Sink or swim.

In this whole “fairness” (translation:  who gets the money) debate surrounding the push for an expanded playoff for D-1 football, it’s easy for people like Barton and Hatch to use Utah, Boise State and TCU as the poster children for their advocacy.  And it’s just as easy for people like me to use the dregs of the Sun Belt and the MAC as good reasons for not spreading college football’s largesse to programs that don’t merit it.

But here’s the tough question for everybody:  what’s fair for Fresno State?

I mean, here’s a program that has a moderate national profile – I bet some of Mandel’s Montana buddies have heard of the school – has enjoyed some success over the past few years (seven bowl games in the past eight seasons), plays a respectable schedule for a mid-major, has enjoyed some historical stability and support (the fundraising organization for the school’s athletics is 60 years old) draws respectably (better than Duke and comparable to last year’s BCS participant Cincinnati) and isn’t particularly profligate in its spending (FSU will end this fiscal year with a small deficit that will be covered and projects a 2011 budget with a tiny surplus).

And yet it’s got a legitimate concern about its future in D-1 athletics.  Why?

… Fresno State’s problem is that revenues — the lifeblood of any Division I athletic program — are stagnant at best while expenses, even after years of belt-tightening, remain stubbornly high.

This also comes in the wake of recent NCAA conference realignment decisions that have weakened the Western Athletic Conference, to which Fresno State belongs, raising questions about the Bulldogs’ future in Division I athletics.

With Boise State’s impending departure, the WAC is reduced to a Sun Belt Conference with bad demographics, spread from Hawaii to Louisiana.  Its best source of revenue comes from serving as cannon fodder in football road games.

… Fresno State is concerned about weak football ticket sales for this fall. Even though the Bulldogs play a rare seven-game home schedule that includes two high-profile Bowl Championship Series schools, Athletic Corp. director Larry Layne said the football program is projected to net about $200,000 less than it did last season[Emphasis added.]

Last season, if you’re counting, only saw FSU play five home games.

So here’s the tough question again – is it worth saving Fresno State over the long haul as a D-1 program?  And assuming that it’s doing everything it can, doing it right, yet still not able to keep its head above water, how much do you divert to it to help and where do you send it from?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating for these Bulldogs.  Even with enough money to avoid extinction as a D-1 program, it’s hard to see Fresno State joining the ranks of the elite, or even the quasi-elite.  I’m not particularly enamored of sending SEC money to a school for which I have little rooting interest.  But I can’t say that I don’t feel a certain amount of sympathy for FSU as a result of the way it finds itself squeezed.

Again, if there’s a compromise worth consideration, maybe it’s in a modest reduction in the number of football  scholarships offered by D-1 schools.  That would serve to reduce the financial pressure the Fresno States of the world face and would also enhance competition.   I doubt that’s in the cards, though.

(h/t The Wiz of Odds)

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UPDATE: This won’t help.

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11 Comments

Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness

11 responses to “Sink or swim.

  1. Chris

    I wonder how much transportation for conference games eats into the athletic department budget? I have to think that becomes a big issue for these smaller conferences that stretch across the country.

  2. More evidence of the possibility of our 2 tier (FCS,FBS) system becoming a 3 tier system. The gaps are growing and while schools like UGA, tOSU and Texas are searching for a way to squeeze more cash into the bottom line the other guys are trying to stay in or get to the black.

    With the power brokers in the BCS calling the shots no way we see them reduce schollies. Especially with a 12 game schedule, every win counting so much and no desire to reduce the quality of the product by forcing more walk-ons into action.

    If there’s a split, coming from the 4-16 team conferences or some other move I could then see that middle tier dropping to 75 scholarships perhaps. FCS at 65, FBS at 75 and BCS at 85.

  3. The Realist

    I know the MWC is waiting to see what happens to the Big Texas, but Fresno State has to be as appealing an option as Boise State. Aside from San Diego State, the conference has no presence in California. I would think having a decent team in that state would carry some appeal to the other teams (for recruiting) and to television execs. Too, it would add some balance to a league desperately seeking that big-time payday: the BCS auto-qualification.

  4. Dog in Fla

    Fresno State deserves better even though it let
    (a) Lane Kiffin play quarterback,
    (b) Pauly Shore graduate, and
    (c) their endzone look like Tennessee’s http://www.gobulldogs.com/trads/fres-bulldogstadium.html

    Plus they do know how to beat Ron

    http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2009/12/07/fresno-state-vs-illinois-best-ending-on-a-big-day-of-college-f/

  5. Macallanlover

    Nice catch, Fresno State has indeed been the neglected step-child in all the expansion/ realignment discussions. Along with Boise, Coach Hill has been “Bowden-esque” in his willingness to play anyone, anywhere. On the field of play, the Left Coast Dawgs have held their own considering the talent gap they face against the big boys.

  6. Cojones

    Hell, they had my respect before they beat us in the CWS. Good subject choice for sports fans.

    • Macallanlover

      See, that is the one thing about them that sticks in my paw, but then, we had them down and just didn’t finish the drill so no animosity.

  7. SD_Dog

    As a Fresno fan I am shocked at the interest you have in our future. I think many of us feel Boise has overshadowed us the last couple of years and no one sees that our school is trying to do everything the right way, not the easy way. Now that Boise is gone and no inclusion to MWC in the foreseeable future unless we make a BCS game, we must rely on the cash strapped fans more than ever. Of course winning solves everything. Thanks for your comments and this blog, I hope we make it.

  8. Macallanlover

    I can appreciate how this increases the pressure on FSU’s finances, and we hope you make it too. Given your proximity to a large number big schools that are always looking for one quality OOC game, I think you will be survive.

    With the PAC 10+2 set up, I assume they will go from nine conference games down to eight like we have in the SEC and that will increase the number of games for you to fit into their schedule. That should give you a chance to maintain respect every season despite the conference perception. Good luck this season.

  9. Ryan

    Great read, really respect Fresno with what they have accomplished with limited resources.