Dec. 30, 2006
BOISE, Idaho (AP) -In Boise, any sort of national exposure is a big deal, which is why the city typically embraces the MPC Computers Bowl as a major event.
But this year, some Boiseans see Sunday's MPC matchup between Miami and Nevada as small potatoes.
"No offense to those teams," said Boyd Carter, a former Boise-area resident who returned to visit family for the holidays, "but our Boise State Broncos are the only thing anyone's talking about 'round here."
Here in Idaho's capital city, there's some buzz about the MPC game. But the much bigger story, at least to the locals, centers on undefeated Boise State - which makes its Bowl Championship Series debut in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday against Oklahoma.
"It's the biggest game in our history," Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky said.
He meant for the team, yet the same may apply to its city, too.
Dozens of storefronts have "Go Broncos" signs. Some businesses closed so employees could travel to Arizona for the game and not worry about missing work. And airport workers said most people who boarded outbound flights Saturday morning were headed south for the game.
"We're going on Sunday," said Mark Carringer, the owner of Moon's Kitchen, a popular eatery in downtown Boise. "I'm usually open New Year's Eve, but I'm closing this year and going to Phoenix."
Restaurants that typically bustle with people looking to start their day with plates of eggs and pancakes were practically empty Saturday morning. Parking lots in shopping centers were barren. Even the coffee shops had virtually no lines of caffeine seekers.
Indeed, this high-desert town seemed deserted.
"Normally, I wouldn't have time to talk to you," Carringer said. "But right now, I have one table in here."
Boise State (12-0) is only the second team from a non-BCS conference to play in a BCS bowl. The school was given an allotment of 17,500 tickets for the Fiesta Bowl, sold those with ease, then sold 5,000 more on top of that - and there's no way of knowing how many more Bronco fans snapped up tickets elsewhere.
Meanwhile, MPC bowl officials are hopeful that Boise State's 30,000-seat stadium will be somewhere around three-quarters full for kickoff on Sunday night. They've sold about 26,000 tickets, although neither Miami nor Nevada exactly brought tons of fans with them for the matchup.
"Boise is big enough to entertain and small enough to be able to extend hospitality," said Gary Beck, the executive director of the MPC Computers Bowl. "There is a lot of Fiesta fever, but to the people that are here, this is the biggest game going on in town right now."
And it's not like the MPC game is being ignored; Beck said he expects the matchup to shatter the bowl's television ratings mark, set last year when the Broncos hosted Boston College.
"There's a lot of excitement about Miami playing in Boise," Beck said. "Just having the caliber of a program like Miami adds to the excitement about this game."
Yet to most Boise State fans, there's simply no comparison about which game is bigger to them.
"This is absolutely fabulous for Boise," Carringer said. "You can't pay for this exposure."