Unexpected backdrop for Mountain West Media Days

I’ve always said that Mountain West Media Days signal the official beginning of football season. I’ve always said that Mountain West Media Days signal the official beginning of football season. That means that it arrives tomorrow. And what a table-setter Saturday, the fire on the 14th floor pool terrace at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the host facility for Media Days. In spite of the chaos, by tomorrow it’ll be all business for Mountain West coaches, player representatives and media. Boise State coach Bryan Harsin will take his turn Wednesday. Will he have anything to say about quarterback Ryan Finley? Finley’s day in court is scheduled for today, postponed from July 10, to answer to charges of minor in consumption and obstructing officers after his arrest a week after spring football ended in April. Inquiring minds want to know: will Finley be in uniform for The Broncos’ monstrous matchup against Washington September 4?

San Jose State coach Ron Caragher will undoubtedly be asked what’s happening with his 2015 recruiting class. After dismissing incoming freshman wide receiver Kanya Bell last weekend after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic assault against a female, Caragher booted true freshman defensive back Bomani Bassette-Hairston off the team Friday. Bassette-Harrison allegedly hit teammate Chad Miller in the face with a skateboard in a university dorm. Miller, a redshirt freshman safety, ended up in the hospital with broken bones in his face and could be out for a month.

UNLV will be preaching not only a new beginning under coach Tony Sanchez, making the jump from perennial high school power Bishop Gorman, but prospects of increasing the skimpy crowds at Sam Boyd Stadium. When Boise State visits Las Vegas on Halloween, it’ll see upgrades at the facility, including the removal of the first two rows of seats that virtually hung over the team benches. That reduces the capacity of the stadium by 880 to 35,500. New Sprinturf has also been laid, and width of the playing surface has been extended by six feet on either side to better accommodate rugby and soccer. How that affects fan support remains to be seen—the best upgrade would be wins by the long-suffering Rebels.

Dave Southorn’s report in the Statesman that Boise State and Idaho won’t play in men’s basketball this season for the first time in 45 years is hugely disappointing. 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 last November, on a Tuesday during Thanksgiving week, was 5,672. At the Idaho Center on New Year’s Eve 2011 it was 7,540.

Maybe there’s a 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. There was that notable statement from Idaho coach Don Verlin after last year’s 86-75 loss in CenturyLink Arena. “I don’t like Boise State, and I know our fans don’t like Boise State,” Verlin said on his Vandal Radio Network postgame show. “I wish they were man enough to come up to our place, but they’re not. So we’ll come down here and figure out a way to beat them.” Not coming down here robs Idaho’s large Treasure Valley alumni base of a wonderful opportunity, though. Vandal fans made the game an event.

Boise State may find it easy to dismiss the need for a game against Idaho by playing the RPI card. The Broncos made their first-ever appearance in the Top 25 in March and finished the season at No. 43 in the NCAA’s RPI ratings. RPI is the key to strength-of-schedule, and the consequent jockeying for NCAA Tournament consideration. Idaho ended up with an RPI at No. 267 last season. But who cares? Boise State played Abilene Christian last December in Taco Bell Arena. The (I’ll have to look up their nickname) were No. 326. Southern Utah, another Big Sky school, also played at BSU. The Thunderbirds were No. 306 in RPI. At some point, fan appeal has to enter the discussion. Do the right thing. Play on.

There was no Joe Martarano sighting in the Eugene Emeralds lineup last night against the Boise Hawks. The Boise State linebacker remains listed on the Ems’ roster, but that’s about to change with the Broncos’ fall camp beginning next week. Martarano, a third baseman, hasn’t played for Eugene in 10 days. His teammates played just fine last night—until the top of the ninth. Trailing 4-2, Boise scored four wacky runs and went on to a 6-4 victory. After retiring the side in order in the eighth, Emeralds reliever Tanner Griggs hit three batters, yielded three singles, and took the loss. The winning runs were delivered on a two-run single by Marcos Derkes. The Hawks thus end an otherwise sour first half of the Northwest League season on a high note. They’re 14-24.

The FC Nova Nationals logged their third 0-0 regulation tie of the U.S. Youth Soccer U19 Girls Championships Saturday, but this time it was in the national title game against Gretna Prima Green of Nebraska, and there would be no draw. That meant overtime, and there were two 15-minute scoreless OTs before the two exhausted teams decided the title on penalty kicks. It was there that Gretna Prima Green prevailed 4-1. Still, it was a history-making run by the Nova Nationals that will only serve to grow the sport in the state of Idaho.

Destiny Slocum ended a captivating nine-day stay in Russia yesterday as part of a world championship squad after Team USA defeated the host Russians 78-70 to win the FIBA U19 Girls title. Slocum, the Mountain View High senior-to-be, balanced three turnovers with three assists and three rebounds in 11 minutes of playing time in the gold medal tilt. Safe to say she’s the favorite to repeat as Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year. And she remains one of the hottest uncommitted players in the women’s college basketball recruiting class of 2016.

This Day In Sports…July 27, 1986:

Sacramento cyclist Greg LeMond becomes the first non-European to win the Tour de France since the event began in 1903. LeMond crossed the finish line along the Champs-Elysees in Paris with a winning margin of three minutes. He’d go on to win the Tour twice more, in 1989 and 1990—an unthinkable feat for an American until Lance Armstrong strung together his historic seven championships from 1999 to 2005.

(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.)