Wednesday, June 17, 2009

State Board to Consider O'Brien Contract

The State Board of Education will consider a number of athletics-related topics when it meets in Hailey today and tomorrow, including Idaho State's request to approve basketball Coach Joe O'Brien's (right) new three-year contract. If you're into contract trivia, go to the state board's web site and click on the agenda for this week's meeting: You can see what a coach's contract looks like in all its gory detail.

Key attributes of O'Brien's new pact: base pay of $102,000, with stipends for radio and television appearances set at $22,500 for next season, $25,000 the next year and $27,500 for the final season; the contract includes a buy-out clause if O'Brien were to leave the program, including the entire value of the contract if he leaves prior to March 11 of next year; $20,000 if he goes between March 12 of 2010 and April 30 of 2011; and $10,000 if he departs between May 1, 2011 and May 1, 2012; and a whole raft of potential incentives related to academic progress of his team, attendance, number of wins, conference championships and coach of the year awards.

In addition to O'Brien's contract, the board will also consider a new deal for former Bengal women's basketball Coach Jon Newlee which would extend his current gig at the University of Idaho to five years, retroactive to last year. Newlee's pact includes an annual salary of $90,000, $15,000 a year in media appearance fees, and a whole list of potential incentives similar to O'Brien's.

Each university in Idaho will submit its financial plan for athletics for the upcoming fiscal year. This always provides some interesting insights into the financial conditions of the three Division I programs in the state and the raw data is also available at the State Board web site. It's recommended reading for anyone who wants to really understand how these athletic programs function and who pays the bills.

Broncos Consider More "Money Games"

While we're on the topic of athletic department finances, today's Idaho Statesman has an interesting article that talks about the changes Boise State's athletic department is undergoing in these difficult financial times: (There is a brief mention of some changes Idaho State is making, as well). Among the BSU changes: Bronco administrators are now considering playing annual guarantee games in football, something they have been very selective about in the past. Columnist Brian Murphy lists the six BCS schools who have openings on their upcoming schedules that he'd most like Boise State to play: At the top of the list? Notre Dame.

Montana Eliminated from Playoff Host Consideration?

If you read the Montana message boards, you'll note there is a good deal of consternation about a quote from an NCAA official who says, in essence, that Montana schools may not be able to host NCAA playoff football games in the future because the state lottery sponsors a fantasy football league tied to the NFL. Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton says his reading of the NCAA rules indicates they would not impact either Montana or Montana State hosting a football playoff game, because that is an "earned right," but might keep the state from getting a pre-determined championship, like skiing: Fullerton says there will be further discussion of this topic with NCAA officials. This one will be interesting to follow in the future.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal, it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gody's Coming Back to Notre Dame

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey "tweeted" today that his star forward, Luke Harangody (right) will pull his name out of the upcoming NBA draft and return to the Irish for his senior season. That means "Gody," a 6-8 All-American forward, will be on the floor when Idaho State travels to South Bend to play the Irish next season. Idaho State has not announced its full basketball schedule yet, but Coach Joe O'Brien has acknowledged that the Fighting Irish will be on it.

--Brad B.

That's a Big Number

Anyone want to guess what CML is? True, true, it's got a bunch of different meanings in computing, and if you play the marimba, you would know all about the Classical Marimba League, which is all about the marimba baby! (as a percussion player, I'm all for a little marimba love). But alas, the CML I'm thinking about is the roman numeral for the number 950. So what's that got to do with ISU athletics? Well, 950 is the approximate number of high school football players that were involved in the ISU Football Camp on campus last week, basically 18 high school teams. Want to venture how many of those were from Idaho? Naysayers? Anyone? Bueller? Try seventeen. Yes, 17 of the 18 teams on campus last week were from Idaho.

Yeah....Zamberlin doesn't recruit Idaho....

Speaking of Idaho
Nice bit of news with the announcement that Josh Hill originally out of Blackfoot High School is going to be a Bengal. With ISU thin on experience at the tight end position and with the departure of the graduated Trevor Messersmith, Hill has a short to see plenty of action as a freshman. He redshirted last year at Boise State, so he is a 4-for-4 guy, meaning he has four years of eligibility, and four years to play those. Good stuff for the Bengals there...his size is legit.

The long national search and nightmare is over
So being the administrator for soccer and softball, I was the fortunate guy that had to chair the national search for a softball coach to replace Larry Stocking. Andrea Wilson was the interim last year, and after an exhaustive search that has taken quite a while, Andrea was named the permanent head coach literally minutes ago. Congrats now have to go out to her assistant Shelly Prochaska, who now is on board full-time as well with the announcment. Those two took a team that went a combined 17-59 over the past two years and went 20-21 this year, defeating an NCAA Tournament team in Kent State (three-time MAC champs) along the way.

Next year, the softball team joins the Mountain Division of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, and the team went 10-6 against future PCSC members last year, and they have a solid shot at a championship run in them. Things are moving as well on the Miller Ranch Park front, but we always have the only manually operated scoreboard in Division I, so that's something.

After all that work, I needed to relax with my wife. I needed to laugh with my wife. This was the perfect remedy.

I'm working on a Facebook group thing for ISU, that hopefully I can post stories there for folks (I am now posting my stories there). I get way more comments there than I do here, which is sorta funny.

To Paul Shahen, my only other hockey lovin' buddy around here, who got to watch his Penguins hoist the Cup. As a goalie, I can only guess what Marc Andre-Fleury was thinking at the tail end of this sequence to win the thing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Looking Ahead No. 2: Oklahoma

As I prepared to write this preview of the Idaho State-Oklahoma football game coming up Sept. 12 in Norman, I struggled for a way to really put the enormity of this mismatch into context. I honestly couldn't come up with one fact or statement that captured it all, so I offer a series of bullets that will hopefully give you a flavor for what the Bengals are up against:

Oklahoma will be led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Sam Bradford (above), who, in his two seasons at the Sooner helm, has thrown for 86 touchdowns (against only 16 interceptions), and over 7,800 yards. Idaho State has never taken the field against a Heisman Trophy winner -- or as accomplished a quarterback as Bradford.

The Sooners will field two 1,000-yard rushers in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, who are rated the Nos. 2 and 6 best backs in the country, respectively, by the esteemed college football analyst Phil Steele. ISU, by contrast, returns one back (Clint Knickrehm) who has ever recorded a carry in college football. The Poky High graduate ran for 456 yards last year.

According to Steele's national position rankings, the Sooners have the best quarterback, two of the top 10 runningbacks, the best tight end, two of the top 35 defensive ends, two of the top 11 defensive tackles, and one of the 15 best linebackers in college football. Idaho State, meanwhile, returns no one who even made second team all-Big Sky Conference last year.

Most NFL draft pundits figure the Sooners will have at least four first-round picks come next April: Bradford, Murray, tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Idaho State has never had a No. 1 draft pick and hasn't had anybody taken in the NFL draft at all since Jared Allen was selected in the fourth round by Kansas City in 2004.

Finally, here's a little off-the-field nugget to chew on: according to figures that Idaho State submitted to the State Board of Education in February, ISU football generated $196,636 in ticket sales for all of the 2008 season. Oklahoma, which routinely sells out its 82,000-seat stadium, sells 71,000 season tickets to the general public every year, at $375 a pop -- that's over $26 million in revenue.

Clearly, Oklahoma, with its seven national championships, five Heisman Trophy winners and stable of All-American, draft-worthy stars will be the most-storied, most-talented opponent Idaho State has ever faced. And unfortunately, this version of the Bengals is right in the midst of a painful rebuilding project that features little proven talent, even at the FCS level, four wins over the last two seasons, and no road wins since 2006.

So, why, you ask, are the Bengals subjecting themselves to this? Well, the half a million dollars Oklahoma will pay Idaho State to show up will repesent about one-fourteenth of Idaho State's athletic revenues for the upcoming fiscal year. That one pay-day will be the fourth single largest source of income for ISU's athletics department this coming fiscal year, behind only state support, student fees and, just barely, advertising and sponsorships, according to the figures ISU submitted to the board.

Back-to-back games against Arizona State and the Sooners to open the 2009 season is hardly what ISU administrators and coaches wanted, particularly in light of the way the program has struggled in recent seasons. But when the athletic department was handed a 12 percent budget reduction for the upcoming fiscal year, interim Athletic Director Jeff Tingey could no longer turn his back to Oklahoma's cash. The good news, if there is any in all this, is that ISU can try to sell recruits on big-name opponents, and the players will get the experience of a lifetime competing against all-American talent in a revered college football venue. The potential bad news -- injuries and an embarrassing blow-out on the national stage, go without saying.

Here's hoping the economy and Idaho State's football program can both improve enough that the Bengals can avoid such mismatches in the future, or least be better prepared for them when they come around.

--Brad B.

It ain't always easy being a Bengal, but it's always fun.