Fresno State President Joseph Castro and Athletic Director Jim Bartko have made positive impressions on Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson.
Castro, about to enter his third year at Fresno State, already serves on the conference board of directors as vice president. Which means he’ll ascend to the presidency in 2016-17.
“I’m really excited about Joe Castro,” Thompson said Wednesday during the Mountain West Football Media Days at The Cosmopolitan. “He’s really stepped up and taken an active role in the conference, which is probably good for Fresno State because he’ll have first-hand knowledge of what everyone else is doing.
“I like his insight, his enthusiasm, and he’s got a great low-key approach to solving problems.”
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Thompson only recently got to know Bartko, who took over as athletic director Jan. 1.
“Jim is really of the people — he’s right out in there,” Thompson said. “He’s having a lot of lunches and very active and very involved in the community and very positive.
“I think he and Joe are a great combination. They’re getting out and listening to the alumni and season-ticket holders. They’re doing the right things. They’re engaging.”
I think he and Joe are a great combination. They’re getting out and listening to the alumni and season-ticket holders. They’re doing the right things. They’re engaging.
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson on Fresno State’s administrative brain trust of AD Jim Bartko and university President Joseph Castro
Thompson also said he was impressed by Fresno State’s planned upgrades to Bulldog Stadium.
“It’s a very nice facility now, it’s just a little outdated,” he said. “To me, the biggest issues are accessibility. It’s hard to get in and out of there.”
Every MW school hands out media guides to reporters and broadcasters. Some even give out DVDs.
Colorado State provided bags of microwavable popcorn featuring star receiver Rashard Higgins, the league’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Each bag includes a fact sheet touting Higgins’ accomplishments from 2014, but that’s immaterial. The important question is this: How does Hollywood Higgins popcorn taste?
“Man, it’s real buttery,” Higgins said with a grin.
The senior, who led the national last season with 1,750 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, also has the curious habit of sleeping with a football.
“I put that football right in my bed like it’s a little baby.”
Utah State could challenge Boise State’s supremacy in the Mountain Division, if dynamic senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton can finally stay healthy.
You want it for us and the success of our team, but mostly you want it for him because of how much he’s gone through emotionally and psychologically.
Utah State coach Matt Wells on oft-injured QB Chuckie Keeton, back for a fifth year of eligibility after knee issues
Keeton was granted a medical redshirt, giving him a fifth season of eligibility, after missing the final 11 games of the 2014 season because of an injury to his surgically repaired left knee. That’s the same knee that caused him to miss the final seven games in 2013.
“You want it for us and the success of our team, but mostly you want it for him because of how much he’s gone through emotionally and psychologically,” Aggies coach Matt Wells said.
Scheduling formula has been a question in maintaining the profile of the Mountain West in the Group of Five, with the need to play and beat Power Five programs.
San Diego State coach Rocky Long thinks Mountain West programs should be lining up two Power Five opponents every year, but there are competitive and economic issues that play into it.
“It kind of depends on your needs as a university,’’ Thompson said. “In general, if there’s a model that I think would be most successful is if everybody played a stretch game, a game that probably is going to be challenging to win, might mean ‘at’ somebody along with a potential revenue gain. I think that two games against lower Group of 65, winnable games, 50-50 type games, and/or another Group of Five opponent and then you can probably manage in the fourth game an FCS game just to get you a home game that isn’t going to cost you a fortune to bring somebody in.
“That would give you a chance arguably to be 3-1 or 2-2 coming out of the nonconference and then you shake the dice. There’s a lot of parity and balance in the league, but that can get you maybe eight or nine wins. I think history has shown we’re going to have several teams with 10 or 11 wins. We’ve had a half dozen teams in our 16-year history that were undefeated. There’s no cookie-cutter approach at any of this.”
Fresno State wasn’t in a position to do that, adding a game in 2017 at Alabama worth $1.4 million to a game at Washington worth $1 million. After generating more than $1 million from game guarantees over the past four years, the Bulldogs will net no guaranteed revenue this season, even playing nonconference games at Ole Miss and Brigham Young, and a little more than $400,000 next season.
▪ Fresno State is not the only program in the MW that will be spreading out the reps for its quarterbacks in fall camp. Boise State has a redshirt sophomore back in Ryan Finley, who completed 12 of 27 passes in five games last season, along with redshirt sophomore Thomas Stuart, redshirt freshman Alex Ogle and freshman Brett Rypien. Only Finley has taken a snap. “Usually about 10 days before you play is when you’d like to have a decision, so you can get some game prep in there and a little couple extra days,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “But it’s really when it’s time and hopefully it’s a tough battle that you have to really get down to that second scrimmage and practices afterward to see what’s the one or two things we’re trying to figure out to separate these guys? If you’ve got that, and it’s a good thing when you have some healthy competition, then you have your starter who you pick and you have another guy who is right there waiting and that’s what you want.”
▪ Boise State and Utah State, expected to be the top two teams in the Mountain Division, play Oct. 16 in Logan, Utah. The Broncos will be playing on the road for the third time in four games and on a short week, with a game at Colorado State on Oct. 10.
▪ There were four teams with 10 or more wins in the Mountain Division last season — Boise State, Utah State, Colorado State and … the Air Force. The Falcons return 10 starters and 36 letter winners, but are they legitimate contenders in 2015? “They won 10 games and beat our butts, absolutely they’re a contender,” Harsin said.
▪ Wyoming had a rough start last season, much like Fresno State. The Cowboys in the first five weeks had games at No. 2 Oregon and No. 5 Michigan State. “We’re trying to get a home and home with a Power Five team,” coach Craig Bohl said. “I think it’s important for our fans to have teams from other leagues, but I think there needs to be a balance there. We’re going to really take a hard look trying not to do a ton of guarantee games, I think, because when you start to do that, that cuts pretty deep into your bone and marrow of your football team.”