When he first heard his team was playing in the Cactus Bowl, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin had a half-joking thought.
The Dec. 27 game against Baylor will be at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, while Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe is being renovated.
“One question I asked was if we were coaching from the dugout,” Harsin said.
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Of course, the coaches will be on the sideline, and Chase Field will look very much like a football venue. Work started Monday, when the sod to be used as the playing surface began to be placed on top of the infield, stretching across most of the baseball playing surface. Bleachers seating 3,800 fans, will be put in right field.
“There’s a unique aspect to playing a game there,” Cactus/Fiesta Bowl Director of Game Operations Justin Balich said. “It’s a bit of a different flair, putting a football field in a baseball stadium, and you get some spots where it feels really intimate, right up close to the action.”
About 90,000 square feet of turf is put down by a crew of about a dozen, not including the Diamondbacks’ own staff, which assists. The rolls of grass are carried by modified forklifts. The team makes sure there are no seams before watering it, then uses levelers and mows it eight different directions for a cut between .65 and .75 inches.
“It’s quite a bit of an undertaking. It was definitely a challenge last year. It’s tough when a crew is used to doing 80-odd baseball games, then you bring in a football field,” Balich said. “Last year, it was an added difficulty with the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 and the Cactus Bowl the next day, having the same people helping with both, so it should be a lot easier this year.”
With a baseball capacity of 48,519, Chase Field will hold up to 40,000 for the bowl, Balich said, with some right-field seats not used because of poor sight lines. Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien said he got to watch a World Baseball Classic game there in 2013, when the United States played the Dominican Republic, so the opportunity to play football there is exciting.
“I didn’t even know they did that,” Rypien said. “When I first heard the Cactus Bowl, I thought it would be at Arizona State or something like that. It’s going to be a really cool experience.”
Harsin also quickly went from pondering logistics to looking forward to the experience, which is what often the bowls are all about.
“The guys are excited. It’s something different,” Harsin said. “We’ve been down to Arizona, played in the Fiesta Bowl. So to come back and play in a different bowl game, we’re excited about that.”
RB YOUNG WILL TRANSFER
Harsin said Monday redshirt sophomore running back Cory Young will transfer.
“He’s done a great job here. His opportunities for him, he thinks, are somewhere else, and we wish him all the best,” Harsin said.
Young played in five games this season, rushing 10 times for 48 yards. He had 17 carries for 90 yards last season. The decision is immediate, and he has left the team accordingly.
“He won’t be at the bowl game, none of that,” Harsin said. “Cory’s a great kid, sometimes this time of year, guys look at (other) opportunities.”
Junior running back Jeremy McNichols has yet to publicly announce his intent to declare for the NFL Draft or return, but that is likely to come before the bowl. Other scholarship running backs on the roster are freshman Alexander Mattison, junior Ryan Wolpin and freshman Robert Mahone, who is redshirting.
The Broncos practiced Monday morning, after which a majority of them were set to return to their hometowns before heading to Arizona on Friday.
“They get one more day than we’ve had in the past, the way the schedule worked out,” Harsin said. “It’s critical. They’ve done a great job in preparation, football-wise. They just finished up finals, so it’s been a tough 10 days for these guys.”
Boise State’s “Bronco Bowl” was also held Monday, pitting the reserves and redshirting players against one another in a game-type atmosphere. It is the third one under Harsin, with the offense and defense splitting the first two.
- Teams: Boise State (10-2, 6-2 Mountain West) vs. Baylor (6-6, 3-6 Big 12)
- Time: 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 27
- Where: Chase Field, (40,400 capacity, grass, home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks), Phoenix
- TV: ESPN (Rece Davis, Joey Galloway, David Pollack, Molly McGrath)
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM
- Tickets: $40-$115, available at BroncoSports.com/tickets, by phone at 208-426-4737 or the Boise State ticket office.
- Vegas line: Boise State by 7
- Coaches: Boise State, Bryan Harsin (31-8, third year; 38-13, fourth year overall); Baylor, Jim Grobe (6-6, first year; 116-121-1, 20th year overall)
- Bowl records: Boise State 11-5, Baylor 11-11
- Series record: First meeting