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Thursday, October 23, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Race for second in WAC more important than usual

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



At an athletic administrators conference in Anaheim last month following the announcement of Boise State's 2011 departure for the Mountain West Conference, a Hawaii official asked Broncos athletic director, Gene Bleymaier, if he'd like to schedule a future nonconference series with the Warriors.

Bleymaier, so the story goes, chuckled and kept on walking.

Yes, this, the 10th -- and last -- Western Athletic Conference stand for Boise State, can't end soon enough for the Broncos, who have designs on bigger and better things in the MWC.

Nor, truth be told, can the WAC wait to be rid of Boise State and those humiliating trips to the Smurf turf. The Bowl Championship Series check the Broncos could earn for the conference this year excepted, of course.

The fact is that while the Broncos primp for MWC and envision greener (bluer?) pastures next season, the remaining WAC schools are already trying to position themselves to be the, well, next Boise State. If not a dominator, then at least the favorite for the 2011 championship. The presumptive bull of the neighborhood.

FERD'S WAC POLL

1. Boise State

2. Fresno State

3. Hawaii

4. Nevada

5. Utah State

6. Louisiana Tech

7. Idaho

8. San Jose State

9. New Mexico State

 

With Boise State's reign -- seven WAC crowns won or shared in the last eight years -- ending in December one way or another, the push is on to, if you can't knock off the Broncos, then at least be the power in waiting. Or, make a statement about being one with a strong showing this year.

Gosh knows plenty of teams have been waiting long enough for the opportunity in a conference of too often distant bridesmaids. Consider, for example, that UH is the only other school in the WAC to win an outright title (2007) since Boise began its run. Nevada shared one (2005) with Boise State and Louisiana Tech (2001) snuck in a championship during Boise State's first year in the conference.

Then there is Fresno State, which, for all its talent, hasn't had a piece of a WAC crown since it shared one with UH and TCU in 1999, two years before the Broncos' arrival. Bulldogs coach Pat Hill's next contract, if there is to be one, likely depends on demonstrating potential for a title. As could those of some other coaches, including Nevada's Chris Ault and UH's Greg McMackin.

So, what we have this year are a bunch of Boise State wannabes jostling to rebrand themselves as the program to carry the WAC. And the conference, which must renegotiate terms with ESPN on a new TV contract minus Boise State, hoping one of the remaining teams can emerge as just that.

This year in the WAC the race is likely for second place, again. But, this time, with plenty more riding on it.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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