BOISE — There are plenty of questions and not many answers yet for the players and coaches on the Boise State women’s basketball team.
It’s been a full week since assistant coach Cody Butler was put on administrative leave after the school learned of a pending lawsuit against him in the state of Washington.
The Broncos were informed of the news shortly before traveling to UNLV for a game the next afternoon against the Rebels. Less than 24 hours later Boise State blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead and suffered a deflating 66-65 loss.
With a few days to process the absence of Butler, who has been an assistant with the Broncos since 2012, Boise State (12-6, 4-2 MW) rebounded with an 86-72 win at home Saturday against San Diego State.
There’s no telling when or if Butler will rejoin the team, but the Broncos have had no choice but to push onward. They were the heavy favorites to win the Mountain West, but already trail by two games in the loss column to Fresno State.
“I’m very proud of Cariann (Ramirez) and my graduate assistant Mia (Gallo) and Heather Sower, they have picked up the slack,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “It’s the day-to-day things, because all of a sudden we lose a third of our scouts, and we do advanced scouting a little bit, so those are things they’ve picked up.
“I think our team has really taken a step forward and tried to be helpful as well so that’s the hard part, just the day-to-day stuff.”
Boise State hosts Air Force Wednesday at 7 p.m. at ExtraMile Arena.
The hardest part for those around the program would seem to be the uncertainty as to what happened. The lawsuit alleges Butler made inappropriate comments and contact with a player he coached at Yakima Valley Community College nearly two decades ago.
The lawsuit was filed in May 2019, but the school didn’t become aware of it until last week. Butler was immediately placed on paid administrative leave while the school investigated, and he’s been unable to have any contact with players or coaches since.
A senior administrator with the athletic department spoke to the team shortly after Butler was put on leave, but the players and coaches have since been left to speculate or wonder to themselves about what Butler did or didn’t do and whether he’ll return.
“They were addressed by an administrator and that’s kind of as far as it got,” Presnell said. “That’s all been a personnel decision and a human resource deal and been handled above me.
“I really don’t know any specifics to be honest with you. I just know that my other two assistants have done a wonderful job handling the scouts and the day-to-day stuff and kids; issues and problems, recruiting, that sort of thing.”
Butler is Boise State’s lead recruiter and responsible for signing most of the players currently on the roster. The Broncos already have seven players signed as part of the 2020 recruiting class, and only have one scholarship to give as of now for the 2021 class.
“We are fortunate right now, all our recruits are coming and we only have one to sign for the year after next, so that part lightens the load a little bit,” Presnell said.
Butler typically coordinates and coaches Boise State’s defense, but Presnell said those duties have since gone to both Ramirez and Sower. The two have also had to pick up the opponents that Butler was scouting for future games.
Boise State issued a short statement on Jan. 7 saying Butler was put on leave “pending University review of the matter.” There is no timetable for resolution in the matter. The lawsuit is not scheduled to go to trial until 2021, but Boise State’s own investigation likely will be finished much sooner.
And the unknown of what will happen moving forward continues to hang over the program.
“We’ve stayed focused for the most part,” Boise State guard Jade Loville said. “We’re here to play basketball and that’s our job, so we’re focused every practice, every game, on what we have to do.”
Forward Rachel Bowers said the players haven’t had much time to think about Butler’s situation because of how busy they are staying with practice and games.
“We’re just really focused on each other right now,” Bowers said.
BOISE STATE MEN LOOK TO REBOUND AT AIR FORCE
The Boise State men’s basketball team will look to get back in the win column Wednesday when it plays at Air Force at 7 p.m.
The Broncos (11-7, 3-3 MW) are coming off an 83-65 loss at No. 7 San Diego State on Saturday night.
“They are playing really, really good,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “They absolutely handed Utah State their hats and we think Utah State is really good. When they get it rolling, they are one of the best shooting teams in the country. If you let them do what they want and make shots they can really get it rolling on you.”
Ryan Swan had 31 points in an upset win over Utah State last Tuesday and is averaging 14.3 points per game. Lavelle Scottie leads the Falcons with 14.8 points per game. As a team the Falcons (8-9, 2-3 MW) lead the league in 3-point percentage at 40.5 percent and rank No. 2 in field goal percentage at 47.8 percent.
Boise State is hoping to get more from leading scorers Derrick Alston and Justinian Jessup. The two combined to score just 16 points on 6-of-21 shooting.
“We have to keep trying to get better and even our best guys have to keep fighting to get better,” Rice said. “That’s a tough thing when your best players struggle. Your team is going to struggle, no doubt about it, no matter who you are.”
The game will be televised on the AT&T Sports Network.