Sports

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Courtesy Boise State Media Relations
Kevin Keane (46) long snapping the ball against Tennessee-Martin. Keane earned a scholarship during fall camp.

Kevin Keane only wishes to remain unseen: he’s doing his job if nobody knows his name.

“It’s a good game if you’re not mentioned at all,” said Keane, the Boise State long snapper. “It’s a good season if you’re not mentioned at all. I sort of like to be the invisible guy.”

Being the invisible guy was not in the cards for Keane – Boise State took notice of the junior walk-on and offered him a scholarship at the tail end of fall camp.

During a team meeting, head coach Bryan Harsin told Keane he might want to join the seniors in their senior talks. The coaching staff was having trouble with Keane’s eligibility, stemming from a medical redshirt he received as a freshman. They were unsure if he would be able to return for another season.

With his frustrations visible, Keane took his seat with the seniors. It was then that Harsin revealed the eligibility issues were just a ruse to fool Keane.

“He said he had two things for me,” Keane said. “The first thing was that it was false. The second thing was I was on scholarship. I sort of just broke down.”

Keane originally transferred to Boise State after starting three games at Division III school Ohio-Wesleyan. He never thought he would one day earn a scholarship.

“It’s nice to be rewarded and recognized for what I’ve been doing,” Keane said. “It was exciting and a special feeling.”

Despite having a scholarship in hand, Keane doesn’t plan on working any less hard.

“Every day at practice, we go out and we try and find something to tweak,” Keane said. “Every day you’re looking for something to work on.”

With all three specialists returning, many expect Boise State’s special teams to be one of the best in the nation.

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Jay Ajayi has thrown his name into the likes of Ian Johnson and Doug Martin as some of the best running backs in Boise State history; something that almost didn't happen.

When Jay Ajayi was a true freshman, he was arrested for stealing a pair of sweatpants from a local Walmart and pleaded guilty to petty theft.

“I was really immature and still doing dumb stuff,” Ajayi said. “Having such a big thing like that happen—it really shook up my world and really made me sit back and say, ‘You’ve got to really smarten up. You’ve got to mature up because you have an opportunity that a lot of people don’t.’”

As a result of this incident, Ajayi was very close to being kicked off the team by then head coach Chris Petersen.

“I had made a mistake and I messed up,” Ajayi said. “There were some consequences and it was a really close decision with Coach Pete. From what he told me that I was almost out of the program.”

Petersen gave Ajayi another chance and allowed him to remain on the team.

“He sat me down, talked to my parents and basically they said they’d give me one more chance and that I had a really thin rope and that I needed to win everyone’s trust back,” Ajayi said. 

“I was just grateful, immensely grateful, for the opportunity to still be here because that would have been a tough situation if I had gotten kicked out.”

If the situation wasn’t bad enough for Ajayi then, a week later he tore his ACL and was again unsure of what his future would hold.

“I felt like I was just useless and I almost went through an identity crisis with ‘what am I without football?’ and stuff like that,” Ajayi said. “But I held onto God, I held onto my family, my friends and my team. I worked through it and it’s good to see looking back at it, seeing what I’ve been through and seeing where I am now.”

Despite everything, Ajayi never once considered giving up.

“I had a lot to prove to myself because I still had not even played college football yet and that was my dream,” Ajayi said. “So for me to have left it would have been just like I did everything through high school and all that for nothing.”

The rest, they say, is history. Ajayi has gone on to prove himself in a big way.

He is coming off a season in which he ran for over 1,400 yards with 18 touchdowns. As a result of his spectacular season last year, he is on both the Doak Walker Award list, given to the nation’s best running back, and the Maxwell Award list for college football’s best player.

The future is indeed looking bright for Ajayi. If Ajayi has another season like he did last year, he not only could come away with a handful of awards, but could also be on his way to the NFL.

He is already on several NFL scouts lists as possibly one of the best running backs in next year’s draft. 

“It’s amazing to be here now and I am very blessed,” Ajayi said. “I’m extremely grateful for what I have been through and the adversity that I have gone through and be where I am now.”

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With Demarcus Lawerence (8) gone, it falls to Justin Taimatuia (90)to keep the Boise State defensive line intact.

For all of the hype associated with SEC linemen, the Boise State linemen couldn’t care less heading into their matchup against Ole Miss in Atlanta.

“They’re a big SEC offensive line, but we have big linemen too,” said Tyler Horn, senior defensive tackle. “It’s not like we’ve never played a big offensive line before.”

Horn argued that with the drastic improvement of sophomore defensive linemen Kamalei Correa and Gabe Perez, the Broncos will not be at a huge disadvantage against the Rebels.

After blocking against the defensive line every day in practice this fall, offensive lineman Steven Baggett can personally attest to the pressure Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will be facing.

“Beau Martin; he’s tough to block on the end,” Baggett said. “Then there’s Tyler Horn and Armand Nance – the whole defensive line over there is pretty good.”

When it comes to skill players, the Broncos and Rebels match up evenly. Wallace and Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick both can make plays in the running game.

The Rebels have sophomore receiver Laquon Treadwell, the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year to combat his Bronco counterparts Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes.

With those even matchups, it falls to the battle for the line of scrimmage to decide who walks out of the Georgia Dome with a victory.

Baggett is up to the challenge. He will be open the season as the starter at right tackle after making two starts in that position last season. 

“There’s, pressure on us for sure,” Baggett said. “That’s why we want to go out there and we want to answer, come to the call, and do the best we can.”   

Despite the offensive line returning only two full-time starters from last season, Baggett believes the unit’s versatility will play into Boise State’s hands.

Starting left guard Travis Averill made three starts at right tackle last season, while starting right guard Mario Yakoo made a start at that same position last year.

“Any three of us can start at any three of those positions, so that’s the nice thing about that,” Baggett said.

Horn also believes the defense is up to the task.

“We always prepare to win,” Horn said. “You can kind of sense that everyone around here expects to win and that we want to win.”

Tackling was a major issue for the Broncos last season. According to defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, that issue was remedied during fall camp.

“I’ve been most pleased with, actually, our tackling,” Yates said. “It still needs to improve a little bit, but I think it’s a lot better than what I thought it was going to be at this point. And then a thing that needs to improve is just talking to each other.”

Horn attributes the improvement in tackling to the coaching staff adding tackling drills to every practice.

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Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice completely altered the team's roster with this year's recruitment class. Long known for playing "small ball", Rice added height to the roster this season.

It is no secret the Boise State men’s basketball team stuggled and ultimately had a disappointing season last year.

 With the loss of both Ryan Watkins and Thomas Bropleh, those struggles could increase exponentially. Head  coach Leon Rice has taken notice.

“We lost our best leaders,” Rice said over the summer.

To address this Rice has recently made some key additions to the men’s basketball program.

The new players include transfers Montigo Alford from the College of Southern Idaho and Kevin Allen from Pratt Community College in Kansas.

The three freshmen include Zach Haney from Houston, Texas, Davod Wacker Converse, Texas, and Chandler Hutchison Mission Viego,  California.

Even though the Broncos are returning with a lot talent, such as Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic, Rice expects it to be a brand new team.

“We got five new guys and it’s amazing how much the landscape and the visual of a team can change with them,” Rice said. “With five new guys, it changes the chemistry, dynamic, and the look of our team and it’s going to be a different team in a lot of ways.”

Last season the Broncos struggled against other teams due to their lack of size. That was something that Rice looked for when recruiting players to join the team.

With Allen, 6’-10”, Haney, 6’-11”, Wacker, 6’-9”, and Hutchison 6’-5, the Broncos have indeed added size to their roster.

“I feel we now have Mountain West size and more Mountain West athleticism,” Rice said. “We have added size, but I don’t feel we compromised our skill level.”

Rice is always concerned on how well new players will adapt to the program.

“Hopefully it doesn’t take as long for these new guys to play well with the others,” Rice said. “I feel these guys are a great fit to the team.”

Time will tell if that is the case.

The Broncos open their season in November.

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Athletic Director Mark Coyle has led a wave of changes since being hired from the University of Kentucky in 2011.

Since being hired in 2011, athletic director Mark Coyle has continued the strong tradition of Boise State athletics, while laying the foundation for future success. Coyle sat down with The Arbiter to discuss the latest movements in the Athletic Department, as well as college athletics on a national level.

Q: Originally got your bachelor’s in English before getting your masters in teaching. How did you end up in Athletic Administration?

A: Well I did my undergrad at Drake University, I also played football there, and truthfully, I wanted to be a English teacher, coach and athletic director at the high school level. When I went to Florida State to get my masters, I kind of fell into the athletic administration side and just kind of fell into it. Knock on wood, I moved myself up that way.

 

Q: Did you ever foresee yourself becoming a college athletic director?

A: I would be lying to you if I said I did. When I was working at the University of Minnesota as the director of marketing and I was elevated to associate athletic director, that’s when I really started thinking about being an athletic director and that being something that I wanted to do. I really enjoy spending time with the student-athletes and watching them compete. I really fell in love with it at that time.

 

Q: A lot has changed for a program that’s enjoyed, for the most part, a lot of consistency. Is that just the nature of college athletics today?

A: Boise State has such a great tradition and a lot of history. Obviously a lot of people know about the football program with it being so dominant over such a long period of time. One of the things I learned when I got here and when I was interviewing for the job, was they have a lot of success in a lot of different sports. In the two and a half years I’ve been here, the gymnastics program has been in the top 25, our wrestling program has had a lot of success, our swimming and diving programs have won 4-out-of-5 championships, men’s tennis has won three straight conference championships and they’ve been to post-season play.

Sometimes I don’t think the public realizes that we’ve had a lot of success across many of our sports. In our track and field program, our women just finished eighth in the country, I think Boise State has such a solid foundation that it helps with that consistency moving forward.

 

Q: Was that one of your goals to try and make the public more aware and not be seen as just a football school?

A: Obviously, we talk about this a lot of the time, you need football in order to be a successful program. It doesn’t matter—wherever you are, having football being successful is such a key part because it drives so much of your revenue with the ticket sales and revenue. I was very fortunate working at Kentucky and Minnesota where those were broad-based programs, and when I had the chance to interview for this job with Bob Kustra, I talked to him about how I wanted to have a broad-based program, where a young man or young woman has Boise State written across their chest and they’re competing for this program. I want to make sure we do a great job of giving them a great experience. Having a broad-based program is definitely important to us.

 

Q: Coming from Kentucky where basketball is such a big part of the program, was it kind of a culture shock to come to Boise State where football was the main driving force?

A: No not really. It’s funny, obviously Kentucky has a rich tradition with basketball, but in the last five years I was at Kentucky, our football team went to a bowl game. There are similarities however. Kentucky had that strong basketball tradition, Boise State had that strong football tradition, but the fan bases are similar. So when I got to Boise State I wasn’t caught off guard.

 

Q: When you were hired, you said one of the first things you did was make a list of potential replacements for Chris Petersen. Do you have a list for Leon Rice now?

A: (Laughs) I have a list for all of our coaches. Obviously, Leon and I have talked a lot and I think it’s a great compliment. It shows you that what he’s doing here is the right thing. Making the NCAA tournament was awesome, but what I’m most proud of is our basketball team keeps having a higher and higher grade point average. I think we’ve had our highest GPAs and APR the last two years with that program. That’s awesome. That’s what I get excited about. Leon is doing things the right way, and obviously coach Petersen was doing things the right way. I can promise you coach Harsin will be doing things the right way. That’s part of the process of doing things in this business.

 

Q: The past few years, we’ve seen a decrease in ticket sales at the now Albertsons Stadium, how much does that worry you?

A: I think it’s a big concern across the country. In fact, I read an article this morning that West Virginia is down season tickets, Michigan is down season tickets, Ohio State is down, so it’s not just a Boise State issue. I think it’s a changing demographic and the students are such a big thing in what we do. When we have 5,000 students in that stadium, that throws so much energy in that stadium, and that’s the future. How we kind of look at it is, how can we engage our students and get them involved so when you all graduate and still want to be a part of our program.

 

Q: As Boise State grows a larger alumni base, is it the goal to keep those alumni engaged in the athletic program?

A: A lot of times, athletics is kind of the elastic band between the alumni. When students graduate from Boise State, they’re here, they go to the football games and their classes, and then they go move on. Now you’re getting your first job and doing some of those things, and you sometimes lose connection with your institution, but the one thing that keeps you connected with your institution, in my mind, is athletics. Oh wait, the Broncos are on TV. They’ve got a football game or whatever it may be.  We’ve worked closely with the alumni association; we’re excited with the new building that’s going in right across the street from the football stadium. We need to develop strong partnerships with them to keep them engaged.

 

Q: For now it looks like conference realignment is going to quiet down for a bit. Do you see Boise State potentially moving to a Power 5 conference sometime down the road?

A: That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t think conference realignment will ever settle. I think, obviously with the Power 5 and the NCAA government structure and some of the dialogue that’s going on at that level, I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear tomorrow if someone did this or someone did that with conference realignment. I think the key for us is we have to continue to grow and do what we’re doing. What I mean by that is, academically, 72% of our student-athletes are at a 3.0 or higher. We’re doing things the right way academically. Athletically are we competing at a high level, yes. We just have to continue what we’re doing and the university has to continue to grow and continue to expand. Those all help us if we decide to switch conferences, but we’re very happy with the MWC. We just need to keep on doing what we’re doing.

 

Q: Boise State has long been known for having their student-athletes succeed in the classroom as well as on the field. How do you maintain that standard of having some of the highest APR scores across the nation?

A: I think it’s the culture that’s been set long before Mark Coyle got here. I think Boise State has always taken great pride in our academics. We have a phenomenal academic staff that works with our student-athletes, we have a phenomenal partnership with campus. The professors work closely with us and our student athletes. I think that’s one of the great things about Boise State. It’s a big institution, but it’s small enough where you can know your professors and have that interaction.

When our coaches recruit kids, we talk about all of the time, they have to be able to fit in athletically and academically, because we want to make sure that when they leave this institution in four or five years, that they have that degree, because that’s going to help them so much more.

Q: It’s been Bronco Stadium for 43 years now, think anyone’s going to have trouble calling it Albertsons Stadium now?

A:  (Laughs) I’m sure there is going to be some sort of transition. Albertsons has had a long-standing relationship with this institution, with the library that they contributed to on campus. We feel very fortunate to be in this situation. Albertsons is a lot like Boise State, kind of roll up your sleeves, work hard, very proud. We’re excited about the relationship. We’re going to start putting up the Albertsons Stadium signs here very shortly to make the conversion to Albertsons Stadium.

 

Q: When you were hired, you said fundraising was a big thing you wanted to work on. Was naming rights for the football stadium one of those things you wanted to work on?

A: Yes. We’ve been working on the naming rights for several years. There have been lots of different conversations with people before I was here, after I came, and again we’re very fortunate to be in this situation with Albertsons because fundraising is such a critical piece. When we’re able to generate those revenues that goes right back to our student athletes and they experience that we want to provide for them.

 

Q: What are some of the major goals you have set for the Boise State Athletic Department in the near future?

A: Again, I think we just want to represent this place in the right way. We take great pride in that. The Bronco Nation has been so good to us. We talk all the time that this program is bigger than any one person. It’s about our student athletes, our history, our tradition: we just want to make sure we continue to serve as a positive window for this university. When our student-athletes are on ESPN and they’re on the radio, FOX sports, CBS sports whatever—when people see Boise State across the country, we want to make sure they see it in the right way.

 

Q: The big thing with college athletics the past several years has been amateur-status athletes getting paid, do you see that providing a big shift in college athletics in the near future?

A: I don’t know if I would say big shift. Obviously the O’Bannon Trial just concluded and the judge is preparing to make a decision on that here the next month. I think collectively, you hear a lot about these NCAA government changes and the Power 5 want to do this, well I can tell you we want to do the same thing. We want to provide for our student-athletes. I think you want to have open and honest dialogue with student-athletes, with other factors just so we provide that first-class experience. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a point where we pay the student-athletes, but I’m excited that we are focusing on the student-athlete. So much over the past few years has been about conference realignment and we have lost focus on the student-athlete. I’m glad we’re getting our focus back onto the student-athlete and provide a great experience for all student-athletes.

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Bow fishing has seen growth over the years. Instead of fishing with a pole, bow fishermen use archery equipment.

Fishing with a pole may soon go out of style as people are now fishing with a bow?

“It’s real popular and everyone that does it can’t believe how fun it is,” said Mark Carson, Idaho Fish and Game District Conservation Officer.

So what is bow fishing exactly?

To bow fish, grab a bow of any kind and attach a reel and a fishing line to the end of it. The arrows are attached to the end of the line,  allowing you to reel the fish like you would with a normal fishing pole.

“Bow fishing is definitely something I would like to try,” junior sociology major Scott Fitzgerald said. “I love to fish, and to shoot my bow and it looks challenging and badass!”

Bow fishing can be done from the shoreline or a boat.

“I like fishing out of a boat because you have more mobility and can cover the water better,” Carson said. “But I have shot thousands of carp from the bank, so it can certainly be done there as well.”

The spring and summer months are the best time to go bow fishing.

“In the springtime (the carp) come up to the shallow waters to spawn and they will all be up in the water that is less then a foot deep,” Carson said.

While there are some formal training classes available, Carson says that students interested in learning to bow fish will most likely learn best by doing.

Carson recommends shooting often and if you are missing a lot aim lower as the  water makes the fish seem higher then they really are.

While bow fishing has indeed caught on it seems that it has a ways to go before it replaces the time tested way of catching a fish.

“While I’d like to try bow fishing, I will most likely continue to fish with my pole and reel,” Fitzgerald said.

Carson highly recommends bow fishing for all avid outdoor enthusiasts: hunters and fishers alike.

“I would do it all the time if I could and I would do it over any other form of fishing or hunting,” Carson said. “It’s just so much fun.

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Jay Ajayi has made a name for himself on the gridiron. What many don't know however, is he was once a star on the pitch.

In another life Boise State  junior running back Jay Ajayi could have been a star on the soccer field instead of  being one on the blue.

Ajayi is one of college football’s most elite running backs and the star of the Boise State football team. Last season he ran for 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is on the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award watch lists, given to college football’s best running back and college player, respectively. But did you know he could have been another type of football star?

“I love football, but soccer is right there up with it,” Ajayi said.

Ajayi could have easily instead been a soccer player for the Nigerian national soccer team.

Before Ajayi moved to the United States from London, he was an avid soccer player with dreams of turning professional.

“My dad at the time knew a lot of guys on the Nigerian national team,” Ajayi said. “Also, one of my coaches in my club team was one of the coaches on the national team and told me if I was serious about trying out, I should talk to him— so I had some opportunities.”

When his dad got a job as an information technologist, Ajayi and his family moved to Texas. It was there, at the age of eight years old, that he picked up the game of football.

“I went to a practice with one of my classmates and they mistook me for one of their team players,” Ajayi said. “They called me over and I grabbed a football, ran the ball.”

It was official: he was hooked.

“It made me watch the great backs like Marshall Faulk and Emmett Smith,” Ajayi said. “How they ran the ball with so much passion. It made me love the game even more and I have been a runnig back ever since.”

With soccer opportunities back home and football opportunities in the US, Ajayi and his family had a decision to make.

In the end, Ajayi and his family felt that the US was the best place for them to be and would provide them the best opportunities.

“I had made a lot of friends and I have kind of built a new life here,” Ajayi said. “I wasn’t ready to make a huge life change and go back. I just felt that playing football would end up being the right path for me.”

The result of the decision not only turned Ajayi into a star, but turned his entire family into big football fans.

“My whole family is into football now,” Ajayi said. “They love what I am doing now.”

With what appears to be a promising football career ahead of him, Ajayi seems to have made the right choice. He couldn’t be happier with his decision all those years ago.

“I am in a great college whose fans are super passionate about their team,” Ajayi said. “I am living the dream in playing college football at the highest level at one of the greatest colleges in America and I have no regrets at all. What more could I ask for.”

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Senior Mikhaila Bowden is feeling really good about her team this season and is ready for the season to start.

The Boise State women’s soccer team kicks off their season on Aug. 22 at the Portland State Tournament.

“The first games of the year are always interesting because both teams have not seen each other. It will be a fun challenge for us,” head coach Jim Thomas said.

The Broncos will open up the tournament against Drake, a team the Broncos have never faced before and at a time when every team’s confidence is at an all-time high.

“We are going to see the most confident and undefeated Drake,” Thomas said.

The team will then face the host team, Portland State which the Broncos own the series lead with a 9-1-1 record.

“Portland State did have a successful year last year and they will be looking to continue that and push on further and further,” Thomas said.

The Broncos have  put in a lot of work during the summer and is ready for the season to get under way.

“I am so excited for the season to start,” junior midfielder Brooke Heidemann said. “I have been working out all summer and I am ready to play.”

The Broncos feel all the work they have put in during the summer, has made them ready to go for the opener.

“I am super excited because our starting place is higher than it was at the end of last season,” senior defender Mikhaila Bowden said. “I know we are going to be ready.”

Boise State is hoping to start their season with a bang.

“We just want to go out there and win,” Heidemann said.

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Grant Hedrick The Arbiter
Grant Hedrick is on The Davey O'Brien watch list given to the nations best quarterback. Devin Ferrell/The Arbiter

The college football season is almost here and with it comes the release of awards watch lists. As it happens, the Boise State Broncos have several players featured on these lists.

Starting at the top is junior running back, Jay Ajayi. Ajayi was arguably the most prolific player for the Broncos last season. He ran for a staggering 1,425 yards and had a whopping 18 touchdowns. His performance was noted: Ajayi has been placed on the Maxwell Award list, which is given to college football’s best player, as well as the Doak Walker Award list, which is given to the nation’s top running back.

Next is senior quarterback, Grant Hedrick. Hedrick took over for injured teammate Joe Southwick last season and held onto the starting job for the duration of the season. He passed for 1,825 yards and had 16 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He has been placed on the Davey O’Brien Award list, which is given annually to the top quarterback in the country.

Senior wide receiver Matt Miller was named to the Fred Biletnikoff Award list, which is given each year to the country’s top wide receiver. Miller had 88 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Broncos last year.

Junior wide receiver and return specialist Shane Williams-Rhodes was named to the Paul Hornung Award list, which is given to college football’s most versatile player. Williams-Rhodes led the Mountain West in punt returns last season and also hauled in 77 balls for 702 yards and six touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior cornerback Donte Deayon and senior safety Jeremy Ioane were both named to the Jim Thorpe Award list, which is given each year to college football’s best defensive back. Both Ioane and Deayon were second-team all-Mountain West players for the Broncos last season.

Finally, senior kicker Dan Goodale has been named to the Lou Groza Award list, which is given every year to the nation’s top kicker. Goodale led the Mountain West in field goal percentage last season, going 17 of 19.

 

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Jim Thomas coaching philosophy has turned the program around.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Boise State women’s soccer team was stagnant and unsure of themselves. Then came head coach Jim Thomas.

“I came in as a fresh face and brought a new philosophy to the program which I felt is what it needed. And the players responded great,” Thomas said.

Thomas is entering his second year as the head coach of the program and has already made waves by guiding the Broncos to a 13- win season for the first time since 2009.

“I think he wants to establish a legacy here,” junior midfielder Brooke Heidenmann said. “Which I feel he has already done in just one year here.”

Before becoming the head coach here, Thomas was an assistant at the University of Washington and jumped at the opportunity to come to Boise State.

“Anytime you get the opportunity to be a head coach at a premier Division I program you have to take it,” Thomas said. “It was a great opportunity to coach at the highest level.”

Thomas brought with him a philosophy that strives to get the most out of his players.

“I’m a disciplinarian, but I’m a disciplinarian when it comes to things they are capable of,” Thomas said. “I will not let a player play sub-standardly.”

In addition, Thomas has brought with him his own unique style of aggressive attack play. The Broncos led the league in goals last year with 33.

Thomas prides himself as a motivator and has already pushed the program to new heights.

“He just motivated us in way we didn’t think we could be,” Heidenmann said. “There are always those extra steps you can reach and we were just not reaching them until he arrived here.”

During his brief time here Thomas has already made quite the impression on his players.

“He is not only a great coach, but a friend as well,” senior defender Mikhaila Bowden said. “He is definitely there for us no matter what and is always there for us to talk to about anything, it doesn’t have to be soccer related.”

More importantl than soccer, Thomas wants to prepare his players for life.

“The way he coaches, he not only teaches us soccer, but how to use the skills we have in life as well,” Bowden said.

Thomas sees himself as being here for the long haul, and couldn’t be happier about becoming a Bronco.

“It’s a great place for my family and there are not too many opportunities better than Boise State,” Thomas said.

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Jay Ajayi has been working hard in fall camp in preparation for the upcoming season. Farzan Faramarzi/The Arbiter

The Boise State football team opened its fall camp in preparation for the upcoming season earlier this month.

“We are still in that learning process right now of leading up to that first game,” head coach Bryan Harsin said.

So far, Harsin likes what he has seen from his team.

“I have seen a good effort on both sides of the ball and we have worked hard in practice,” Harsin said. “The guys, to this point, have been putting a lot of good effort in practice.”

Harsin has been particularly impressed with his defense.

“I do like what our defense is doing,” Harsin said. “Our defense has been the most consistent at practices and I feel that is where they needed to be at this point.”

The Broncos are just over one week away from their opener against Ole Miss and Harsin wants to make sure his team is fully prepared.

“It all comes to preparation and the guys have to continue to prepare harder,” Harsin said. “There can’t be any ‘I think I know,’ you have to know. When we are able to do that we feel confident, and when we are confident we will be playing with all our abilities.”

During the three-week camp the team has put in a lot of time and effort, especially in the beginning.

“The first five days is a lot of football, a lot of information and very little sleep,” Harsin said. “That’s really how it is and what we believe, how to train.”

As part of fall camp the Broncos have participated in the annual Bronco Olympics which sees the team compete in a series of different sporting events such as bowling and a home run derby.

“It’s something the guys enjoy and something we enjoy as coaches,” Harsin said. “It breaks up the monotony of camp, but at the same time, it’s still competitive for our team.”

The Broncos will continue fall camp up until the opener against Ole Miss on Aug. 28.

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Sports Editor Nate Lowery

Every year it’s the same old story: “This is our year!” fans yell. “Everything will be different this season!”

If the 2013-14 school year can serve us any purpose however, it’s that Bronco fans must temper their expectations.

Fans expected the struggles Joe Southwick faced in 2012 would be remedied and Boise State would return to BCS-busting glory. All thought a new offense would simplify their game and the Broncos would be just like they were in the glory days of Kellen Moore.

These expectations by fans were quickly crushed one game into the season. A 38-6 trouncing at the hands of Washington in the first game quickly proved that Boise State would not be returning to a BCS bowl game.

Joe Southwick would become one of the most infamous Bronco quarterbacks of all time, leading Boise State to their worst season since 2001, and ending the season in disgrace after being sent home early from the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

The Broncos would finish the season 8-5, with not even a share of the MWC Championship and two embarrassing losses against Pac-12 schools.

Men’s basketball was a similar story. Despite returning the top five scorers from a March Madness team, Boise State failed to clinch close games and were passed over for the NIT.

The football team has holes across both lines of scrimmage, and while Grant Hedrick is a vast improvement over Joe Southwick, he is still not, nor will ever be Kellen Moore.

Basketball will have its own challenges to face. A tougher schedule and the departure of Ryan Watkins are not the recipe for a March Madness team.

 Are the Broncos going to be the worst team in the MWC this season? Not even close. There is still plenty of hope for these rag tag boys in orange and blue, but Bronco Nation has to temper their expectations.

- Nate Lowery

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All-American senior Ciera Perkins is leading her team through summer workouts. Devin Ferrell/The Arbiter

While many students at Boise State get time off during the summer to enjoy a vacation, the Boise State gymnastics team has been hard at work prepping for their upcoming season­— even though it doesn’t start until January.

“Our sport is unlike other sports in you just can’t stop and start again,” co-head coach Tina Bird said. “You need that constant repetition and practice all year round.”

You won’t hear any complaining from the gymnasts.

“Dedicating our summer to a sport that we have dedicated our whole lives to is a lot more important than doing other summer activities,” senior Kelsey Morris said. “None of us would want it any other way.”

The team views these summer workouts as imperative if they want to repeat or expand on last year’s success.

“Being here now is the most important part of the whole season,” senior Ciera Perkins said. “This is the hardest part of the whole year. This time of season is the most crucial for us to keep up and keep working hard and pushing ourselves to the limit.”

The team practices four days a week, in the gym all four days and practice in the weight room for three.

“It’s hard but I know we are doing this for a reason,” Perkins said. “It only lasts for four years and before you know it, you are done, so being here now is worth it in the end.”

The team has been having summer workouts for many years now but feels this is their best one yet.

“Everyone’s been coming in and doing their job,” Morris said. “We have had a lot more production this summer compared to other summers.  The girls are doing more than they have to do which gets us excited for the season.”

The Broncos are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. They were a mainstay in the top 20 and had a fifth place finish at their regional tournament. In addition, both Morris and Perkins went to nationals, where Perkins earned All-American status in the floor exercise.

“Knowing how good we did last season is definitely motivation for this season,” Perkins said.

But the team wants more.

“This year we have a different mentality because we have nationals on our mind,” Perkins said. “We are pushing ourselves a lot harder in and out of the gym.”

The season may be several months away but that doesn’t matter.  To them it’s all about  preparing themselves for what could be their most historic season yet.

“We are here to make school history,” Perkins said.

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Coming off a successful debut season in sand volleyball, expectations could not be higher for Shawn Garus' squad this season.

Like a farmer, head coach Shawn Garus hopes the work the Boise State volleyball team put into spring will pay off in the fall indoor season.

The first sand volleyball season for the Broncos is in the books, and Garus can already see improvements in the Broncos’ game as they move back indoors.

“Their skills should be a little bit more well-rounded now,” Garus said. “Sand training has only helped what we do indoors.”

For starters, Garus can see better communication between his players. With sand volleyball being played in pairs as opposed to a team of six, players are forced to communicate more with their partner.

Senior Alyssa Gammel can also feel improvements in her conditioning and vertical jumping after spending the spring moving through sand.

“Playing in sand, all of our verticals have improved a lot. I’m excited to see the difference with that,” Gammel said. “We’re still trying to play Thursdays in sand so we don’t lose all of the improvements
that we made.”

Gammel also feels she gained more control in placing the ball. Normally a power hitter, Gammel had to learn added control playing with a lighter ball in the sand season.

Garus, a sand volleyball player during his playing days, had firsthand experience of the improvements his team could expect to see after spending an extra spring outdoors— one of the many reasons why he pushed so hard for Boise State to add sand volleyball.

“I definitely love the sport,” Garus said. “I think it’s a great way to learn the game and I want to see them playing it year-round now.”

Aside from the improvements in the technical skills and conditioning gained from a season of  sand volleyball, Garus hopes the sand season acts as a huge confidence booster for the Broncos.

With wins over Pac-12 schools Oregon and Washington during spring, Garus is going to do everything he can to keep those wins fresh in the Broncos’ minds in rematches with those schools in the indoor season.

Boise State is also one of the few teams in the MWC to play sand volleyball in the spring, something Garus plans to exploit as much as he can during the indoors season.

“I believe coming out of sand volleyball we are going to be stronger and healthier in all aspects of the game,” Gaurs said.

The Broncos open their season Aug. 29 against Gonzaga.

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Coaching transitions can offer a mixed bag for both the athletes and the coaching staff.

On the one hand, a new perspective is brought to a program. The new coach can provide a team with a burst of energy to break up the normal routine.

On the other hand, that normal routine is a system the athletes have become accustomed to— they’re comfortable with what they have been doing and can be resistant to change.

Dan Potter, a north Idaho native and former Washington assistant, is making the returning members from last year’s golf team his top priority so as to avoid an awkward coaching transition.

“The guys currently on the team are my first priority,” Potter said while speaking to members of the local media during his first day on the job. “They’re in a unique situation with a coaching transition. I was in one when I was in college, so I know that they can be somewhat uncomfortable.”

The likelihood of an uncomfortable transition decreased when Potter was informed that Ryan Hietala would be returning as an assistant coach for the upcoming season.

Hietala has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for the Broncos after competing on the PGA Tour.

“(It) was a huge relief,” Potter said. “I’ve known Ryan a little bit. I know that he’s passionate about the program going forward. Him wanting to stay here was awesome news.”

Although Potter’s priority is to make the transition from Burton as seamless as possible, he’s not ready to write this season off at all.

“I’m very optimistic for this season,” Potter said. “We have some great tournaments on the schedule.”

The Broncos hope they will be able to improve upon last season’s last place finish in the MWC while under the direction of Potter.

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Sunny Smallwood coaching players at Nebraska

There is really no place like home; just ask LeBron James.

That was the feeling Sunny Smallwood had when she joined the Boise State Broncos’ women’s basketball program as its newest associate head coach.

“Boise is just a great city and I loved going to school here,” Smallwood said. “I’m excited to work with this great group of people that I have had the chance to meet and believe so much in.”

Smallwood grew up in Boise, playing basketball at Boise High School and then later for Boise State.

“There are a lot of alums out there that would dream of coming back and working at their alma mater,” Smallwood said.

She most recently was the associate head coach at the University of Nebraska, where she led that program to multiple NCAA sweet 16 appearances.

“Nebraska wasn’t a big-time program when I got there, but me, along with all the other coaches, were able to turn it around and build something really great,” Smallwood said. “I believe the same thing about Boise State. To me there are no limits of what we might be able to do if we put our nose to the grindstone.”

During the course of her career, Smallwood has specialized in two distinct areas: recruiting and defense. In fact, Smallwood personally recruited former WNBA player Lindsey Moore. Boise State is hoping for more of the same.

“She has reorganized our recruiting. Now that we have a person like her we are hoping to steal some recruits from the big guys,” head coach Gordy Presnell said. “Our recruiting has already jumped in terms of who we are talking to, and the respect that she commands around the country will allow us to get into some really good players’ homes.”

Smallwood will take over the defense that at times has struggled in recent years.

“Defense is an area where we have had a hard time for a number of years,” Presnell said. “I’m hoping with her that we become one of the top defensive teams in our conference.”

This wasn’t the first time the Broncos had tried to add Smallwood on the coaching staff.

“We tried before to get her because she is one of the top coaches in the whole country,” Presnell said.  “We have always focused on her and she was always at the top of our list, and she is going to be a great addition to our program and hopefully get us to a different level.”

In addition to recruiting and revamping the defense, Smallwood has already started to get to know and work with her players.

“I like that she has been really involved with us and is getting to know us now, instead of just waiting till practice starts,” junior forward Lexie Der said. “She is very open and that helps us to get to know her as well.”

Boise State is happy to have her back and is hoping she makes an immediate impact.

“I am excited because she seems to be very outgoing, funky, fun, and obviously a great coach,” Der said. “She has a good career behind her and I feel she will fit very well here and will bring something else that will help our coaches and ourselves benefit in new ways.”

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Boise State's Marisa Howard has slowly blossomed into one of the nation's best steeplechasers, despite overcoming a six week injury this winter.

While her teammates were running the streets and trails of Boise, redshirt junior Marisa Howard spent her winter in the last place she wanted: the pool.

 Following a successful 2013 cross country season, Howard entered her winter post-season break excited about the possibilities of the upcoming track season.

 While visiting her parents in mid-January earlier this year, Howard began to notice pain in her knee while running. After consulting with the team trainer, Howard took several days off to avoid further injury. After returning to Boise, several days turned to 10 days, and 10 days turned to six weeks.

 Over those six weeks, Howard had two MRIs, consulted with two doctors and two physical therapists, and received two cortisone shots, all the while trying to remain confident in the fact that she would be able to compete again.

 “I was crying every week it was so awful,” Howard said.

 To remain in shape, Howard cross-trained relentlessly, pool running and lap swimming for one to two hours every day.

Her coach, Corey Ihmels, who had dealt with his own set of injuries in his running career empathized with Howard and the frustrations of not being able to do something they loved.

“I tell them when they’re injured, ‘When you drive down the street and see someone running, do you want to get out and punch them in the face?’” Ihmels said. “I don’t want them to go through the things that I’ve gone through.”

With six weeks of treatment and still no improvement, Howard elected to start running again in March in order to not lose her entire outdoor season.

“At first it hurt a lot; I still deal with it today,” Howard said. “To this day we still have no clue what was wrong.”

Despite the pain Howard felt, she continued to train with the goal of qualifying for the national championships— regardless of the setback from her injury.

“I think on my side there was a lot of doubt but everyone else kept reassuring me it would work out,” Howard said.

 The confidence from those around her carried Howard through the season, giving her a victory in the steeplechase at the MWC Championships and a runner-up finish in the 5,000-meter.

The NCAA steeplechase final played out perfectly for Howard. A controlled pace that slowly strung out competitors put Howard in fifth place with 500 meters to go.

 Going over the water pit with 150 meters remaining, Howard was able to pass Rachel Johnson and Rachel Sorna to take second place – a feat she never could have thought imaginable.

 “I tried to get to the finish line as fast as I could,” Howard said. “Afterwards, talking to a lot of people, they said ‘Look at where you came from.’ It was so surreal to get there after not running for six weeks.”

 Her second place finish has only added to Howard and Ihmels’ excitement for the future. With both her and NCAA Champion Emma Bates returning for their senior seasons, expectations are high for the Broncos’ cross country team.

For Howard, she now has the confidence and belief that she can be an elite runner. With this confidence, she hopes she can qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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Mat Boesen, a red-shirt linebacker for Boise State’s football team, was arrested Thursday evening.

Boesen, 19, was charged with misdemeanor inattentive or careless driving and misdemeanor resisting or obstructing officers. He was booked in the jail at 7:41 p.m. but released later that same night.

The athletics department released a short statement saying they are aware of the situation and intend to follow the procedures outlined in the student conduct policy.

According to an article published by the Idaho Press Tribune Boesen is due in court on July 31.

Boesen, who red-shirted as a true freshman last year, was not expected to be a major contributor for the team this fall.

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Boise State's Emma Bates won her first NCAA title with a 32:32.35 win the 10,00m.

Redshirt junior Emma Bates can now add a national championship to her extensive running resume.

Bates edged out Alabama-Birmingham’s Elinor Kirk by five meters to win the NCAA 10,000m race 32:32.35 to Kirk’s 32:32.39 at Oregon’s legendary Hayward Field.

Bates’ time is the second fastest 10,000m recorded at an NCAA Championship meet. Her title is the first outdoor national title won by a Broncos woman, and the first outdoor title since Kurt Felix won the decathlon in 2012.

The Elk River, Minn. native was in the lead pack for the entire race, putting her in good contention to break away from the pack when Kirk and Duke’s Juliet Bottorff made a move with a mile to go.

With only 300 meters remaining, Bates and Kirk began their drives to the finish line before Bates was able to barely outdistance Kirk entering the home stretch.

“(The last 100 meters) was a complete blur,” Bates told Flotrack.org after her race. “That last 10 meters I just really dug deep.”

Bates’ was able to run a 4:53 last mile which included a blistering 67 second last lap to give her the victory.

With the win, Bates earned her first ever NCAA championship after placing 3rd in the 10,000m last spring, and 2nd in the NCAA cross country championship this past fall.

Bates’ national title is the seventh in Broncos history, second for women’s track and field, and was also the eighth All-American honors of her career, making her the most decorated athlete in Boise State history.

Bates will conclude her season on Saturday with the 5,000m at 3:24 p.m (PT). She, along with NCAA cross country champion Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth, are among the favorites in the race.

D’Agostino won the NCAA 5,000m last spring while Bates finished seventh.

Boise State’s Marissa Howard will compete in the 3,000m steeplechase final today at 5:35 p.m. (PT).

Races can be watched live through Watch ESPN and ESPNU.

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Senior Boise State tennis player Andy Bettles tremendous career came to end yesterday as he fell in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Championships in Athen, Georgia.

Bettles who came into the matchup ranked 87th in the nation lost to 46th ranked Ryan Shane from Virginia 6-3, 6-3.

“I felt that Andy played a good match and that it was closer than the score would indicate,” head coach Greg Patton told Broncosports. “Andy left it all out there on the court and has nothing to be ashamed of, it just wasn’t his day. His opponent hit the ball extremely well and has one of the hardest shots in the NCAA. (Ryan) Shane was on today and he got his shots to fall, but Andy stood in there and battled hard. Andy has had a great career at Boise State and has been a vital part of this program. He has a great future ahead of him.”

Bettles came to the Broncos by way of Somerset, England and has spent the last three seasons being an instrumental part of Boise State’s success.

During his time as Bronco he helped lead the Broncos to three consecutive Mountain West Conference championships, as well as three straight NCAA Tournament berths. In addition he went to two NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Championship Tournaments and was the 2013 Mountain West Player of the year as well as a five-time All Mountain West honoree.

He finishes his career with a record of 106-42 in singles and 83-36 in doubles.

 

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Boise State will be forced to begin a national search to replace men’s head golf coach Kevin Burton after Burton made the decision to step down, effective June 21.

Burton, a 1986 graduate of Idaho, began his first of nine seasons with the Broncos in 2005, and has brought dramatic changes to the program during his tenure.

The Broncos finished as high as second in the WAC (2008) under Burton, and also captured three tournament wins as a team.

Under Burton, the Broncos also saw three golfers join the PGA Tour in various forms. Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt both currently play for the PGA Tour while class of 2013 graduate T.K. Kim currently plays for PGA Tour China.

DeLaet told The Arbiter earlier this year he credits much of his current success to the leadership Burton provided him.

“I wouldn’t be here and be where I am now if it wasn’t for (Burton) and Boise State golf,” DeLaet said.

The individual golfers were not the only aspect of the program Burton had an affect on. This past year, he began the process to build a new indoor practice facility for the Broncos to utilize during the harsh winter months.

Even with all of the changes Burton has brought to Boise State, he felt now is the time for him to make a personal change.

“I have enjoyed my time as head coach of the Boise State men’s golf team,” Burton said in a press release from the athletic department. “I will definitely miss coaching, especially my players, but there are some other things I would like to pursue in my career and I feel like the time is right for me to make a change.”

Athletic Director Mark Coyle will begin a national search for Burton’s replacement immediately.

 

Bronco Stadium has a new name.

It will now be called Albertsons Stadium as both Boise State officials and Albertsons officials came to a long term agreement that sees Albertsons taking over the naming rights to the stadium.

Albertsons and Boise State’s deal is for 15 years and worth 12.5 million dollars.

This deal has been 17 years in the making as Boise State has been trying to sell off the naming rights to the stadium since 1997.

Albertsons now joins Taco Bell as the latest company to sponsor the university. Boise State and Taco Bell also came to a 15 year deal back in 2004.

This deal between Albertsons and Boise State seems to be the perfect fit as both institutions have been instrumental in the state of Idaho.

Albertsons was founded in Boise in 1939 and ever since has been a mainstay in the state and a vital part of the community. Last year the company moved its headquarters back to Boise after a seven year hiatus and felt this was a perfect way to make their return felt.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/05/21/3195133/its-albertsons-stadium.html?sp=/99/1687/&ihp=1#storylink=cpyAlbertson’s was founded right here Boise back in 1939 and ever since have been a mainstay in the state of Idaho. The company recently moved its corporate headquarters back to Idaho after a seven year hiatus.

“This is a 15-year deal,” Albertsons CEO Bob Miller said. “We bought the stores a year ago March. We’re anxious to let people know we’re here to stay; this is our corporate headquarters and it’s going to stay that way. And this is a good way to reinforce that message.”

Negotiations between Boise State and Albertsons began just a few months ago and it wasn’t long before the two parties came to an agreement.

Both Boise State and Albertsons are hoping this is a start of long term relationship with one another and are looking forward to working with each other.

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Article by Brandon Walton

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Emma Bates could possibly go down as Boise State's greatest athlete of all time.

If Boise State were to give out an athlete of the year award junior Emma Bates would certainly be at the top of list.

Bates is coming off one of the best performances of her career where she ran the 12th fastest women’s 10k meter time in NCAA history at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational event in Stanford, California last weekend. 

Bates’s time was good enough to shatter her own school record she set last year.

Bates finished 13th in a field that included both NCAA champions and Olympic medalists. 

Bates’ performance at the event landed her the Mountain West Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week Award — her second in the last three weeks.

Bates has had a sensational season for the Boise State track and field team. She is on pace to have one of the best seasons in school history.

Already this year, Bates has broken numerous school records, as well as national records.

Bates is a two-sport star who also competes for the Boise State cross country team. 

During the cross country season for the Broncos, Bates set numerous school records on her way to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Cross Country championships this past November.

With one more season left in both sports, Bates has the opportunity to go down as one of Boise State’s all-time greatest athletes and cement her already outstanding legacy as a Bronco.

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Bryan Talbot / The Arbiter

Calling this weekend a rough one for Boise State athletics is an understatement.

 Two Bronco teams, men’s tennis and softball, lost in their respective championship opportunities.

Tennis

 Playing in the UCLA Regional, the men’s tennis team were favorites to advance and face the winner of the UCLA- Cal Poly matchup.

 The Broncos entered this year’s NCAA Championships coming off of one of the greatest seasons in program history. Greg Patton’s squad finished the regular season with a 28-5 record and a No. 25 ranking nationally.

 No. 39 San Diego won four of the six singles matches and one of the three doubles matches to defeat the Broncos 4-2.

Softball

 All the Broncos’ softball team had to do to secure their first MW title was win a series win against San Diego State — something the program has done every year against the Aztecs since joining the MW.

Instead, Boise State watched their eight-game win streak get snapped and suffered a sweep while in San Diego.

The Broncos now sit in fourth place in the conference standings, and the odds of a berth in the postseason are unlikely.

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On Thursday afternoon, former Boise State defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence was preparing for the biggest day of his life: the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Boise State Athletic Department was auctioning off a game-worn No. 8 jersey, Lawrence’s jersey number, on the very same day.

On the auction screen, bidders were enticed by a description of the jersey which stated “Get your hands on a game worn authentic #8 Nike Elite Football jersey from the 2013 season.”

There is no mention of Lawrence anywhere on the page, though he did wear the No. 8 throughout his entire junior season.

“No one said this was Demarcus’ jersey,” an unnamed representative from the Boise State Marketing Department said. “The money raised from auctioning jerseys goes directly into the Athletic Department’s scholarship fund.”

“At the end of the year our equipment managers pull the names off of jerseys,” the representative said. “Former student-athletes each receive one, and rather than keep the rest of them in storage, we are trying to find ways to increase money in our scholarship fund.”

The NFL Draft took place from Thursday, May 8 through Saturday, May 10. 

The Athletic Department’s auction, hosted on BroncoSports.com, concluded on Sunday, May 11 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time, barring a bid in the final three minutes.

No other jerseys from any other sport at Boise State were being offered.

“We just recently started auctioning jerseys again,” the representative said. “We will look to do this a few more times during the season, and will include additional sports as they become available. We will also look to auction other merchandise and unique items as well.”

Lawrence was drafted in the second round on Friday, May 9 by the Dallas Cowboys. 

The defensive end became the seventh second-round pick in Boise State history, and the ninth first or second-round pick since 2006.

Boise State does not have to wait for athletes to leave the school for the university to auction off the jersey; however, it is unknown if a jersey has been auctioned while an athlete was still enrolled at the university.

“There have been a number of jerseys auctioned off in the past, though a list of the numbers has not been kept,” the
representative said.