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SCOTT SLANT: Peeling away Phil Steele

Presented by BUSTERS GRILL & SPORTS BAR.
Friday, June 14, 2019.

Phil Steele puts out plenty of teasers to keep fans’ appetites whetted before his college football preview magazine is officially released. The latest are Steele’s All-Mountain West and All-America teams. He goes four teams deep on both, with Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland making his fourth-team All-America squad. Cleveland is first-team Preseason All-Mountain West, joined by guards John Molchon and Eric Quevedo, wide receiver John Hightower, defensive tackle David Moa and STUD end/linebacker Curtis Weaver. Quevedo is a mild surprise—Bronco Nation hopes Steele is right. He sees the big picture with Moa, who’s looking to bounce back with a big senior year after missing virtually all of last season with an injury.

Boise State has healthy representation on Steele’s All-Mountain West teams, but the Broncos’ primary threat in the Mountain Division, Utah State, would like to remind you of its star power. The Aggies have two Steele first-team All-Americans, Savon Scarver and David Woodward. Scarver became just the third consensus All-American in USU history last year as a returner/all-purpose player. Woodward, a 6-2, 230-pound junior linebacker, amassed 134 tackles last season, including 5.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, plus two forced fumbles and two interceptions. Frankly, Woodward’s approaching Leighton Vander Esch territory there. Pro Football Focus graded Woodward as the top linebacker in the nation in 2018. Ya think November 23 is circled on the calendar?

THE MYSTERY MAN IS KNOWN NOW

Boise State announced its third late 2019 commit Thursday after another of coach Bryan Harsin’s familiar “Go Broncos” tweets on Tuesday. It turned out to be Jackson Cravens, a transfer from Utah. Cravens is a 6-3, 294-pound defensive tackle. You can’t have enough of those. He played in just one game for the Utes last season, so he was able to redshirt. But as a transfer, Cravens will have to sit out the upcoming season, leaving him three years of eligibility. He’ll be key in 2020, as Moa, Sonatane Lui, Chase Hatada, Matt Locher and Emmanuel Fesili are all seniors this season. Cravens was originally a three-star recruit from Provo, and was a first-team 4A all-state selection as a junior before an injury forced him to miss his senior season.

One player who won’t be reporting to Boise State this summer is 2019 signee Lolani Langi, who has elected to go on a two-year LDS mission first. Langi is a 6-2, 210-pound linebacker from South Jordan, UT. Presumably the Broncos had a hunch Langi would go that route this spring, hence the signing of one of the other late recruits, linebacker Josh Booker-Brown. Langi was a first-team Utah 6A all-state pick last fall. Senior athletic director Brad Larrondo hinted Thursday on Idaho SportsTalk that the Broncos might not be done with the NCAA transfer portal, particularly at the linebacker spot.

THESE AREN’T YOUR MAMA’S ANTEATERS

At first glance, a Boise State home game against UC Irvine doesn’t get fans jumping up and down. But maybe it should. It’s about as good as the Broncos can do these days. The Anteaters will be coming to ExtraMile Arena on November 15, with the Broncos making a return trip to Irvine next year. UCI is not only the defending Big West champion, it was a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament and upset Kansas State 70-64 in the first round. The Anteaters won a school-record 31 games. UC Irvine has notched 20-win seasons in the six of the past seven years (Boise State is seven-for-eight). Broncos coach Leon Rice equates it to the visit by Loyola-Chicago a couple years ago. “This will give us an early opportunity to test our team,” said Rice.

PARRA HOPES TO GET BACK UP TO PAR

The Boise Hawks (and Colorado Rockies) hope to kick-start Frederis Parra, the Hawks’ starting pitcher in tonight’s season-opener at Salem-Keizer. At the age of 24, Parra is at a crossroads as he returns to Boise after going 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three appearances for the Hawks last year. The Dominican righthander made it to long-season Class A with Ashville last summer and began the season there this year. But Parra allowed seven earned runs in 10 innings of work and needs a second wind. The Memorial Stadium opener is Monday night, when the Hawks begin a five-game series against the Everett AquaSox.

SHOLL GETS TO SHOW SOMETHING IN DALLAS

Tomas Sholl, the Idaho Steelheads’ standout goalie for much of the past two seasons, has been invited to Dallas Stars Development Camp June 24-28. Fellow netminder Colton Point, who also spent time with the Steelheads this past season, will attend the camp as well, but he had a contract with the Stars organization. Sholl was on a straight, one-way ECHL contract, and it’s rare for a guy like that to have this kind of opportunity. Sholl went 26-12-1 with three shutouts for Idaho in 2018-19.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

June 14, 2007: With an 83-82 Game 4 victory, the San Antonio Spurs win their fourth NBA championship in nine years with a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Only one game was decided by double-digits, but there was never any doubt the Spurs would be champs. It was the Cavs’ first-ever trip to the Finals—therefore, it was the first for LeBron James as well. Capping his fourth NBA season, the superstar averaged 22 points per game to lead the Cavs in the series. But James couldn’t save the TV ratings, which were the lowest in history for an NBA Finals.

(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.)

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BOISE HAWKS: MEET NEW MANAGER STEVE SOLIZ

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SCOTT SLANT: Remember the likeable Justin Wilcox?

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Thursday, June 13, 2019.

Before Justin Wilcox was hired as a 29-year-old defensive coordinator by Boise State’s Chris Petersen in late 2005, he spent four seasons on Jeff Tedford’s staff at Cal. During that time, a quarterback named Aaron Rodgers came through. He liked Wilcox (not to mention Tedford). Rodgers was flabbergasted when Tedford was fired, and he did not like the direction of the Bears program under Sonny Dykes (not many did). Rodgers distanced himself from Berkeley. He even said “Butte College” during NFL player introductions on TV. But with Wilcox now coaching Cal—and having success—Rodgers feels like a Bear again, and Tuesday he announced a seven-figure donation for the renovation of Cal’s locker room and a football scholarship dedicated to junior college transfers like himself.

AIR FORCE MISSING ONE OF ITS PATENTED RUNNERS

Air Force is trying to work its way back to winning seasons and bowl bids, but there’s a bump in the road at the Academy. The Falcons have removed last year’s leading rusher, Cole Fagan, from their roster “pending an invesitigaton,” according to a statement from the athletic depoartment. Fagan ran for 997 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018, including 260 yards against Colorado State in the season finale, the third-most in Air Force history. He had 67 yards and a TD in the Falcons’ 48-38 loss to Boise State last October. Air Force has missed the postseason the past two years.

VANDALS TRY TO CLIMB BACK WITH TALENT

Idaho didn’t make much of a dent in the Big Sky as it returned to the FCS last season, going 4-7 overall and 3-5 in conference. But the Vandals are poised for bigger things this year, as they have two players on the Athlon Sports Preseason FCS All-America team. Senior offensive lineman Noah Johnson and junior punter Cade Coffey are both first-teamers. Johnson was first-team All-Big Sky last season and was second-team All-Sun Belt in 2017. Coffey was also first-team All-Big Sky last year after averaging 44.1 yards per punt, the fifth-best mark in the FCS. He was USA Today’s Freshman All-America punter at the FBS level in 2017.

OSTRANDER A ‘HEISMAN SEMIFINALIST’ OF SORTS

Allie Ostrander, coming off her historic third straight national championship in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, is up for collegiate track and field’s highest honor. Boise State’s distance-running superstar has been announced as a semifinalist for The Bowerman, the award that goes to the top male and female athlete in the sport. Ostrander is the first Bronco in history to be named a Bowerman semifinalist (also the first from the state of Alaska). She earned three first-team All-America honors during the 2019 indoor and outdoor seasons.

BOISE HAWKS HISTORY CLIFF NOTES

Believe it or not, the Boise Hawks begin their 33rd season tomorrow night when the visit the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes along I-5. It’s been a long time—15 years—since the Hawks won a Northwest League championship. Their glory days were in the early 1990’s, when they won four titles in five years under Tom Kotchman. Boise is going into its fifth season of affiliation with the Colorado Rockies. Interestingly enough, only three former Hawks during the Rockies era have made the majors so far. This is also the team’s 31st season in Memorial Stadium, and it looks like they have at least a couple years left there as the new downtown stadium project is still up in the air.

MARK YOUR HOCKEY CALENDAR

Now that the St. Louis Blues have won their first Stanley Cup, Idaho Steelheads fans can make hockey plans for the 2019-20 season. The Steelheads released their schedule Wednesday—Opening Night on home ice will be Friday, October 18, versus Wichita. The Steelies will play 29 of their 36 home games against Mountain Division foes. The other seven contests will bring some newness to CenturyLink Arena. Idaho will be playing the Fort Wayne Komets for the first time ever, and the Orlando Solar Bears for the first time in Boise. Also visiting will be the South Carolina Stingrays, who were last here in the 2003-04 season, the Steelheads’ first in the ECHL.

EARNING IT ON THE RIVER

Conditions are shaping up to be perfect for the eighth annual North Fork Championship today through Saturday on the wild stretch of the Payette River north of Banks. This year it doubles as the Extreme Kayak World Championship, so there’s a lot at stake. Competition begins this morning with the qualifier down S-Turn rapid. The rub this year is that there are no byes for big-time racers. So all the returning champions have to go through every stage. The men’s champs including two-time winners Dane Jackson of the U.S. and Aniol Serrasolses of Spain. The women’s favorite is Marianne Seather of Norway. And there are lots of worthy challlengers this year with the world title on the line.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!

June 13, 2014, five years ago today: Kyle Schwarber, who eight days earlier was the fourth overall pick in the major league draft by the Chicago Cubs, makes his professional debut in a Boise Hawks uniform. Schwarber blasted a three-run homer in the seventh inning to give the Hawks a 4-2 Opening Night win over the Tri-City Dust Devils. For the night he went 3-for-4, picking up where he left off as a star catcher for the Indiana Hoosiers. Schwarber, by the way, hit his 14th home run of the 2019 season yesterday to key the Cubs’ 10-1 romp over the Colorado Rockies.

(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.)

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STANLEY CUP: WHO’S GOING TO WIN GAME 7?

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SCOTT SLANT: Watching the Jordan Love love

Presented by FRANZ WITTE NURSERY.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

Get used to all that Jordan Love hype out there. Utah State’s junior quarterback is already anointed as the top QB in the Mountain West for 2019. Next winter, will he forego his senior year in Logan to enter the NFL Draft? ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Love ranked fifth among underclassmen signal-callers for the 2020 draft. He has the measurables (6-4, 220 pounds) and the raw stats (36 touchdown passes versus just six interceptions last season). But there’s an asterisk next to Love’s pass efficiency rating of 158.3. He averaged 10.6 yards per attempt at home and just 6.9 on the road. His YPA on the blue turf last November was 7.7—even including the freak 83-yard screen pass that went for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

YOU’LL NEED A PROGRAM IN SEPTEMBER

There have been late additions to the Boise State football roster before, but three newbies for 2019 since spring football ended? First there was safety Khafari Buffalo from The Citadel, who’ll probably play cornerback for the Broncos. The second player was added at a greatly depleted position, linebacker, in the form of junior college transfer Josh Booker-Brown last week. Tuesday there was a third, yet-to-be-named late commit. Usually, players reveal this themselves on Twitter, but nada so far. The only tweet came from Darren Uscher, Boise State’s Director of Recruiting: “We just got a whole lot bigger and better.” Offensive lineman? Defensive lineman? Raise your hand if you’re an inquiring mind.

OCTAVIUS EVANS’ COMEBACK UNDERWAY?

As it does during the winter, the Boise State football strength and conditioning crew awards Iron Men of the Week honors during summer conditioning. Those hoping for a re-emergence of wide receiver Octavius Evans this year will be pleased to know that he and Zeke Noa were the winners in Week 2. It’s an indication that Evans is fully engaged as he tries to regain the momentum left behind in his true freshman season—and that maybe the leg injury that limited him to five games and just two catches last season is behind him. A year ago, Evans was seen as an heir-apparent to Cedrick Wilson, especially after he snagged five catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the 2018 spring game. But John Hightower essentially ascended to that mantle, and Evans will fight for playing time amidst a glut of talent at wideout.

BOISE STATE FOOTBALL’S SUMMER REC

Must have been nice running the decks at Albertsons Stadium last Friday when it was 62 degrees. Not so much fun this week. It’s classic deck-running weather for the Boise State football team. The tradition of sprinting up the bleachers in the upper deck dates back to Jeff Pitman’s first stint as the Broncos’ strength and conditioning coach, and now it’s the norm. The Broncos started with six non-stop decks the week after Memorial Day and upped it to eight last week. They’ll increase it by two per week before taking 4th of July week off. The grand finale will be a grueling 20-deck ordeal on July 25. In a recent contribution to fan site MWCConnection.com, former defensive lineman Elliot Hoyte said, “When I hear the phrase ‘decks’ even to this day, my stomach develops a pit.” And “Pit” means Pitman, no doubt.

R.I.P. MIKE BRADESON

In Reno, Mike Bradeson was known as a longtime Nevada assistant coach whose career spanned several head coaches, including Chris Ault. In Boise, he was known as a starter on Boise State’s 1980 Division I-AA national championship team who was one of that squad’s most important leaders before starting his coaching career with the Broncos. Bradeson has lost a long, fierce battle with cancer at the age of 60. He was actually on the staff at both UNLV and Nevada and coached in 25 Fremont Cannon games, more than any other person. And when Bradeson was diagnosed with cancer just after he lost his job when Brian Polian’s staff was dismissed, the Wolf Pack took care of him by keeping him on as a community relations representative, connecting with former Nevada athletes. It was a classy move.

FAST-FORWARDING WITH ALLIE O

The year 2020 is shaping up to be a crazy one for Allie Ostrander. Imagine the possibilities next year after her dominant performance in winning her third straight national championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last Saturday. Not only can Ostrander go for an historic four-peat in the NCAA steeple, she can take serious aim at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Allie stuck her toe in the water in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, finishing eighth in the 5,000-meters. Not to ignore the rest of 2019. There might be more in store before the Boise State superstar’s cross country season. Ostrander told KTVB’s Will Hall that Bronco coach Corey Ihmels may try to get her entered in the Prefontaine Classic at Stanford this month and the U.S. Track & Field Championships next month to keep the momentum going.

AKOT IS ABOARD AS A BRONCO

Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot arrived in Boise last Friday and is enrolled in Boise State summer classes. Now, will he be an active member of the 2019-20 Broncos? It’s still possible that Akot would be granted a waiver for immediate eligibility based on the tumult in the Wildcats program—former Arizona assistant Book Richardson was sentenced to three months in prison last Thursday in the ongoing college hoops bribery scandal. Akot, who averaged 3.8 points in 17 games for the Wildcats last season, is seen as having huge upside once he gets his second wind in Boise.

AN HISTORIC FORMER BOISE HAWK

With the Boise Hawks fine-tuning themselves for their season-opener Friday night at Salem-Keizer, a former Hawk has made history. Righthanded pitcher Tayler Scott made his big league debut with Seattle last Saturday night—and in the process became the first player from South Africa ever to play in the majors. It didn’t go all that well, as Scott allowed three earned runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings during a 12-3 loss to the L.A. Angels. He did strike out four batters, though. Scott was solid for the Hawks in 2012, starting 15 games and going 5-1 with a 2.52 ERA. The native of Johannesburg was a fifth-round pick of the Cubs in 2011. Scott is the second Boise alum to make his debut this season; the other, Yonathan Daza, was brought up by the Rockies in April. Daza was a Hawk in 2015.

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June 12, 2014, five years ago today: Emma Bates becomes the first Boise State female athlete to win a national outdoor title at the NCAA Track and Field Championships. Bates, the most decorated track and field athlete in school history to that point, won the 10,000-meter run by 64-hundredths of a second over Alabama-Birmingham’s Elinor Kirk at Hayward Field in Eugene. Bates’ time of 32:32.35 was the fastest at nationals in 26 years and the second-fastest all-time at the meet.

(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.)

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Ostrander Is The Most Accomplished Bronco Ever

BY BOB BEHLER

Watching Allie Ostrander compete at the NCAA Track and Field Championships this weekend, we saw the Broncos’ most accomplished athlete make it look easy. She won the 3,000 meter steeplechase for the third year in a row, pulling away from the field over the last two laps, as all of her rivals dropped back one by one. Looking more winded than she did after Thursday’s qualifying race, her post-race interview was priceless describing herself as “hot” but not in the attractive way.  Allie was in control of everything including her post-race interview.

It is very difficult to rate the abilities and accomplishments of an athlete in one sport against one in a different sport. In my career, I have been asked to serve on both Hall of Fame committees and vote for year end awards for an entire athletic department. When casting my ballots, I would first rate how an athlete stacked up with others in the conference and nationally in their sport and then compare them with how the other athletes stacked up in their sport. Watching what she has been able to do, at 5’1″ she stands the tallest.

Individual sports are easier to gauge, because you don’t have to account for great teammates helping your legacy or have to factor how much better they would be with with a more talented supporting cast. Allie is on the track alone. Her time is her time and in the end, we know exactly what she is capable of doing. She is the best in her event three years running and has qualified for multiple events at the NCAA Championships. Last year, Boise State had two first-round draft picks, but neither would have been viewed as the best nationally at their position. The Broncos inducted Gabe Wallin in school’s last athletic Hall of Fame class for winning back-to-back national javelin titles. Ostrander has now won three of them and very likely will be favored to do something only five women have ever done in NCAA track and field and that is win their event four times.

Monday at 2 p.m., Chris Lewis and I will visit with the three-time NCAA champ. We’ll ask her about making her move and what the future has in store for her. Join us or come back to www.ktik.com later Monday and listen.

Bob Behler, the Voice of the Broncos, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @BSUBob (Twitter).

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SCOTT SLANT: The MW new year arrives early – very early

Presented by CLEARVIEW CLEANING.
Friday, June 7, 2019.

(TOM SCOTT’S COLUMN WILL RETURN WEDNESDAY)

Whoever is in first place after the first week of conference play in Mountain West men’s basketball next season will stay there for almost four weeks. Guaranteed. That’s because the league schedule begins with two game isolated in early December. And that’s because the Mountain West Tournament had to be moved up a week in March due to the CONEXPO-CON/AGG International Construction Trade Show taking over Las Vegas March 10-14. Boise State opens MW play at New Mexico three weeks before Christmas, the earliest conference game in Bronco history. That will be followed by a home game in ExtraMile Arena against Colorado State on December 7. Conference action won’t resume until New Year’s Day.

The Pit in Albuquerque is dicey enough. But December 4? “I hate the fact that we start league that early—that’s hard,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. Rice pointed out that the Broncos won’t have Oregon transfer Abu Kigab available until the end of the first semester. Normally that would be in time for conference games, but not first these first two next season. Other nuggets from the Mountain West schedule: the teams Boise State skips next season are Fresno State (at home) and Colorado State (on the road). The Boise State women flip-flop on the locations the first week of December and on the skipped opponents. Boise State’s two byes come on January 22 and on February 29, the final day of the regular season.

ALL-IN ON THE NEW THREE-BALL

Rice also talked more about the new, deeper three-point line in NCAA men’s basketball. He remembered thinking, “Scoot up—get on the line, get on the line!” when Boise State’s Derrick Alston would take aim from 23 feet out last season. Now, the extra space can pay off for Alston. “He’s already been shooting a lot of these,” said Rice. Alston connected on 38 percent from beyond the arc last season. Justinian Jessup is built for the longer distance, too. “Alston is about 6-9, and Jessup’s 6-6,” added Rice. “They’re not just little guys trying to get it there.”

CORD’S REHAB ON A ROLL

Bryan Harsin’s update on Boise State quarterback Chase Cord on Idaho SportsTalk Wednesday has gained some traction. “He’s been doing some of the runs out there, so he looks good,” said the coach of Cord, who tore his ACL in practice last October. The goal was to get him back in time for fall camp, and Harsin said there’s no reason Cord shouldn’t be. He has a brace on his knee, and he’s not full-speed yet—but he has two months to go. Call it cautious optimism. “Before we cut him loose, we need him to be right,” Harsin said. True freshman Hank Bachmeier got massive amounts of hype going into spring football. But reality set in coming out. Bachmeier will have a learning curve, whie Cord has been in the Boise State program for two years and has meaningful game experience. And he played well.

THE TRUE FRESHMEN BALANCING ACT

As you know, the redshirt rule changed last year in college football, allowing qualifying players to appear in four games without losing a year of eligibility. Mike Wittman of Mountain West fan site MWCConnection.com has put together a good analysis on how it worked for key true freshmen in the conference. In the case of Boise State, all was well with wide receiver Khalil Shakir, even though he missed the final four games of the season. Writes Wittman: “He showed he belonged, gaining 240 yards between (receiving) and rushing to go along with two touchdowns, and is primed for a breakout year.” In Wittman’s eyes, running back Andrew Van Buren was on the other side of the coin. “He only got 34 touches, just under four touches a game,” Wittman writes. “Was it enough for a year of eligibility?”

ONE STEP CLOSER IN THE STEEPLE

Allie Ostrander breezed through her prelims heat in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Thursday night at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, TX. The Boise State superstar advances to Saturday’s final, seeking to become only the 15th woman in NCAA history to have won the same event three years in a row at nationals. And just 90 minutes after the steeple, she’ll race in the 5,000-meters final. Ostrander still appeared fresh when she finished Thursday, turning around to congratulate exhausted fellow competitors and help some of them who struggled across the finish line in the oppressive heat. The Broncos’ Kristie Schoffield also advanced to the 800-meter final, while Alexis Fuller fell short in the 1,500. Fuller ends her Boise State career as a five-time All-American.

HEAD START ON THE HAWKS ROSTER

I can’t recall the Boise Hawks ever releasing their Opening Night roster this early, as a lot always happens between the MLB Draft and the Northwest League season, which doesn’t begin for another week. But the initial list is out. There are nine Hawks returnees at the outset, the most familiar and productive of which are infielders Daniel Jipping and LJ Hatch. Jipping hit .285 last season with 10 home runs and 33 runs batted in. Hatch collected 41 hits in the 42 games he played for Boise.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!

June 7, 2012: Boise State’s Kurt Felix wins the national title in the decathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, IA. Felix, already ticketed to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London to represent Grenada, won the competition by 106 points. He became the fourth Bronco ever to win an individual title at outdoor nationals, joining Jake Jacoby in the high jump in 1984, Eugene Greene in the triple jump in 1991, and Gabe Wallin in the javelin in 2004 and 2005. He has since been joined by Emma Bates in the 10,000-meters in 2014—and, of course, Allie Ostrander in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2017 and 2018.

(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.)

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SCOTT SLANT: The L.A. Bowl is a lateral goal

Presented by BUSTERS GRILL AND BAR.
Thursday, June 6, 2019.

The piecemeal announcements of bowl changes and affiliation switches this week leave the Mountain West mostly in the same boat. It’s a Group of 5 thing. The conference, as expected, will lose the Las Vegas Bowl after this year, as that game moves to the new Raiders stadium in 2020 and will feature the Pac-12 against a rotation of the SEC and Big Ten. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Bowl appears to be official, and in 2020 it will become the Mountain West’s flagship bowl game in the new Rams and Chargers stadium in Inglewood. The matchup will be the same as Vegas, with a mid-level Pac-12 team filling the other slot. It’s the best possible outcome, all things considered—L.A. will be the only one of the Pac-12’s eight bowl tie-ins that doesn’t include a Power 5 opponent.

The Mountain West presently has six bowl tie-ins, the same as last year. And six was not the magic number in 2018. There were seven bowl-eligible teams, and Wyoming was left out in the Laramie cold. When a deal was worked out to send Boise State to Dallas for the First Responder Bowl, a spot theoretically opened up in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. But the Cowboys had played in the blue turf event the previous season, and ESPN owns both bowls. So the Worldwide Leader was behind the switch to BYU in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and you can bet Pokes fans are still unhappy. Sure, it would be nice if the Mountain West could secure a seventh bowl game to avoid this kind of thing, but if you’re 6-6, rolling the dice with the postseason. Bowl teams should have winning records anyway, shouldn’t they?

DEEP JUST GOT DEEPER

The NCAA men’s basketball rules committee wants to open up the game and has voted to extend the three-point line back to the the international distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches. The change is effective with the upcoming season. That’s about 1 1/3 feet beyond the current line. That will benefit pure shooters and weed out the more streaky ones. The purist among the three-point marksmen on Boise State’s roster is Justinian Jessup. The senior can hit from that deeper range—and this move will make him harder to defend. The women’s line will remain at 20 feet, 9 inches. However, the NCAA will experiment with it at the new men’s distance in the 2020 postseason, including the NCAA Tournament. There’ll be a sudden adjustment required of women’s teams next March. Doesn’t seem fair.

MOUNTAIN WEST ALUMNUS OF THE DAY

Boise State came into the Mountain West in 2011. As Maxwell Smart would say, the Broncos missed Kawhi Leonard by “that much.” Before Leonard was a San Antonio Spurs star, and before he had the falling out with coach Gregg Popovich, and before he became the gamble that has paid off big-time for the Toronto Raptors, Leonard was a San Diego State Aztec. He was recruited by then-SDSU assistant and current Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson. This is 2008, when the Aztecs were on the way up but were not yet a power. But Leonard had no other major scholarship offers in high school, and he became the cornerstone that put San Diego State over the top.

By the time Leonard was a sophomore, San Diego State was going 34-3 and advancing to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. And Leonard decalred for the 2011 NBA Draft, where he became the 15th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers—traded to the Spurs on draft night. Now he’s a candidate for NBA Finals MVP. In the postseason, he has averaged 30 points per game. And guess what. Wednesday night Leonard scored 30 points in the Raptors’ 123-109 win over the Warriors in Game 3. So how smart was San Diego State? Well, a year before signing Leonard, the Aztecs had passed on offering a scholarship to a guy named Damian Lillard.

ALLIE O IS READY TO GO

Allie Ostrander has always handled pressure well. Will the Boise State star feel the hype as she tries to become the first Bronco ever to win three national championships? The quest begins tonight, as Ostrander runs in the 3,000-meter steeplechase prelims at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, TX. It’s going to be oppressively hot on the track, but Ostrander figures everybody else has to run in it, too. Boise State’s Kristie Schoffield and Alexis Fuller compete in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter prelimins, respectively, tonight. Footnote: It’s been 20 years now since the NCAA Championships were hosted by Boise State in what is now Albertsons Stadium. They were also held adjacent to the blue turf in 1994.

MLB DRAFT DIPS INTO BOISE STATE

Well, at least this is an indication that Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol is recruiting the right guys. The new Bronco program hasn’t played a game yet, but it has already lost a signee to the MLB Draft. Former Eagle High star Reed Harrington, a righthanded pitcher, was chosen in the 20th round Wednesday by the Boston Red Sox. Harrington told KTVB’s Jay Tust he intends to sign with the BoSox. He did not allow a single earned run in 25 2/3 innings as a closer this season at Spokane Falls Community College. Infielder Torin Montgomery, another Bronco commit, was drafted in the 35th round by Miami, but sources told Tust he still intends to play at Boise State.

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June 6, 1999, 20 years ago today: Seeded 13th and thought by many to be more style than substance, Andre Agassi defeats Andre Medvedev in five sets (after dropping the first two) in the finals of the French Open. With the title, Agassi became only the fifth man to complete a career Grand Slam—joining Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have since accomplished the feat. Agassi was also the first to do it on three different surfaces: clay, grass and hardcourt (Federer and Nadal have joined him there as well).

(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.)

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SCOTT SLANT: Into the Blue Turf history book

Presented by CLEARVIEW CLEANING.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

Boise State’s iconic blue turf, 2019 style, is ready for prime time. The new carpet will be introduced to the public this evening during an Open House at Albertsons Stadium. This is the sixth edition of the Blue, replacing the version that had lasted nine seasons (maybe a year too long, if you ask a certain disgruntled BYU quarterback). The first two iterations were AstroTurf, the sandpaper-like surface infamous for rug burns. The shortest stint for a blue turf run was two years. The 2008 field was shiny during night games in the rain, never moreso than in a Thanksgiving weekend showdown with Nevada in 2009 (when Kellen Moore outdueld Colin Kaepernick). It looked almost silver on ESPN2, and a new carpet was laid in 2010. I don’t know what the new turf will look like in the rain, but it sure looks good in the sun.

Fans can buy chunks of the old blue turf after all—one square foot for $39.95. It’ll be first-come, first-served today, as only 500 pieces are available. Think about the games that have been played on that little piece of history. In fact, the very first one should be enough. It was the 2010 contest against No. 24 Oregon State, won 37-24 by the third-ranked Broncos. A 94-degree late September day was capped by an ABC telecast with Brent Musberger in the booth. And you know how it started. ESPN’s College GameDay was on the blue before the crack of dawn, and 13,250 fans got up early to join them. Remember the celebrity picker? Picabo Street.

IRREPRESSIBLE HORTON WILL CARVE HIS PATH

If you follow former Boise State cornerback Tyler Horton on Twitter, you’ll see that he’s always about staring down adversity. Horton, an undrafted fee agent, has been released by the Miami Dolphins, but he apparently has a plan. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Horton’s agent, Barry Gardner, said “Horton informed the Dolphins he would like to pursue a law enforcement career in his hometown of Fresno. He has begun applying to police academies.” That might be it for football. Horton was a solid performer and a great leader for the Broncos. He scored three defensive touchdowns last season, included the game-turning 99-yard pick-six at Nevada. But Horton wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine—and then was dogged by a 4.72-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Broncos’ Pro Day.

DIAMOND DOINGS – ONE OF ‘EM STICKY

It’s hard to look at this and think there isn’t a big cloud over the Downtown Boise stadium project. On April 15, Boise State outlined a series of requirements that “could provide the financial and logistical incentive to consider joining” the project. But the university said it was still looking at an on-campus ballpark for its revived baseball program. And Boise State doubled-down on that Tuesday, announcing that its focus will be on its own facility on Beacon Street south of Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos will play at Memorial Stadium next year, but they want to be in their own place in time for 2021. And the way things are going, the Greenstone Properties project can’t possibly happen by then.

Fresno State just missed on the NCAA Super Regionals, falling to Stanford 9-7 Monday night. But it was a banner year for Mountain West baseball. The conference had two players selected in the first round of the MLB Draft Monday for the first time since 2013, as UNLV shortstop Bryson Stott was selected No. 14 overall by Philadelphia and Bulldogs pitcher Ryan Jensen was taken with the No. 27 pick by the Chicago Cubs. More inspiration for the new Boise State baseball program, which added junior college pitcher Dawson Day on Tuesday. Day was the Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year with Mount Hood Community College after striking out 104 batters in 60 innings.

How it affects the 2019 Boise Hawks remains to be seen, but at the top of the Colorado Rockies’ draft list was first baseman Mike Toglia of UCLA, the 23rd overall pick in the draft. The Rockies tried to get him as a 35th-rounder out of Gig Harbor, WA, three years ago. It was certainly worth the wait for Toglia. In the second round, Colorado chose Georgia third baseman Aaron Schunk with the 62nd overall pick. Members of the initial Hawks roster will arrive in Boise on Thursday, with the season beginning a week from Friday at Salem-Keizer. Locally, BYU shortstop Jackson Cluff, a Rocky Mountain grad, was drafted in the sixth round by the Washington Nationals. Cluff said he’ll forego his senior season in Provo to sign with the Nationals.

MAS DE ESPANA PARA LOS BRONCOS

The Spanish connection continues for Boise State women’s basketball. Marta Hermida is gone, but coach Gordy Presnell has signed Laia Soler from Mataro, Spain, to his 2020 recruiting class. Soler, who holds dual Spanish and Chilean citizenship, is the third 2020 signee, joining Chinma Njoku and Kimora Sykes. Soler has spent the last three seasons with Segle XXI of Spain’s Liga Feminina 2 (women’s second division). There will be opportunities on the Broncos’ squad in 2020-21. The two-time defending Mountain West champions will be senior-heavy next season, with Riley Lupfer, Braydey Hodgins, Jayde Christopher, A’Shanti Coleman and Ellie Woerner.

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June 5, 2016: Novak Djokovic finally puts a French Open trophy in his case with his 11 other titles in tennis’ major tournaments. Djokovic beat Andy Murray in four sets on the red clay of Roland Garros to become the eighth man in history to complete a career Grand Slam. The Serbian star finally triumphed after having reached the French Open final in three of the previous four years. Djokovic also became only the third player to win four straight majors, joining old-time legends Rod Laver and Don Budge.

(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.)

Scott Slant sponsor sites:

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