The Mountain West Conference released its national television schedule Wednesday and though Fresno State will appear only three times there was a bonus for the Bulldogs as they try to boost ticket sales to bump their bottom line.
They didn’t have a game moved to a Thursday or Friday night, with all six of their home games to be played on Saturdays starting Sept. 2 against Incarnate Word. The home schedule also includes Nevada (Sept. 30), New Mexico (Oct. 14), UNLV (Oct. 28), Brigham Young (Nov. 4) and Boise State (Nov. 25).
The Bulldogs, under new coach Jeff Tedford, will play on national TV on Oct. 21 at San Diego State (CBS Sports Network) and against BYU (an ESPN network to be determined) and Boise State (CBS Sports Network).
Fresno State had four players selected to the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame Hampshire Honor Society, for players that maintained a cumulative 3.2 GPA or better throughout their college careers. Honored were long snapper Justin Verrell, offensive lineman Jacob Vazquez, quarterback Zach Kline and linebacker Brandon Hughes.
Fresno State last season played two home games on Friday – against San Diego State and against Air Force – which didn’t do much for attendance at Bulldog Stadium. A 1-11 record obviously didn’t help much, either, nor did an offense that generated 17.7 points per game, the fewest in the conference.
It announced average attendance of 25,493 for six home games last season, but actual paid attendance averaged 18,116.
Season ticket renewals for 2017 have remained fairly flat, according to sources, but there has been an uptick in new ticket sales.
“We’re above last year’s pace,” athletic director Jim Bartko said. “We’re still below the pace that we were four years ago during the Derek Carr years and we have to get back to that area, but I think our fans are excited.
“We have four or five months to go, but I think we’re going to get there. We’re projecting about a 30 percent increase in sales this year from last year and if we can do that for the next two or three years when we have a new stadium we’ll have it filled.”
Fresno State in 2013, when Carr was a senior and the Bulldogs won the second of back-to-back conference championships, had an announced average attendance of 36,917. Budgeted ticket revenue also has declined sharply, falling to $4.3 million in 2016-17 from $5.8 million in 2014-15.
They’re competitive. They want to win. I think when you try to get offseason information you hear more the negatives than the positives and thus far there have been a few things that have reared their heads, but all in all I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the attitude and effort.
Fresno State defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer
The national TV schedule for the Mountain West includes 44 games and Fresno State and Utah State are playing in the fewest – three. But the conference this season is distributing television revenue more equally, rather than employing a bonus structure as it has in the past that was worth $500,000 to a program playing a Saturday game on ESPN or ESPN2 and $300,000 for a midweek game on one of those two networks.
Fresno State had benefited from that system, particularly in 2013-14 when playing a total of three Thursday or Friday games and three Saturday games on ESPN or ESPN2, but some other conference schools received much less. UNLV in the first two years of the MW television deal received no bonus money.
The Mountain West schools this season each will receive about $1.1 million, with Boise State receiving more through a deal negotiated in 2012 when the Broncos returned to the conference rather than bolt to the Big East and Hawaii not included in a deal as a football-only member of the Mountain West.
Using your head – The Bulldogs ran a pass protection period with their running backs picking up and blocking or trying to block blitzing linebackers, with a bit of a twist.
They were in full pads for the Wednesday morning practice, but took off the helmets for that one drill.
“What happens a lot of times is people lean and that’s how they get beat, so if you take their helmet off they won’t lean,” Tedford said. “They’ll keep their head out of it, which will get them back and get them in the proper position to block.
Watching him on tape last year he has some quick twitch to him and the more that he's doing out here now in drill work, you can really see some of that.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford on running back Dejonte O’Neal
“It’s about moving their feet and hand placement and all that, but it takes the leaning piece out of it because they don’t want to butt (the defender) with their heads ... or at least they shouldn’t want to, with their helmets off.”
On Dejonte – Dejonte O’Neal, the running back from Bullard High, continues to make progress coming back from a knee injury suffered last season against Tulsa and he could get a chance by the end the spring to give offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer and running backs coach Jamie Christian an idea where he might fit in the offense.
“Watching him on tape last year he has some quick twitch to him and the more that he’s doing out here now in drill work you can really see some of that,” Tedford said.
“Maybe toward the end of spring ball we fit him in a little more into some situational things just to get him over the hump, too, the apprehension of coming off of an injury. Maybe we can get that out of him here in spring ball, toward the end. But he’s getting better each day, Dejonte and Dontel (James). They’re both getting better each day so maybe by the end of the spring they’ll get a chance to get a few reps.”
O’Neal was set to play as a slot receiver last season before he was moved back to running back in the spring due to a rash of injuries in the position group.
He played in the first four games of the season before the knee injury, carrying the football four times in each and gaining 3.6 yards per play. The 5-foot-6 O’Neal also scored a touchdown in a victory over Sacramento State.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Fresno State 2017 schedule
Other kickoff times to be announced; all home games at Bulldog Stadium
- Sept. 2 vs. Incarnate Word
- Sept. 9 at Alabama
- Sept. 16 at Washington
- Sept. 30 vs. Nevada
- Oct. 7 at San Jose State
- Oct. 14 vs. New Mexico
- Oct. 21 at San Diego State. 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
- Oct. 28 vs. UNLV
- Nov. 4 vs. Brigham Young (ESPN networks)
- Nov. 11 at Hawaii
- Nov. 18 at Wyoming
- Nov. 25 vs. Boise State, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)