Friday, October 2, 2009

Tick Tock Tick Tock

So as many folks know, one of the things I do is scour the net with Google Alerts and things for stuff about Idaho State. Sometimes I find out things from the ISU message board, the Bengal Den (no big shocker there). It was there I was tipped off to this dumb editorial by the Twin Falls it is from Monday...

Please Make it Stop: Send Bengals to Division II

Idaho State University won't do it on its own, so maybe it's time the State Board of Education forcefully suggested that the Bengals aren't a NCAA Division I-caliber athletic program anymore.

The football team, which has lost 45 of its last 59 games, is 0-4 this season and has been outscored 195-42. The men's basketball team has had one winning season in the past 20.

Students - in the form of fees - pick up much of he cost, but the coaches are paid mostly by the taxpayers.

Which means Idahoans are subsidizing arguably the weakest Division I athletic program in the country.

What's the purpose of continuing this? ISU would save money by downsizing (NCAA Division II schools can award up to 36 football scholarships, as opposed to 63 in the Football Championship Subdivision in which the Bengals now compete.) ISU would fit comfortably in either the Colorado-Springs based Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference or the Spokane, Wash.-based Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

ISU has been through six football coaches since the last successful one - Dave Kragthorpe - and four since the school last won a Big Sky Conference men's basketball championship in 1987. None of them have been able to talk enough Division I-quality athletes into spending four years in Pocatello. And the fans have noticed: 6,200 of Holt Arena's 12,000 seats were empty for Idaho State's home opener against Division II Central Washington University. The Bengals lost 33-22.

This is a college sports program quite literally out of its league. It's time for ISU to become big fish in a much smaller pond.

I'm not against a newspaper having an opinion (I am all for free speech, even when it is truly bizarre, like this or this. However, if you are going to offer up an opinion, and print it in a newspaper...well, please, please, please....make it informed. Get ALL the facts straight, and best of all, print the Letter to the Editor that I sent over as well. That's right....three days, no letter printed. Did I call them out on their shoddy journalism and lack of factual information? Maybe. Did I prove the point that they are painting the entire athletic program because of football's recent struggles? Hellz yes I did. And since this is the blog of the department, and since apparently the Times-News isn't interested in running this in a timely manner, here is what I sent them. I kinda like it.

On Tuesday, September 29th, the Twin Falls Times-News published an editorial calling Idaho State University “arguably the weakest Division I athletic program in the country.” The Times-News argued this based on very limited facts, mostly because of the poor record in recent years by the ISU football team, but the Times-News did a terrible job of fact checking, because it would have taken just a few minutes to realize that ISU competes very well in the Big Sky Conference and nationally.

Idaho State has been tremendously successful in many sports of the past few years. For example:

*ISU women’s basketball has won Big Sky Conference titles in 2006 and 2007, and they advanced to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT four times in the past six years , including three All-American and a finalist for the national player of the year in Natalie Doma.

*ISU women’s soccer has won four Big Sky titles in the last eight years, and advanced to the round of 32 in the 2006 NCAA College Cup

*Idaho State track and field won three Big Sky titles in the last five seasons, and they have had national qualifiers in indoor and outdoor track in nearly every season in the 2000s.

*Idaho State men’s basketball has won 25 conference games in the last three years, the best three-year stretch since 1976-78, and ISU has not finished below .500 in conference play under Joe O’Brien. Last year, ISU’s win 72-68 win over Utah came of the #3 ranked team in the RPI, ISU’s highest RPI ranked win ever. The basketball team has also been very competitive despite playing non-conference schedules ranked #7, #14, and #1 in the nation the last three years, taking two nationally ranked teams to overtime, and losing at nationally-ranked Wisconsin by two.

*ISU football has had just three winning seasons in the last 10 years, but the team has sent 14 players to NFL camps, and six of those players have seen action in a regular season NFL game. The last two Super Bowls had former ISU Bengals represented on the rosters (Matt Gutierrez with New England and Pago Togafau with Arizona). The Bengals also had 2003’s National Player of the Year in Jared Allen, who in 2008 became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and Jared has generously donated both his time and resources back to Idaho State.

*Over the last five years, Idaho State athletes have spent thousands of hours participating in community events through the P.A.W.S. program (Proud Athletes Working and Serving), including PaintFest, Sacking Hunger with the Idaho Food Bank, the Pocatello Marathon, Wal-Mart’s highway cleanup program, reading to elementary schools, and meeting with children in the Portneuf Diabetes Camp.

*Idaho State softball won 20 games in 2009 in just their third year, and will start play in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference in 2010.

Also, stating that ISU has not had a successful football coach since Dave Kragthorpe is not fair to Jim Koetter, who took ISU to the playoffs in 1983, and to Larry Lewis, who led ISU to a share of the 2002 Big Sky title and is the only coach in school history to lead ISU to back-to-back eight win seasons.

In recent months, private funding and donations have allowed for ISU football to refurbish the entire locker room, to add a high definition video board in Holt Arena, and an electronic display board outside of Holt Arena. Construction will start this winter on Miller Ranch Stadium for softball. Improvements to other ISU athletic facilities are due to be announced in the upcoming months, all through private donations.

While it is true that the Idaho State football team has struggled for the past four years in accurate, the football team has had to also deal with budget holdbacks and playing five guarantee games against FBS teams in the last three years, including games with Oregon State, Arizona State, Oklahoma, and Boise State, in order to help raise funds for the entire department. With just six wins over that time span, to state that the entire ISU athletic department is out of its league is just not accurate, especially when a full-time writer from the Times-News has performed one interview or covered one ISU home event in the last 10 years.

It works for me, and I probably left stuff out. Still it shows what a shallow argument they presented, and honestly, they should cover a game or interview someone here before presenting an opinion like that, but sadly, that's where journalism seems to be heading sometimes. We'll see if they ever print that.

Streaking Soccer!

No, not that type of streaking, but here's a little soccer trivia for you...when was the last time the soccer team lost? Would you believe September 6? ISU has won three straight after taking down rival Utah State 1-0 in Logan, with the Bengals scoring on a corner kick (and Annamarie Hofstetter tying the Big Sky career assist record in the process), and sophomore Bailey Williams getting her first shutout of the season as well. The Bengals also have won four of the last five on the road, which is impressive, especially in light of this stat. From November 5, 2006 to August 21, 2009, ISU went 2-16-4 on the road. Two wins on the road in 1,020 days. and now they have four in the last 37. Just goofy.

Volleyball on the road again...

...which might be good as the team went 0-2 last week in their first home matches, although they played the defending regular season champions and the defending tournament champions. Now they head to the Montanas looking to get back on track, with both matches on Big Sky TV.


No, not the football team playing Eastern....the football team going to Georgia. That's a Homecoming for me, as I lived in Augusta for four years prior to coming to ISU. Interesting side note to going there...when I applied for this job, I had never been to a college football game, so I went with my wife to the Georgia-Kentucky game in the rain in 1997 just so I could say I had at least been in a college stadium. And now I get to go back...sweet.

See you all from the press box this weekend!


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