Fuller compete in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter prelimins, respectively, tonight. Footnote: It’s been 20 years now since the NCAA Championships were hosted by Boise State in what is now Albertsons Stadium. They were also held adjacent to the blue turf in 1994.
MLB DRAFT DIPS INTO BOISE STATE
Well, at least this is an indication that Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol is recruiting the right guys. The new Bronco program hasn’t played a game yet, but it has already lost a signee to the MLB Draft. Former Eagle High star Reed Harrington, a righthanded pitcher, was chosen in the 20th round Wednesday by the Boston Red Sox. Harrington told KTVB’s Jay Tust he intends to sign with the BoSox. He did not allow a single earned run in 25 2/3 innings as a closer this season at Spokane Falls Community College. Infielder Torin Montgomery, another Bronco commit, was drafted in the 35th round by Miami, but sources told Tust he still intends to play at Boise State.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!
June 6, 1999, 20 years ago today: Seeded 13th and thought by many to be more style than substance, Andre Agassi defeats Andre Medvedev in five sets (after dropping the first two) in the finals of the French Open. With the title, Agassi became only the fifth man to complete a career Grand Slam—joining Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have since accomplished the feat. Agassi was also the first to do it on three different surfaces: clay, grass and hardcourt (Federer and Nadal have joined him there as well).
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)