Fresno State Athletic Director Jim Bartko on Thursday will outline a five-point plan for the Bulldogs’ athletic department that will include the steps required and a loose timeline for the return of a wrestling program that was cut in 2006.
Raising start-up capital for the program as well as the addition of a women’s program to balance Title IX requirements is at the top of the list, but as that process continues Bartko also must finalize operations and recruiting budgets, line up a conference affiliation and hire a head coach and staff.
Fresno State wrestling could be a fit in one of two conferences — the Pac-12 includes Arizona State, Cal State Bakersfield, Boise State, Cal Poly, Oregon State and Stanford; and the Western Wrestling Conference includes Air Force, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Utah Valley and Wyoming.
In an interview with The Bee, Bartko said restoring the wrestling program likely would be a two- to three-year process.
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When Bartko was at Oregon as the executive senior associate athletics director for development, the Ducks athletics department added five sports including baseball, women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, all equivalency sports like wrestling that offer between 11.7 and 14 scholarships. In Division I, wrestling programs have a scholarship limit of 9.9, which can be divided between student-athletes.
“It was all about a two- or three-year process for each one, just to kind of do it the right way,” Bartko said in January. “You need to be thoughtful in how you do it because you want to have success. It’s not a 100-yard dash, it’s a marathon. It’s a long-term decision.”
Before dropping its program, Fresno State had made 33 NCAA championship appearances — its highest finish eighth in 1993 — and produced three-time NCAA champion Stephen Abas, who had a 144-4 record in college and won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Bartko, who was hired by Fresno State on Nov. 21 and started to work Jan. 1, will outline goals for the department in achieving the highest standards and strengthening the brand. Building a homecourt advantage, which includes facilities improvements to Bulldog Stadium, and growing the Red Wave also will be addressed at a news conference.