It’s been eight years now since BYU left the Mountain West for football independence, and former Cougar and NFL star defensive lineman Jason Buck implores his alma mater to face the facts. “Just watch the rise of Utah State’s program in a conference and our decline in independence, and now we’re battling for our lives, for relevance, against Utah State,” said the 1985 Outland Trophy winner in the Deseret News. “Tiny Logan gets in a conference and we drop out. Eight years later, USU beats us two years in a row, it’s playing for conference championships, it’s the end of the year, and we’re like, ‘Uh, no conference championship.’” There’s really no November, for that matter. This year BYU plays Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington to start the season—and Liberty, Idaho State and UMass in November.
“Right now it kills me—it rips my heart out,” said Buck, who has some influence in the Beehive State via the “Rivals” podcast with former Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell. But Buck doesn’t expect BYU to change its mind. In June of 2010, when Utah bolted for what is now the Pac-12, the Cougars scrambled to respond, so as not to be left behind by their bitter rival. A couple months later, BYU announced its move to football independence (and the West Coast Conference in other sports), showing that it was going to chart its own course. The school is still hoping for a power conference invitation, and it may wait forever. But as long as the Cougars are independent, they won’t lose face by returning to the Mountain West.
THE TANGLED WEB TANGLES FURTHER
Doug Nussmeier is at least one of the two best quarterbacks ever to play at Idaho (John Friesz would be the other). Kellen Moore is hands-down the best QB in Boise State history. Now, Nussmeier is tight ends coach in Dallas, working under Moore, the Cowboys offensive coordinator. I don’t usually go into scholarship offers, because there are so many of them, and they don’t matter unless the guy signs. But you can’t ignore this one. Garrett Nussmeier, Doug’s son, has received an offer from Boise State. The younger Nussmeier, also a quarterback, will a junior this fall—a junior—in Flower Mound, TX, so he has plenty of time to mull this over. He also has offers from Michigan State, Penn State, and LSU, among others.
THE MW CRANKS UP THE TECHNOLOGY
The Mountain West has partnered with basketball analytics platform ShotTracker to provide data tracking during all men’s and women’s hoops games for the next five years. The Mountain West is the first NCAA conference to do it. How does it work? Players will wear sensors embedded into their jerseys and use ShotTracker-enabled basketballs. The sensors track player and ball movement, providing statistics in more than 70 different categories via an app. The next step is to actually be able to utilize that information during games. The NCAA doesn’t permit the transmission of such data to the bench. However, the Mountain West is asking the NCAA for a waiver to use it during conference games. Man, that’s an awful lot of data to be interpreting in the middle of a game that’s moving at warp speed.
ALFORD SLOWLY RAMPING THINGS UP IN RENO
There are lots of unknowns with Nevada’s basketball roster under new head coach Steve Alford. But the Wolf Pack got good news from a known commodity, as point guard Lindsey Drew has announced via Twitter that he will return to play for the Pack as a senior next season. Alford needs his leadership. Drew, a three-year starter for the Pack, was in the transfer portal after missing all of last season. He suffered a gruesome Achilles injury in a Valentine’s Day win at Boise State in 2018. The Pack’s backcourt appears to be set now. Jazz Johnson, the 2019 Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year, announced earlier that he’ll play for Nevada next season.
MERRITT HONES IN ON MAJOR NO. 6
Troy Merritt knows what he has to do as the PGA Championship tees off today: chip and putt. Merritt was on Idaho SportsTalk Wednesday, and he’s determined to play four days at Bethpage Black. “First and foremost, to get to that point on Sunday, my putter has to be there for me,” said Merritt. The former Boise State star is pleased with his driver and irons and is ready to deal with the adversity that inevitably crops up in majors. “Patience is absolutely key,” Merritt said.
Things sure have changed since Merritt played in last year’s PGA Championship. First, the tournament has moved to the spring for the first time this season. Second, Merritt missed the cut last August after hitting the course a couple of days after emergency blood clot surgery, He feels a lot better now—even without the rib that was surgically-removed in January. “The nice thing is, I can’t re-injure that rib,” Merritt quipped. This is Merritt’s sixth major and fourth PGA Championship of his career. He tied for 54th in his first major, the 2015 PGA Championship, and missed the cut in that event in 2016 and again last year. Merritt tied for 42nd at the 2016 Masters and missed the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open.
GOING TO GAINESVILLE WITH HONORS
Boise State brings four first-team All-Mountain West players along when it faces Stanford tomorrow at the NCAA Tournament in Gainesville, FL. Ashlyn Adams, Rebekah Cervantes, Bradie Fillmore and Kora Wade were honored by the conference Wednesday. Cervantes has now been named to All-Mountain West teams in all four years of her Bronco career. Elsewhere, College of Idaho’s season came to an end Wednesday in the final round of the Hattiesburg Bracket of the NAIA Championships with a 5-1 loss to Vanguard. The Yotes finished with a school-record 40 victories against 17 losses.
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May 16, 1869, 150 years ago today: The Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first all-professional team, play their first game, defeating Antioch 41-7. I always thought we’d see a score like that during the Steroid Era, but it never happened. The first official baseball game of any kind was played by the amateur New York Knickerbockers and New York Nine in 1846.
(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.)