SCOTT SLANT: Bronco Nation should see them in person sometimes


Wednesday Weekly: May 18, 2022.

As college spring sports draw to a close, here’s what I think Boise State athletics needs: 1) a home men’s and/or women’s golf event, 2) a home track and field meet and 3) a home cross country meet (for the fall). It’s been a long, long time since home fans have seen any of those.  And that creates a disconnect, even when these programs produce big stars. The Broncos haven’t hosted a spring men’s golf tournament in more than 10 years (it’s been exactly 10 for the women). Hugo Townsend is wrapping up his Boise State career today as the two-time Mountain West Player of the Year, and local fans never got to see him play.  

Distance running great Allie Ostrander may have run a few indoor events in Nampa, but to my knowledge, Bronco Nation never got to see the three-time 3,000-meter steeplechase national champion compete at an outdoor meet. Boise State track and field hosted indoor meets at the Idaho Center through 2019 when the Jackson’s Indoor Track was in operation. At Dona Larsen Park, there have only been a few Border Clash meets (and none since 2019). And it’s been a decade since Boise State hosted a cross country meet. It’s time for these teams to stop toiling in local anonymity. Calling Jeramiah Dickey. (I know he’d react positively to this.)


Khalil Shakir’s first rookie minicamp with the Buffalo Bills was a success last weekend. Shakir stood out right out of the gate. Writes Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic: “He was one of five receivers practicing Friday, and he easily had the best footwork. His quick steps getting into his breakdown during positional drills showed his training, and you could see some of the deceptiveness that he showed on routes at Boise State. He also adjusted well to some less-than-ideal throws during routes while not being defended.” Shakir has long been a fan of star Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs and is anxious to meet him when the time comes. “I’m not the type to sit here and try to be cool,” Shakir told reporters after practice.  “It’s Stefon Diggs, y’know. I’m excited to learn from him, though.”


If the Mountain West ditches dvisions (as expected) and goes to the three permanent conference opponents and five rotating foes (as hoped), who should Boise State’s three permies be? Considering the Broncos’ history with Nevada and Fresno State, those two are naturals. As for the third, many lean toward San Diego State. But I say Utah State. Is there really that much juice in the Broncos-Aztecs rivalry? We like to think there is, but it’s tamer than USU. Aggies fans like to goad Bronco Nation, and last season Boise State fans happily responded with “Scoreboard!” Sure, San Diego’s an awesome place to visit, but Logan is less than 4½ hours away, and the Broncos have traveled as many as 8,000 fans there in the past. (Honorable mention: Air Force.)


If defense wins championships, this is a good thing for Boise State. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg ranks what he feels will be the best college football defenses over the next three years, and he places the Broncos at No. 25. “Coach Andy Avalos not surprisingly has started to upgrade Boise State’s defense, which allowed only 19 points per game in his first season,” writes Rittenberg. “The defense could take a big step in 2022 as many key pieces return, especially in the front seven.” He points out that junior college transfers Deven Wright and Cortez Hogans were ESPN’s No. 2 and No. 4 juco defensive end prospects this season. And all five defensive backs who recorded multiple interceptions last year return. (Don’t let the fact that San Diego State is No. 16 discourage you.)


Did you see this on Twitter from Boise State defensive tackle Ahmed Hassanein? “The culture that built the Great Pyramids of Egypt reminds me of the one that built the Boise State Broncos,” he wrote. “Both were built on solid foundations, through hard work and discipline, enabling them to achieve greatness, make history, and leave legacies that will last forever.” Then there’s a photo of Hassanein standing on a pyramid wearing a Broncos T-shirt and displaying a Boise State flag. He grew up in Egypt and didn’t arrive in the United States until August of 2018 to live with his brother in Orange County. It was then that he was introduced to football. Hassanein, now a 6-3, 290-pound sophomore for the Broncos, is the definition of upside. And the definition of grateful.


I am on the lookout for this book. Al Borges, the veteran offensive coordinator who was at Boise State with Pokey Allen when the Broncos made the 1994 Division I-AA championship game, has written a book based on his time at Auburn called “Deny Of The Tiger.” It’s about the 2004 team that was denied a spot in the BCS championship game despite going undefeated. Borges reached out to Boise State fans late last week to make sure they know this: “I talk about our big win against Idaho in 1994 and my feeble attempt to tear down the goal post.” Anyone who was around then knows exactly what he’s talking about. In the pandemonium following the Broncos’ 27-24, Borges climbed the goal post in the north end zone. And, as fans tried to help him up, he was lucky he didn’t lose his pants.


I did not want this to go by unnoticed. Former Boise State basketball coach Bobby Dye, happily retired in Carlsbad, CA, for more than 20 years, turned 85 years old Monday. Thirty-five years ago, Dye produced the first truly great hoops season in Bronco history, going 23-7 and winning the program’s first game in the NIT. The following year Boise State had the program’s best season to that point, a 24-6 record punctuated by a Big Sky championship and a narrow loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. That was not topped until this year. The Bobby Dye era was the heyday of Boise State basketball support, with crowds of 10,000-plus regularly flocking into the BSU Pavilion. Athletic director Jeramiah Dickey is aiming to get back to that.


Troy Merritt now knows his itinerary in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa. The former Boise State star will tee off at 6:11 a.m. Mountain time on Thursday, hoping the ice water stays in his veins. It’s been mostly there this year as Merritt played his way into his 11th career major. He’s 52nd in FedExCup standings, with six top 25 finishes (including two ties for fourth). Merritt has more than $1.44 million in winnings this season. This will be his fourth PGA Championship—he hasn’t made the cut in that tournament since his first appearance in the event in 2015.


Back to Hugo Townsend and Boise State men’s golf. The Broncos’ second consecutive trip to NCAA Regionals has them still in 11thplace with 18 holes to go in Bryan, TX. Townsend’s status as the first Bronco in history to win conference golfer of the year honors twice in a career finds him slipping to 17th in individual standings after a two-over 74 on Tuesday, with temperatures in the mid-90s. Oregon State’s Carson Barry, the former Rocky Mountain High star, made a big move in the second round, going from 11th to fourth after a three-under 69.


After a 2-0 morning loss to the host team, the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, the College of Idaho softball team rebounded Tuesday with an 8-0 victory over Ottawa University of Kansas to earn a spot in the NAIA Opening Round Championship today in Chickasha, OK. The Yotes have a rematch with USAO today for the title and a berth in the NAIA Tournament. In baseball, Northwest Nazarene is set to open play Thursday at the NCAA Division II West Regional in San Diego. The Nighthawks face Cal Poly Pomona—with a win they’d take on top-seeded Point Loma.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON BOISE…fresh breakfast and brunch every day!

May 18, 1997, 25 years ago today: Karl Malone, who helped the Utah Jazz win a franchise record 64 games, is voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, edging Michael Jordan. In his 12th season with the Jazz, the Mailman averaged 27.4 points and 9.9 rebounds—and was also selected to the NBA’s All-Defensive team. Malone would play six more seasons with the Jazz before finishing his 19-year career with the L.A. Lakers in 2003-04. With 36,928 career points, he is the third-leading scorer in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 


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