Jim Bartko made all the stops at Bulldog Stadium, visiting with various fans, boosters and even the family members of the football coaching staff before Saturday’s game.
But perhaps Bartko’s most intriguing, if not potentially impactful, conversation was a telephone call earlier this week that the new Fresno State athletic director had with Pat Hill.
Bartko, Oregon’s executive senior associate athletic director for development who was hired Nov. 21 by Fresno State, said he reached out the former Bulldogs football coach about returning to the athletic department in some capacity.
“He needs to be engaged, and I think he just needs to be part of the program somehow,” Bartko said. “He’s not looking to get another job; he just wants to be part of what we’re doing.
“He’s a legend like Mike Bellotti was at Oregon. We used him for a lot of fundraisers and other events. Pat and Tim (DeRuyter) have a good relationship. A lot people at Fresno State would welcome him back.”
Hill this fall has attended a handful of Bulldogs football practices and has told friends he’d like to be involved with Fresno State again after sering as coach from 1997-2013. Hill also was an assistant at Fresno State under Jim Sweeney from 1984-89.
While Bartko has begun some of his new duties (he’ll also be at today’s Bulldogs men’s basketball game against Cal), he’s also wrapping up his responsibilities at Oregon, where he’s worked for 25 years. He’s expected to start full-time at Fresno after the New Year. Still, he said it was important to be in Fresno to watch the Bulldogs clinch the West Division of the Mountain West even though it meant missing the Civil War rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State.
Bartko said his itinerary this week will include attending the Pac-12 championship game between Oregon and Arizona on Friday in Santa Clara before flying the following day to the Bulldogs’ matchup in the Mountain West title game. He added that he will move initially to Fresno by himself as his wife stays with their children to finish out the school year in Oregon.
“The next six months are going to be hectic,” Bartko said. “But it’ll also give me six months to grind away and get to work.”
Bartko said his first set of goals are to meet all of the athletic staff, coaches and campus and community leaders, as well as donors, to get a better sense of where the entire department is headed.
“People here have been great,” Bartko said. “The fans, the staff, as soon as you walked in that parking lot, they’ve taken me in. I’m excited to start working .”
Bartko, who has been a dynamic fundraiser at Oregon and has close ties to Nike chief Phil Knight, also quickly alluded that Fresno State will strengthen its ties with the shoe company Nike in the coming months.
“Nike will increase their support for us,” Bartko said. “But that’s down the road. We’ve got other things we’ve got to take care of first.”