Welcome to Fresno, Jim Bartko. Hope you brought Phil Knight as your treasurer, because you’re going to need him.
Or, more to the point, you just might need Knight’s bottomless bag of paperback presidents, because all the bright ideas and core values in the college sports world are little more than a theoretical exercise if you don’t have briefcases full of unmarked hundreds to cover the bill of lading.
What, you thought Bartko got the Fresno State athletic director job on the fashion strength of Oregon’s toxic-hued uniforms?
Bartko is here because he knows how to raise money by the barge. He did it for 26 years at Oregon, and there was more to that than simply speed-dialing Nike headquarters every day and twice on Saturdays.
We know Bartko can take up a mean offering in Eugene. We know Bartko can cash Pac-12 television checks on the first of the month. But, he’s not in Eugene anymore, and this isn’t the Pac-12.
He’s on the Fresno side of the Mountain West Conference, in a college town where the economy is still on crutches, donors are still dumpster diving, and the nearest Nike presence at the Tulare outlets.
At least Fresno State knows that money carries the conversation. Why else hire a money guy to run the games department? If former director Thomas Boeh was hired to help Fresno State live within its means —the man never met a budget or wrestling team he couldn’t cut — then Bartko has been hired to generate new means for Fresno State to live within.
That is vital in a Valley where the only dependable fundraiser has always been a winner.
That model works when there is a Carr brother starting at quarterback, but that family tree has run out of brothers with college eligibility.
Seriously, when is the last time you bought walk-up tickets to see a Fresno State team with a losing record?
When the football team wins, Bulldog Stadium sells outs and the Bulldog Shop empties shelves. When the football team loses, every home game is a Lots of Legroom giveaway, where you buy one seat and get empty seats around you free.
When the men’s basketball team wins, Fresno State fans wad up their cash and throw it at the Bulldog Foundation. When the men’s basketball team loses, they tarp off the top of Save Mart Center and use an inebriated version of common core math to exaggerate the attendance.
Fresno State needs a financial chief who can find ways to keep the collection plates full even when the Bulldogs are building character in defeat instead of building trophy cases in victory.
The higher-ups decided Bartko is that guy. His track record at Oregon proves he can part people from their money with the best of them. Icons named Knight gravitate towards excellence, so Bartko obviously isn’t some average middle man. Of course, you’ve got to wonder why it took Bartko 25 years to get another job, and a lower-middle class NCAA job at that, but we’ll give him quarter on that one.
He’s going to shake hands, work the room and dial in his Nike connections. He’ll come up with better marketing ideas than “Be Every Fan’s Mother And Tell Them How To Dress Today.” He’ll make Fresno State better, just by being from a better place.
Who knows? Maybe Bartko can get the local student body to win enough games to give him a seller’s market.