The biggest question hovering over the Fresno State baseball team at the moment isn't whether the Bulldogs will squeak into the Mountain West tournament.
Nor is it the status of longtime coach Mike Batesole, who is working through the details of a contract extension.
Nor whether the roster's 17 freshmen portend a bright future or more mid-pack finishes in a mediocre conference.
None of those things really matter until Fresno State decides what kind of baseball program it wants to be.
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Does it want to be the nationally relevant kind that wins conference championships and makes NCAA regional appearances on the regular?
Or is it good enough to be a low-key program with a team GPA above 3.0 and better-than-average graduation rates and APR scores, even if the championships and NCAA trips are sporadic?
Right now, no one seems to know. Given the program's rich history, the 34 conference titles and four College World Series appearances highlighted by the 2008 national title, it's only natural for fans and alumni to expect the former. Except that doesn't in any way reflect the current reality of how much the college baseball landscape has changed, and how little Fresno State has done to keep up.
"You're 100 percent right," Batesole said prior to the final home series against UNLV. "None of us are happy with it either. We all want to be that (nationally relevant) program.
"But it comes down to the fact that I'm an employee and at some point I do what I'm told. 'This is what you're given. Go do the best you can with it.' And that's exactly what we're doing, in my opinion."
Twenty years ago, when I moved here and started covering the Bulldogs, it felt like there were four major sports: football in the fall; men's basketball in winter; and baseball and softball in the spring.
Nowadays there's only one: football. Men's basketball sits a couple rungs below, while baseball and softball have dipped to the level of niche programs.
Built in 1966, renovated in 1983 and further improved in 1998 and '99, Beiden Field (the "at Bob Bennett Stadium" part came much later) once ranked among the finest college baseball facilities on the West Coast. And the Bulldogs were a huge draw. During the five seasons between 1988 and 1992, Fresno State led the nation in total attendance four times.
In 2018, college baseball is dominated by Power Five conference schools. Flush with cash and armed with strength-of-schedule-boosted RPI ratings, they gobble up nearly all the NCAA at-large bids. Just like in football, the national playing field has become tilted.
Fresno State cannot keep up with the Stanfords or Floridas. That simply isn't realistic. But the Bulldogs have fallen behind the immediate competition, too.
Take a spin around the MW. In 2016, UNLV and New Mexico each opened new clubhouses with locker rooms, training facilities and offices on the ground floor and viewing decks up above. New Mexico's is 6,000 square feet and cost $2.4 million. UNLV's is 10,000 square feet (including indoor batting cages and a weight room) and cost $2.75 million.
San Diego State renovated its clubhouse along with other improvements in 2013. Nevada has been busy updating its baseball facilities, buffered by a recent $1 million donation. San Jose State plans to build a 1,500-seat baseball stadium as part of its south campus improvement plan. And Boise State will have a new on-campus stadium when its baseball program starts up in 2020.
Fresno State, meanwhile, hasn't made any upgrades since the cramped home clubhouse was refurbished following the Wonderdogs' NCAA title run.
During that 2008 season something else happened that is more emblematic of where the program currently stands: The video screen contained within the left-field scoreboard went out. A decade later, there's still no video board. In its place is an ad for fast food.
According to Fresno State associate athletic director for facilities and operations John Kriebs, a $150,000 line item for a new video board has been included in the team's budget requests every year since.
"But it never seems to make it through," Kriebs said.
Video boards and new clubhouses might seem like small things from the outside, but they're huge for recruits.
How huge? Batesole explains by describing how he recently lost a local recruit to Michigan. Where a good chunk of the season is played in temperatures below 60 degrees.
"How does Fresno State lose a Valley kid to Michigan? That's never happened before," Batesole said.
"Those programs have so surpassed us facilities-wise, and these kids nowadays that stuff is very impressive to them. They go there, see a new stadium, see luxury boxes, see a giant video screen in the outfield, see lockers that are twice as big as ours. Now you add the academics, which mom and dad are all in for, and the kid's going there."
When Batesole's contract talks were first reported – both he and interim athletic director Steve Robertello expect an extension to get done soon – there were a few grumbles. Fresno State needs to sweep UNLV and get some help just to reach the MW tournament. The Bulldogs have made only three NCAAs trips since their celebrated title run, the last in 2012, and are 1-6 in those games.
Those criticisms are fair, but they also contain a giant blind spot: Why should the coach be held to past standards when the university that employs him has so badly let them slip?
At some point Fresno State baseball stopped being a victim of its own success, and started to become a victim of its own neglect.