Fresno State has reached an agreement to play three football games at USC, adding the Trojans to a number of budget-balancing games against Power Five conference opponents in its future.
The games will be played on Aug. 31, 2019, Sept. 17, 2022 and Aug. 30, 2025 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Each game will be worth $1.1 million to an athletic department that just brought on two more sports, wrestling and women’s water polo, while trying to raise funds to cover cost of attendance stipends for its student-athletes and other outlays to remain competitive in the Mountain West Conference and nationally.
The goal, athletic director Jim Bartko said, is to net $1 million per year in game guarantees by scheduling one Power Five and a combination of Group of Five or lower-division opponents. But the department still is digging out of a hole that left it well short of that goal last season and again this season due to past scheduling decisions by the previous athletics administration. The Bulldogs lost $10,000 in 2015 playing at Mississippi and at BYU, and will net only $400,000 in 2016 playing games at Nebraska and Toledo.
“My worry was, with all the transition in college football, five, six, seven, eight years from now, are these games even going to be that easy to schedule,” Bartko said.
“If we can get some locked in, then we know we’re stable and get our budget back in line to where it needs to be. There might be some years we have two – UCLA and Oregon. But they’re West Coast schools; you’re not traveling across the country. We’ve gone down to UCLA and won. We’ve gone to Oregon and battled. We’re not going to overschedule, but there might be some years where we have two tough games and a B and a C. Some years you might have one A, two C’s and a B. But we have to make sure that our budget is not like the stock market, because we don’t have the ability every year to fix that.”
Fresno State will play to that formula this season, opening at Nebraska and playing nonconference games against Sacramento State, at Toledo and against Tulsa.
But in 2017, Fresno State will play games at Washington and at Alabama for $1 million and $1.4 million guarantees. In 2018, it will play games at Minnesota and at Colorado. With the first of the games at USC in 2019, the Bulldogs also will play against Minnesota, and at Colorado that season. In 2020, Fresno State has a contract to play a game at Texas A&M. In 2021, it has games scheduled at Oregon and at UCLA.
The Bulldogs have played USC four times, beating the Trojans 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl behind quarterback Trent Dilfer and running backs Lorenzo Neal, Ron Rivers and Anthony Daigle. Fresno State also took then-No. 1 USC to the wire in 2005 at the Coliseum, leading 42-41 with nine minutes to play before falling 50-42 in a game in which Reggie Bush rushed for 294 yards and scored two touchdowns.
The past two games came at the end of the 2013 season and start of ’14 – USC beating Fresno State 45-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl and 52-13 at the Coliseum.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Bulldogs vs. Trojans
Fresno State and USC have met four times in football, twice in bowl games and twice at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
- 1992: Fresno State 24, USC 7 (Freedom Bowl in Anaheim)
- 2005: USC 50, Fresno State 42
- 2013: USC 45, Fresno State 20 (Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl)
- 2014: USC 52, Fresno State 13
Future Fresno State nonconference football games
- Sept. 3: at Nebraska
- Sept. 10: SACRAMENTO STATE
- Sept. 17: at Toledo
- Sept. 24: TULSA
- Sept. 2: INCARNATE WORD
- Sept. 9: at Alabama
- Sept. 16: at Washington
- Nov. 4: BYU
- Sept. 1: IDAHO
- Sept. 8: at Minnesota
- Sept. 15: at UCLA
- Sept. 29: TOLEDO
- Aug. 31: at USC
- Sept. 7: MINNESOTA
- Sept. 14: at Colorado
- Sept. 26: at Texas A&M
- Sept. 4: at Oregon
- Sept. 18: at UCLA
- Sept. 17: at USC
- Sept. 16: at Arizona State
- Aug. 30: at USC