December 22, 1987, 35 years ago today: Boise State draws 12,265 fans, to this day the biggest crowd for a non-conference game in its history, as fifth-ranked Wyoming comes to the BSU Pavilion three days before Christmas. It was a surreal scene.It was a surreal scene. The game had been hyped for weeks. The Broncos were 6-0 and were coming off a 40-point win over Gonzaga. The Cowboys, a Sweet 16 team the previous spring, were also 6-0, including victories over Colorado, Texas Tech and Nebraska. The contest wasn’t scheduled for TV, so KTVB cleared all of its prime time commercial breaks, and Mark Johnson and I did live updates from the Pavilion every 15 minutes or so.
The atmosphere was electric. There was a wall of noise on every defensive possession, as was the norm in those days, and Boise State fed off it. The Broncos’ Chris Childs and Arnell Jones battled the Cowboys’ Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner to the end. Dembo and Leckner were known names (Dembo had been on the cover of the November 18 issue of Sports Illustrated). The game was a grinder, as predicted. Boise State had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Childs slipped while driving the lane, and Wyoming prevailed, 59-55.
The teams would have a rematch in Laramie in early March—the Pokes won that game as well 56-50 before 13,158 fans in the Arena-Auditorium. The Broncos and Cowboys would both advance to the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City a couple weeks later, though not against each other. Their first-round games would go to the wire, with Big Sky champion Boise State falling to Michigan 63-58, and WAC champion Wyoming edged 119-115 by Loyola Marymount, one of the most explosive teams in college basketball history.
The attendance in that holiday matchup marked only the second time Boise State had topped the 12,000-mark. But there would be two more such crowds later in the season. There have been eight throngs of 12,000-plus all-time, the last in 2011 against Idaho during the Broncos’ final season in the WAC.
This, by the way, is my final feature before Christmas. So, Merry Christmas! Thank you for reading.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)