Ask almost anyone in these parts how they’ll remember Bob Stoops, and he or she will go straight to January 1, 2007. If there’s a singular moment, it would be the look on Stoops’ face after “Circus,” the 50-yard hook-and-lateral from Boise State’s Jared Zabransky to Drisan James to Jerard Rabb that tied the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma with seven seconds remaining. Stoops’ Sooners had battled back from a 28-10 deficit versus the Broncos and had the upstarts in a fourth-and-18 at the 50-yard line with 18 seconds on the clock. Well, Stoops delivered a stunner yesterday, retiring after 18 years as Oklahoma’s head coach. At .798, Oklahoma has the second-best winning percentage since 1999, behind only Boise State’s .838.
The truth is, Stoops was a great coach. To survive at the very top level of college football for 18 years is saying something—to the point that no current coach in the NCAA had been at one school longer. The Fiesta Bowl against Boise State can be seen as an exception to the rule in Stoops’ career. He is the only head coach in the BCS era to have won the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Stoops was 190-48 at Oklahoma, with 10 conference championships and a national title in 2000, his second season. Believe it or not, the Sooners had endured five straight losing seasons before Stoops arrived. Final thought: I do not remember Stoops disrespecting the Broncos. “It will not be hard for us to focus in on this,” Stoops said leading up to the game in Glendale. “I look at people’s track records. I look at what people have done over a great period of time, and Boise State has been excellent.”
Jon Helmandollar is climbing the ranks of Oregon high school football. It’s been a bit unconventional—kind of like his playing career at Boise State. The Eagle High alum is leaving his head coaching post at Springfield near Eugene to take over the program at Hillsboro. Helmandollar was just 1-8 during his lone season at Springfield, but according to the Oregonian, “the program was clearly in a rebuilding phase after graduating a talented senior class following the 2015 season.” Helmandollar had previously gone 11-10 in two seasons in Toledo, OR. He headed across the border following a solid three-year run at Wendell in the Magic Valley.
Helmandollar was a member of Boise State’s 2007 Fiesta Bowl championship team, but even that journey had its twists and turns. He was a touchdown machine as a freshman for the Broncos in 2004, scoring a school-record five rushing TDs in a rout of Louisiana Tech on the blue turf. But coach Dan Hawkins removed him from the squad in 2005 for a violation of team rules. Helmandollar earned his way back on the roster under Chris Petersen in 2006 but played sparingly. He turned his life around after that, though, and has become a valued coach and teacher. Helmandollar still holds the Idaho 5A state championship game record for rushing—he amassed 367 yards for Eagle in 2001, including a 90-yard TD run.
The Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge is still going—entering the third season of a four-year series in this latest go-round. The Challenge has lost its lustre, especially with Wichita State departing for the AAC. It doesn’t do much for RPI (the MVC probably feels the same way). Boise State now knows its Challenge opponent for the upcoming season. It’ll be Loyola-Chicago playing in Taco Bell Arena on Tuesday, November 28. Loyola was 18-14 overall and 8-10 in the Missouri Valley last season. In the only other meeting between the two schools, the Broncos lost to the Ramblers 48-45 in the championship game of the 2014 Las Vegas Classic, on a night Boise State was missing both Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic.
Boise State coach Leon Rice has a full staff now. Next task: a full roster. Rice has hired Chris Acker from Hawaii to fill John Rillie’s assistant coach’s spot. Acker was with the Rainbow Warriors the past two years as they won a Big West championship and notched a memorable win in the NCAA Tournament. Acker, who was UH’s player development coordinator, is renowned as a defensive specialist. His move to the Broncos had been rumored in Hawaii since last week, when a job posting for an assistant coach went up on the UH website.
The quest for the podium begins for Boise State athletes at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene. The two who compete tonight have a shot—Allie Ostrander in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals and Sadi Henderson in the 800-meter semis. Ostrander had the top time in her event at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships in Austin, and Henderson, the school-record holder in the 800, was second-fastest in that event. Ostrander is also entered in the 5,000-meters on Saturday, as is Clare O’Brien, who claimed the final qualifying spot for nationals in Austin.
Troy Merritt is hanging around Memphis this week, and he has a bit of momentum. After qualifying there Monday for next week’s US Open, the former Boise State star and Meridian resident tees off today at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Merritt hopes the St. Jude gets him in a rhythm for next week’s venture to Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge is also in the field today. Aldridge is, in effect, a part-timer on the PGA Tour this season. He missed the cut his last time out, three weeks ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
This Day In Sports…June 8, 2010:
The most anticipated big league debut of the new century does not disappoint. Washington’s Stephen Strasburg went seven innings and struck out 14 batters, the most by a pitcher in his inaugural appearance in 39 years, in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh before a rare capacity crowd at Nationals Park. Strasburg was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 Major League Draft, and the hype had followed him for a year. He did not issue a walk while displaying a fastball that topped 100 miles per hour.
(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.)