With a 5-0 start and first Top 20 ranking since 2005, the Fresno State Bulldogs were able to secure a $500,000 windfall when their football game at San Diego State was selected for a national telecast.
But the program that brought in that money is unlikely to see any of it in the form of recurring expenses that could help sustain or grow it, such as an increased recruiting budget, return of a training table or additional staffing — even if that figure swells to $1 million or more with additional games that could be picked up.
ESPN, which will televise the Oct. 26 game at San Diego State on ESPN2, also has rights to the games against Nevada, at Wyoming and against New Mexico.
The athletic department is a long way from knowing if it will hit its revenue targets for the year and how much of that additional revenue will be there at the end of the year, Athletic Director Thomas Boeh said.
And what is not will go to expenses that Fresno State might not be able to sustain from one fiscal year to the next.
"I think it would be foolhardy to attempt to take on recurring expenses with a one-time cash windfall," Boeh said this week.
"First, we need to get some reasonable projections on how we'll do overall through the year with revenue to insure that we'll be able to balance the budget and, after we confirm that, see exactly what the numbers are relative to our losses from losing the Colorado game and see what kind of resources we have remaining. Some of it should go toward a reserve and other parts of it certainly can be used toward one-time expenditures, and we'll be examining that.
"But we have some other budget responsibilities from past shortfalls that we have to take care of as well, so we'll try to combine all that, take care of some of the past shortfall and hopefully put some aside and thirdly, select some one-time expenditure projects."
One-time expenditures would prove some benefit to a football program that won a Mountain West Conference championship in the first year under coach Tim DeRuyter and has captured a national presence for the first time in more than a decade.
The department, Boeh said, will explore purchases of new training and video equipment and other items, once his department has a better idea of what it will have available at the end of the fiscal year.
But with a recruiting budget of about $100,000, Fresno State ranks in the bottom third of the Mountain West and it trails in other infrastructure areas as well competing in a conference and against programs that are attempting to increase their football presence.
Boise State this year moved into a 70,000-square foot complex, which includes coaches' offices, meeting rooms and a football-only weight room. San Jose State is building the Bill Walsh Center, part of a 60,000-square foot, two-building complex to the north of Spartan Stadium.
Colorado State, Nevada and UNLV are among other Mountain West programs that have program upgrades in the works, from facilities improvements to new stadiums.
Fresno State also is in the bottom half of the conference in athletic department revenue, generating about $28 million less than UNLV, which last year led the conference with $58.8 million.
"People have asked me in the past when we've had budget shortfalls in the past because of lagging football and men's basketball ticket sales, they say as we approach the end of the year, where is that shortfall absorbed?" Boeh said.
"Well, we've been absorbing it. It's been absorbed by the athletic corporation. We've been operating year to year with the cash that we have, but when there's a budget shortfall it just gets carried over into the next year.
"We are just beginning to reach some financial stability. We'll do the best we can, but we don't know how much money that is yet and we have a long way to go before we fully realize how much money we'll have to expend on one-time expenditures."
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @rkuwada on Twitter. Read his daily Fresno State updates at fresnobee.com/bulldogs.