Just over a month ago, on the day Fresno State made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since Jerry Tarkanian chomped towels, I wrote that the program’s success was sustainable.
I feel that way because the Bulldogs, under coach Rodney Terry, were anything but a quick fix. It took time for the talent level to rise, for certain players to develop and for a winning culture to seep in. Because of the program’s solid foundation, there would be no collapse.
Wednesday’s news that Fresno State had received an oral commitment from highly touted Australian point guard William McDowell-White was more proof. (Careful readers will remember McDowell-White’s name from that same column in March. Prefaced with “if you want to dream really big.”)
Let’s not go overboard with the McDowell-White hype, expecting the next Jason Kidd. Any teenager coming to live in a new country and getting his first taste of stiffer competition needs time to adjust and develop.
But it’s a major score for the Bulldogs to land a prospect rated five stars by Scout.com and four by others, sought after by numerous high-major programs (Arizona State, Texas A&M, Michigan State, to name a few) and in their position of greatest need.
That cannot be underscored enough.
McDowell-White joins a loaded recruiting class that includes Roosevelt High star Bryson Williams and recent signees Lazaro Rojas and Jacob Holland. Combined with last season’s class of redshirts (watch out for Colorado transfer Jaron Hopkins, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard), there’s enough incoming talent to replace the three departing seniors.
Add that to the returning nucleus headed by Karachi Edo, Paul Watson and Cullen Russo, and you have a roster with realistic expectations of another NCAA berth – despite the loss of Mountain West Player of the Year Marvelle Harris.
We worked really hard over the five years that I’ve been here to establish a culture that’s built for winning. It’s been a process; it really has.
Fresno State men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry
For Bulldogs fans excited about the program’s turnaround, it’s time to stay that way.
For Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko, it’s time to invest.
What am I talking about? Follow the money. Look at what Fresno State spends on men’s basketball compared to other schools.
Then look at what Fresno State spends on men’s basketball compared to what it spends on football and women’s basketball – and how those numbers have fluctuated over time.
The differences are rather eye-opening.
All universities that play intercollegiate sports and get financial help from Uncle Sam are required to report their income sources and spending habits to the Department of Education.
Fresno State reported $2.48 million in men’s basketball expenses for the 2014-15 fiscal year, a figure that ranks seventh among the 10 MW schools. (Air Force, a private school, is not listed.)
Even schools like Utah State ($3.38 million) and Wyoming ($3.12 million) that have smaller overall athletic budgets than Fresno State spend more on men’s basketball.
Where does Fresno State’s $2.48 million rank among the NCAA field of 68? The Bulldogs are 50th, tucked between Middle Tennessee and UNC Wilmington, assistant Jerry Wainwright’s former program.
$2.48 million Fresno State’s total expenses for men’s basketball in 2014-15, seventh highest in the MW
I mentioned earlier how the men’s basketball budget is the seventh highest in the MW. According to the same Equity in Athletics database, Fresno State in 2014-15 ranked third in the conference in football expenses ($10.98 million) and second in women’s basketball ($1.99 million).
Cast in that light, men’s basketball sits pretty low on the totem pole.
It’s also interesting to compare how the proportions have changed. In 2005-06, Thomas Boeh’s first year as AD, Fresno State reported $6.66 million in football expenses, $2.05 million in men’s basketball and $1.33 million in women’s basketball.
That means, according to my seventh-grade statistics skills rechecked online, football has gotten a 65 percent budget increase over the past decade and women’s basketball a shade under 50 percent … while men’s basketball managed only a 21 percent bump.
There are explanations for this. Foremost among them: Men’s basketball has been mediocre to lousy during most of those years, as reflected by dwindling attendance.
Fresno State’s de facto tenant status at Save Mart Center is another factor. The athletic department essentially rents out the arena – it even gets an electricity bill – and doesn’t make a dime off parking or concessions.
There are reasons men’s basketball hasn’t received favorite-sibling status. Still, it’s time to recognize a lot of them are fading away.
There are reasons men’s basketball hasn’t received favorite-sibling status. Still, it’s time to recognize a lot of them are fading away. Bulldogs fans are excited about the program again. This is the time to pounce.
For starters, the program’s paltry $180,000 scheduling budget needs to be doubled – at least. Fresno State shouldn’t be playing every name opponent on the road (see Arizona and Oregon last season).
Sure that costs money, which is plenty scarce already. Except now there’s a decent chance fans buy enough tickets to recoup those expenses. Not to mention the competitive advantage of playing at home.
With a couple quality nonconference wins, maybe the Bulldogs enter their next NCAA Tournament as an 11 or 12 seed instead of a 14. Which could make all the difference in advancing past the first round.
If there was ever a time for Fresno State to invest in men’s basketball, it’s here.
MOUNTAIN WEST MEN’S BASKETBALL BUDGETS IN 2014-15
1. San Diego State
2. Colorado State
4. New Mexico
5. Utah State
7. Fresno State
8. Boise State
10. San Jose State
Source: Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act cutting tool; Air Force not listed