Fresno State is 5-2 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain West Conference with a date Saturday against UNLV – and every victory from here comes with a price tag.
Under terms of coach Jeff Tedford’s contract, a sixth regular-season win triggers a $100,000 bonus. If the Bulldogs land on seven victories it is $150,000, eight is $200,000, nine $250,000 and 10 it’s $300,000.
Fresno State can’t get to 11 regular-season wins this season, but if it does in the future the bonus is $400,000.
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But athletic director Jim Bartko, who is overseeing a renovation of Bulldog Stadium and a department weighted down this academic year by the addition of two sports, is all for blowing up that budget. It means they are winning and, in theory, generating additional revenues through donations and ticket sales.
“If we shy away from that then we’re in trouble,” Bartko said. “We need to have our coaches in every sport do great academically and do great on the field and compete.
“When I first got here I said the key is to battle for championships in every sport, top to bottom, and 1-11 and 3-9 wasn’t very helpful. But Jeff has turned that culture around with his whole staff.”
The Fresno State athletic department budget is about $37.8 million in well-scrutinized and scrubbed expenditures; not much fluff, not many frills. It does include an allocation for the performance bonuses included in its coaching contracts, and with the Bulldogs on a roll that number that could look very small by the time the football season comes to an end.
A victory over the Rebels also would strengthen the Bulldogs’ hold on first place in the conference’s West Division – they have a two-game lead plus a head-to-head tiebreaker over San Diego State with four games to play.
If Fresno State is the division champion and advances to the conference championship game, there is a $150,000 bonus. If the Bulldogs were to beat the Mountain Division in that game and bring another conference title to Fresno, that bonus jumps to $250,000.
A sixth win also would make the Bulldogs eligible to play in a bowl for the first time since 2014, and a spot in an at-large game provides a $100,000 bonus. If the Bulldogs win that bowl, the bonus becomes $200,000.
There are bonuses in play for a Top 25 finish in the College Football Playoff rankings – $150,000; and for conference and national coach of the year awards – $50,000 and $100,000.
There also are the standard bonuses for classroom performance ranging from the team’s annual Academic Progress Rate score to its GPA and federal graduation rate.
Top out those three bonuses, it comes out to $415,000.
If maximum academic and on-field bonuses are hit – and it would take winning a national championship to get there – the total would be $2.765 million. Tedford has a base salary of $1.58 million per year through 2021.
The hope there is that winning increases donations and ticket revenue, which would help offset any hit to the budget.
“You always want to have success and pay those bonuses,” Bartko said.
Though three home games this year, that has not been the case, but winning could take care of that. Fresno State had 39,447 for its opener against Incarnate Word, when it retired the No. 4 jersey in honor of record-setting quarterback Derek Carr. But it drew 27,434 for its conference opener against Nevada and 28,090 for homecoming against New Mexico.
It is expected to surpass 30,000 on Saturday against UNLV (2-5, 1-3), which could be without starting quarterback Armani Rogers because of a head injury suffered last week in a loss to Utah State.
After that the Bulldogs have two more home games: Nov. 4 against a 1-7 Brigham Young team and Nov. 25 against Boise State.
If Fresno State gets 30,000 against UNLV it would be the first for a conference home game since it had 30,540 in 2015 against Utah State. In the nine games since that 56-14 loss to the Aggies, it has averaged 25,650.
“Our fans have had three or four years of tough going,” Bartko said. “They’re coming back. They’re donating. But we lost a lot the last couple of years.
“Jeff has done a great job of reinstalling success and the emotion and I think our fans are going to get behind it. We’re third right now in the league in average attendance, but we want to be first and we can do it.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
UNLV AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
- Records: Bulldogs 5-2, 4-0 Mountain West; Rebels 2-5, 1-3
- TV/radio: AT&T, ROOT (AT&T UVerse 757, 1757; DirecTV 684)//KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: The Rebels lost at home to Utah State on Saturday, 52-28. UNLV has now allowed an average of 42.3 points over its past three games. … The Aggies rolled up 578 yards of total offense, 323 passing and 255 rushing. They converted 8 of 14 third downs, taking advantage of a soft spot in the UNLV defense. … The Rebels entered having allowed opponents to convert on 44.2 percent of their third downs, ranking 10th in the Mountain West. … UNLV does have one of the top running backs in the conference in Lexington Thomas, who racked up 161 yards and two touchdowns against Utah State and is averaging 125.3 yards per game with 12 rushing touchdowns.