Sometimes good deeds are rewarded in spades. The Idaho State athletic department took some heat last year when it announced it was moving the Bengals' last two home basketball games this season to Reed Gym in order to accommodate the State High School Wrestling Tournament at Holt Arena. It was the right thing to do for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to accommodate the many hotels and restaraunts that donate to the athletic department, but be that as it may, some folks felt it was wrong to give up ISU's season-long home court advantage at a critical time in the season.
But after two raucus crowds created the best home atmosphere for Bengal basketball all season long in wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona this weekend, some folks were actually proposing that Idaho State move back to Reed Gym permanently. That won't happen, and also for very good reasons, but it was nice to see the athletic department repaid for making the right decision for the right reasons.
Saturday's night win over NAU was an awesome performance in an awesome atmosphere. The two Bengal seniors, Matt Stucki (above) and Lucas Steijn, played memorable games in front of their families. (As Frank noted in his senior night script -- Steijn's flew all the way from the Netherlands to be there for this week's games, while Stucki"s two-month-old son "drove all the way from married housing." That's why I love Frank -- you gotta have a sense of humor to make it in life!) I watched Steijn's mom and dad sitting on the front row across me Saturday night, beaming while Lucas recorded his first double-double ever, a 13-point, 10-rebound effort.
And what a sight it was to see the entire eastern Idaho wing of the Stucki clan gathered in the bleachers under the basket after the game for a group photo. Matt rewarded his family with a tremendous weekend, too -- he recorded 15 assists and no turnovers in the two wins.
Wayne Booker, the Bengals' "Memphis connection" who hooked up Bengal Coach Joe O'Brien with Amorrow Morgan and Sherrod Baldwin, was sitting in the front row Saturday night, too, and he couldn't help but be pleased with the way his homies were enjoying basketball Idaho style. Eric Segert, the Bengals' only recruit last fall, was on the other side of the gym with his family, here "all the way from Florida," and they couldn't have helped but be excited about what the young shooting guard has to look forward to next season, either.
Former Bengal stars David Schroeder and Logan Kinghorn, both Idaho natives, also cheered on their former teammates Saturday night, and to cap off a perfect evening, the crowd was able to root on from afar the ISU women's team, who completed a road sweep with a hair-raising win over NAU in Flagstaff, thereby clinching a berth in the Big Sky women's tournament.
Sometimes things just come together, and you have to think that ISU's decision to defer to the high school wrestling tournament, allow the local high school fans to enjoy the tournament in their backyards, and repay a number of athletic department sponsors contributed to the "karma" of Saturday night.
So Why Not Reed Permanently?
When ISU first moved into Reed, I was one of the more boisterous supporters of the move. I love the intimate feel of it, and when the Bengals are playing well, the place just rocks. But I got married in 2001, and I have learned a lot of things from that experience. Some of them happen to pertain to ISU athletics and to Reed Gym, in particular. No. 1: the parking there is lousy, and it's gotten worse with the construction project. My wife is one of many Pocatellans who likes to arrive fashionably late for games -- like right at the tip-off, and she had to park several blocks away from Reed Saturday night.
No. 2--there aren't enough floor seats at Reed to accommodate all the season ticket holders -- my wife and our family had to sit in the balcony for the Sac State and NAU games, while they normally have floor seats at Holt.
No. 3--the seating at Reed, especially upstairs where there are no chair backs, is very narrow and somewhat uncomfortable -- especially for taller people.
No. 4--Reed doesn't have great bathroom or concession accommodations.
Finally, as I noted in a blog earlier this basketball season, all of the above resulted in ISU seeing a drop in attendance for those years that they played in Reed Gym. Bengal fans spoke, and what they said was, "Back to Holt!"
The good thing is that if/when the Bengals get booted out of Holt on occasion in the future, fans will have this weekend's memories to remind them that Reed can still provide a tremendous college basketball experience under the right circumstances.
Big Changes Coming to Big Sky Athletics
It was only a matter of time until the current economic crisis started to impact athletics in the Big Sky Conference, and it appears the time has arrived. Largely prompted by Northern Arizona, which is experiencing even more dramatic belt-tightening than Idaho State, the league is considering a number of cost-cutting moves. Among them: reducing both the men's and women's post-season basketball tournaments to four teams each; playing a double-round robin league schedule in women's soccer and eliminating the post-season tournament; reducing the women's volleyball post-season tournament to four teams; and reducing the maximum number of people who can travel with the men's basketball teams from 21 to 18.
The league's athletics directors voted in favor of all of those proposals several weeks ago. They will go before the league's presidents for final consideration at the Big Sky meetings in May. I would hate to see the Big Sky reduce its post-season basketball tournaments to just four teams -- it would eliminate several teams from consideration earlier in the season, and make a lot of teams' seasons irrelevant much sooner. But these are drastic times and they are starting to call for drastic measures.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.