After nearly 30 years of observing Fresno State football up close, two things are clear.
One, Bulldog fans love a winning team. Two, more than that, they love supporting a local product.
Those are a couple of things that have gotten away from the Bulldogs in the past few years as they spiraled down the Mountain West totem pole.
Grand were the days when San Joaquin Valley products like Kevin Sweeney, Derek Carr and David Carr helped build the Bulldog brand, the little team from farm country that shocked the world by beating USC in the 1992 Freedom Bowl.
Such moments have been few and far between for the Bulldogs of late, however. Pat Hill did quite a bit in righting the ship academically and helping with stadium and schedule upgrades that led to more bowl appearances and a promotion to the Mountain West.
Somewhere along the line, though, Fresno State lost its way, not only losing games, but losing Valley recruits to fellow Mountain West members.
Before continuing, let’s make two points clear: First, athletes who can play at the Power 5 (Pac 12, SEC, Big Ten, Big XII and ACC) level rise to that level. Second, athletes, no matter how much fans and boosters beg, have no obligation to attend Hometown U. For most of them, where to go to college may be the biggest decision they’ve made in their life.
But, when one hears from recruiting experts that Fresno State only got in touch with several Valley products late in the game, or when they had already made their decisions, something’s amiss.
It ‘s going to take a year or two to right the Good Ship Bulldog, that’s for sure. And patience has never been a virtue for front-running Fresno fans, who dream Power 5 dreams on a shoestring budget.
Whoever the new coach is, though, needs to rebuild Valley ties. And quickly. Shopping locally for talent won’t be a cure-all, but it may ease the pain.