The Fresno State Bulldogs' 10-4 football season, which included their first bowl victory since 2007, appears to have breathed some life into an aging and apathetic fan base.
Still six months from the season-opener for coach Jeff Tedford and a team that returns 17 starters, the athletic department has sold 685 season tickets to new or first-time buyers.
"A real good number for new season tickets from Jan. 1 to basically the beginning of spring football," said Paul Ladwig, senior associate athletics director for external relations.
"Coming off a 10-4 season and a bowl win you always hope to see a positive reflection in the number of new season tickets, and that's exactly what we've seen so far in the first couple months of this year. The 2018 year is starting to shape up like 2013, which is the last time we saw an early number of new season tickets, so we're incredibly pleased with where we are. There's obviously a long way to go to get us to the number that we want, but if you take the first three months and nearly 700 new tickets out the door, it's a real good start."
The new ticket sales amount to about $120,000 in revenue for an athletic department that is saddled with 21 sports programs and has struggled as season and single-game ticket sales have plummeted over the past 10 years.
Coming off a 1-11 season in 2016, Fresno State last year sold just 15,692 season tickets.
But even as the wins mounted last season, attendance remained relatively flat.
The Mountain West opener against Nevada drew only 27,434 to Bulldog Stadium which holds 41,031. The Bulldogs were 2-0 in conference play when taking on New Mexico, and had only 28,090 in the stadium. They were 4-0 in the Mountain West and coming off a dominant victory over two-time defending league champion San Diego State when playing UNLV, and actually took a step back. That game drew only 27,922.
Fresno State had 29,370 in house for a nonconference game against BYU the following week and closed its home schedule with 31,526 for a game against No. 23 Boise State.
Fresno State's season ticket number was 15,404 in 2016, 18,432 in 2015 and 25,082 in 2014, which included a premier home date against Nebraska.
The Bulldogs last sold out a game in 2014 - that game against the Cornhuskers - and in 23 home games since have had fewer than 35,000 in attendance 21 times and fewer than 30,000 12 times.
As a result ticket revenue, the majority from football, has declined significantly.
In 2009-10, it accounted for 36.6 percent of a $18.4 million budget, or $6.76 million.
In 2012-13, it was 19.7 percent of a $25.6 million budget, or $5.04 million.
In 2016-17, it was 12.6 percent of a $34.2 million budget, or $4.31 million.
That could turn with better season and single-game ticket sales, and a program that has a chance to take another step up this fall with quarterback Marcus McMaryion back for his senior year and a healthy chunk of the team's rushing and receiving yards returning including running backs Jordan Mims, Josh Hokit and Ronnie Rivers along with wideouts KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan.
"Spring football is going on and people are talking about football and thinking about football and, also, it's renewal time for us," Ladwig said. "Everybody that was a season ticket holder last year has their renewal information in front of them, and this is one of the busiest weeks for renewals. Those are coming in and we expect to be somewhere in that 90 percentile once all the renewals come in from last year, and we'll continue to push new season tickets and on top of it comes our group sales. They were strong last year, and we expect them to even be stronger this year.
"We made our budget number last year. We'll evaluate those numbers this year and hopefully put a few more dollars in the budget of Fresno State athletics when it comes to football ticket sales."
FRESNO STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 1: Idaho
Sept. 8: at Minnesota
Sept. 15: at UCLA
Sept. 29: Toledo
Oct. 6: at Nevada
Oct. 13: Wyoming
Oct. 20: at New Mexico
Oct. 27: Hawaii
Nov. 3: at UNLV
Nov. 10: at Boise State
Nov. 17: San Diego State
Nov. 24: San Jose State