Like Boise State, Fresno State ended spring football with its Spring Game last Saturday. The Bulldogs are being pumped up as New Year’s Six Bowl contenders. Here’s the reasoning from the Fresno Bee’s Robert Kuwada: “With 17 returning starters from a 10-4 team, the Bulldogs have four more than Central Florida did last season when it went 13-0 and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl, three more than Western Michigan had in 2016 when it was 13-1 and played Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. They have four more than Houston had in 2015 when it went 13-1 with a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl and three more than Boise State in 2014 when it beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl and finished 12-2.” Hmmm. The Broncos have 16 starters returning, including nine on defense. But who’s counting?
Despite the renaissance of Bulldog football, there’s a cloud over the Fresno State athletic department. The Bulldogs have now gone five months without an athletic director following the November resignation of Jim Bartko. Veteran Fresno Bee columnist Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee has a suggestion: former coach Pat Hill. “The old face of the Bulldogs needs to become the present one,” writes Warszawski. “Even if that means growing back the Fu Manchu mustache. Hill may be the only person who can pull off this salvage operation.” If there’s anyone who understands keeping up with the Joneses in facilities, it’s Hill. I remember him talking enviously about the massive changes he observed at Boise State between the time the Broncos joined the WAC in 2001 and when they were about to leave in 2010.
Wright Waters, the executive director of the Football Bowl Association who’s in Boise for the organization’s annual meeting this week, delved into the sticky wicket in college bowls on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday. Waters pointed out that college football attendance was down about 12 percent last season, while bowls were down 5.4 percent. Fine, but what can be done to reverse that? Waters intimated that fan events at the game are key, depending on the community. “A bowl game is not a regular season game,” said Waters. “And if it looks like one, it’s just another game.” While it’s important to have bodies in the stands, Waters says there’s more to it than that. “Part of the advantage to a community of having a bowl is the national exposure from TV rights,” said Waters. The community needs it to look good on TV, though.
Tomas Sholl has been an entirely different goalie in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, and that’s not a good thing for the Idaho Steelheads as they are one loss away from elimination in their first-round series with Allen. After allowing four goals in Game 2 last Saturday, Sholl yielded four more last night before being pulled in favor of Philippe Desrosiers midway through the second period. The Americans went on to a 5-3 win and now lead the series three games-to-none. The curse of slow starts continues for the Steelies. After falling behind in the first two minutes in each of the first two games, Idaho saw Allen score 2:08 into last night’s contest.
Troy Merritt is first off the No. 1 tee this morning at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. Merritt has been off the past two weeks—he wasn’t in the Masters field and didn’t enter the RBC Heritage. The Meridian resident and former Boise State star has made his last two cuts but hasn’t had a top 40 finish on the PGA Tour since tying for eighth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. Merritt is currently 142nd in the FedExCup standings.
ESPN.com unveiled its top 50 major league players for 2018 yesterday, and No. 12 is former Boise Hawk Kris Bryant. The synopsis: “Bryant is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the best young power hitters the Cubs have ever had. He hit 94 home runs in his first three career seasons—29 more than anyone else in Cubs history. His 19.7 wins-above-replacement in that span were also the most by any Cubs position player in his first three career seasons—by another large margin.” In case you need a refresher on that “WAR” metric, it means the number of additional wins his team has achieved above the number of expected wins for the team if that player were substituted with a replacement-level player.
Boise alum Josh Donaldson, the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman, has had a lukewarm start to the season—and now it’s been interrupted by a shoulder injury that has him on the 10-day disabled list. Nevertheless, Donaldson is No. 26 on the list. The synopsis: “Despite missing time due to injury, Donaldson was still impactful last season. The third baseman recorded his third straight season with 30 homers, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history. In his previous three seasons in Toronto, Donaldson has been the third-best position player in the majors in wins-above-replacement, behind only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.” Donaldson, who played for the Hawks in 2008 and is in his eighth big league season, is batting .239 with three home runs and nine RBIs.
Allie Ostrander has broken new ground again. The Boise State star was one of 10 athletes named yesterday to the 2018 Women’s Mid-Outdoor Watch List for The Bowerman, the highest honor for a college track and field athlete. Ostrander is the first Bronco in program history to make the watch list. She ran a 9:38.57 to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Stanford Invitational three weeks ago. It’s still the fastest time in Division I this season. Ostrander will run the 1,500-meters this weekend at the Brian Clay Invitational in Azusa, CA.
This Day In Sports…April 19, 1991:
It’s the “Battle of the Ages,” a bout between 28-year-old world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and 42-year-old former champ George Foreman. Holyfield was at the peak of his career, while Foreman had won 24 consecutive fights since launching a comeback in 1987. Before a star-studded audience that included Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Holyfield ultimately wore down Foreman in a unanimous decision. Incredibly, Foreman would regain the heavyweight title briefly in 1994 at the age of 45.
(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.)