This Day In Sports: A painful day on the Boise State campus

April 18, 2017: Boise State announces the end of one of its mainstay programs dating back to the Boise Junior College days. The university dropped wrestling in order to begin the process of reinstating baseball. Since 1988, the wrestling program had been competing as an affiliate member of the Pac-12, where it won six conference championships and regularly appeared in the national rankings until the early part of the new century. Although this move seemed possible if the Broncos were ever to pursue a baseball program, there was no hint it was coming.

A lot of people were upset over this, but it was permanent. There was an uproar over the demise of wrestling at Fresno State in 2006, and rabid boosters helped raise enough money to temporarily reinstate the sport 12 years later. But it didn’t quite see a similarly passionate push in Boise. And so ended a sport that had just three coaches over its final 46 seasons: the legendary Mike Young for 31 years (1972-2002), Greg Randall for 14 more years until he was fired in 2016, and Mike Mendoza during the Broncos’ final season.

Baseball had been discontinued at Boise State after the 1980 season, but it was the only Mountain West-sponsored sport the Broncos didn’t offer. The school hired former Boise Hawks manager Gary Van Tol as its first coach seven months later, and the preparations began for a 2020 debut. The home opener happened on a remarkably mild night on the last day of February, with the Broncos beating Northern Colorado 4-0 before 3,279 enthusiastic fans at Memorial Stadium. A couple weeks later, Boise State was rolling along at 9-5, and then COVID stopped it cold.

On July 2 came the gut-wrenching announcement that the Boise State baseball program had been eliminated (along with women’s swimming and diving). GoFundMe campaigns were set up for both sports, and it went well for a while. But the administration was not going to budge. There’s a theory that had Jeramiah Dickey been athletic director at the time, he would have figured out a way to save baseball. But Dickey has downplayed that notion. Baseball was a lot more expensive than wrestling, and because it required more athletes, it created some Title IX problems. So, to this day, Boise State is without both sports.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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