President Bob Kustra wants to bring baseball back to Boise State.
The Broncos have studied the idea of adding a varsity baseball program for at least a year. Kustra had targeted 2017 for the sport’s return but said Tuesday that his timeline might need to move back a year.
Boise State hasn’t fielded a baseball team since 1980. Kustra said baseball is a “pet project” of his.
He introduced Curt Apsey as the Broncos’ new athletic director earlier in the day.
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“It’s tough to talk about that to an AD when they’re faced with all these new budget pressures regarding cost-of-attendance (scholarships), but I really want to raise money for a baseball program,” Kustra said. “I think it’s great we have such a solid baseball program across the Valley. And yet if someone wants to go on and play Division I ball they have to go someplace else.”
Baseball is one of the NCAA’s most popular sports, with about 300 teams at the Division I level.
Seven Mountain West schools play baseball – Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Air Force, UNLV and San Jose State.
Boise State can add a men’s sport without violating Title IX, Kustra said. Baseball teams are allowed 11.7 scholarships.
“That was the first thing we checked out a year ago,” Kustra said, “and it turns out we’re in really good shape as far as gender equity right now.”
The challenge will be financial. Boise State projects a 13.5 percent increase in scholarship costs for 2015-16, to nearly $5.9 million. That total has increased by $1.3 million in two years.
“This is where I take orders from the athletic director,” Kustra said. “I understand the pressures. We have to balance the budget.”
Apsey participated in the conversation about baseball before he left Boise State last year to run the athletic department at Carroll College. He spoke to Kustra about the topic in the past few days, too.
“He’s the boss,” Apsey said. “If he thinks it’s good for this place, we’ll put together a plan.
“... It’s a challenge, but I think there’s a culture here in Boise that really loves baseball. That probably isn’t something that we’ve really tapped into before. I think it’s out there. I just don’t know what the real possibilities are. The only way you’re going to find out is if you get out there and start asking people if they’re interested in supporting it.”
Boise State dropped baseball in 1980 in a cost-cutting move. Then-Athletic Director Lyle Smith said the sport was selected in large part because it wasn’t sponsored by the Big Sky Conference, the school’s athletic home at the time.
The return of Broncos baseball could be tied to a new stadium for the Boise Hawks minor-league team.
“We know the new Boise Hawks owner,” Kustra said. “He’s very excited about teaming up with us in some way.”