By my calculations, the Bulldogs’ 27-3 victory over host San Diego State last Saturday cost me $45 – no, make that 60 bucks.
Now the only question is when Fresno State will make me pay up.
I didn’t bet against my alma mater. I’m talking about the cost of my football season ticket. Head coach Jeff Tedford and his players are well on their way to giving university officials something they’ve dreamed about for years: Leverage on the pricing of tickets.
First, the San Diego State game.
The Bulldogs never trailed en route to their fourth straight victory. Fresno State is 5-2 on the year and 4-0 in the Mountain West Conference. The team picked by experts to finish last in the West Division now sits alone at the summit.
Next up: UNLV at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, kickoff at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs’ offense was led by quarterback Marcus McMaryion (10 of 16 passing, 176 yards, no interceptions) and running back Josh Hokit (76 yards rushing, three touchdowns, no fumbles by him or any other Bulldog runner).
The Aztecs took the game’s opening kickoff on an 83-yard drive that ended in a lost fumble. They had a 61-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with their only points of the game. For the rest of the night, the Aztecs managed just 111 yards total offense.
A consistently stout defense solves many problems.
Tedford at his weekly news conference on Monday was asked what he found most satisfying about the game.
“The way we played together as a team in all three phases (offense, defense, special teams),” Tedford said. “We had patience in the run game and ran hard. We protected the football. The plan going in was to run the ball ‘downhill.’ Defensively, the first drive took eight minutes or something like that off the clock. The fumble was huge – to come up with a turnover there. But then things kind of settled down. Once we were able to get a lead, we kind of turned them into a little more one-dimensional (team) – they had to throw it.”
Judging by news reports and game stats, the Bulldogs’ performance was methodical. I’ve come to view “methodical” as the highest praise for a winning football program – systematic, disciplined, relentless, resilient. The Green Bay Packers of Vince Lombardi were methodical.
The San Diego State victory is one to savor for years to come. The Aztecs beat Arizona State (on the road) and Stanford earlier in the season.
Marek Warszawski, The Bee’s superb columnist, asked Tedford on Monday if the team and coaching staff have fully grasped the significance of Saturday’s win to Bulldogs fans.
Tedford, I’m coming to learn, isn’t one to philosophize during the season.
“Not really,” Tedford said. “We got home yesterday (Sunday) and went right to work. Players came in and lifted right away when we got back at noon. Then we had meetings and got started on the next opponent. So, we really haven’t been outside to read much of anything outside of here (the football complex on Bulldog Lane). We’re game-planning and doing our thing.
“But I do understand that beating a quality team like that is good for the program. There’s no doubt about it. It’s good for recruiting – the whole bit. I do understand that. I’m not naïve to that, that’s for sure. I got a lot of text messages from people, so that’s nice. But it’s one game. It doesn’t mean anything unless we continue to prepare. At the end of the year, where the standings are – that’s all that matters.”
One of those congratulatory texts was from Athletic Director Jim Bartko. Another was from the university’s Big Boss.
“I got a nice text message from President Castro – congratulations and we’re fired up about it and things like that,” Tedford said. “It was nice to get a text from him.”
We all know about last year. Fresno State went 1-11. The lone victory was against a Sacramento State team that went 2-9 on the year in FCS (non-bowl participating) competition. Bulldogs Head Coach Tim DeRuyter was fired midway through the season. He almost certainly had lost control of the program.
Now the Bulldogs – new coaching staff but many of the same players – are beating the likes of San Diego State.
Such a turnaround is an asset all by itself. Diplomatic historians might call this asset an “instrument of influence.”
How might Fresno State use this still-developing instrument of influence? Tedford mentioned one – recruiting. Top-notch high school and junior college players generally prefer to transfer to winning programs.
And there’s the business side of the program.
The Fresno State Athletic Corp. recently posted online its financial statement for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The athletic program generated $26.1 million in operating revenues and totaled $33.6 million in operating expenses. Contributions covered the gap.
The numbers weren’t all that different from the 2015-16 fiscal year. The cost of scholarships went up a bit, from $7.06 million to $7.23 million. Scholarship costs seem to go up every year.
To my untrained eye, the Bulldogs’ latest financial statement suggests a stagnant operation on the game-day revenue side. Methodical mediocrity isn’t good. University support can’t save the day forever.
But a resurgent football program can help big time. That’s an instrument of influence to exploit.
My football season ticket year in and year out puts me in Section 16. I paid $28.83 per ticket for 2017’s six home games — $173 ($28.85 for Boise State). My memory is shot, but it seems that I pay $173 every year. If I pay the same every year, I’m guessing all the other buyers of season and single-game tickets pay pretty much the same every year.
No one likes to shell out more money. At the same time, it’s common sense (not to mention their fiduciary duty) for public officials to appropriately price a public product.
If Tedford and the Bulldogs keep at it, to price my 2018 season ticket at $173 is to leave money on the table. I pocket the program’s increased value, not the university.
I couldn’t believe it on Saturday when I learned the Bulldogs had whipped San Diego State by 24 points. In my book, that game tops the 34-14 defeat of the unbeaten Aztecs on Oct. 8, 1977 at Ratcliffe Stadium.
At first, I imagined the price per game of my 2018 season ticket jumping $7.50 to $36.33. Then I dreamed: nine or 10 regular season victories this year, a trip to the Mountain West championship game, a bowl victory.
That per game price hike suddenly jumped to $10.
Of course, there’s good reason to think the “instrument of influence” that is the reborn Fresno State football program will manifest itself sooner than 2018. Perhaps 41,000 people will show up this Saturday for the UNLV game.
The Bee’s Warszawski on Monday asked Tedford if the Bulldogs have earned more fan support.
“There’s a lot of excitement around,” Tedford said. “It would be great if they come out and support the players. Like I said – we only have a few more opportunities at home. Down in San Diego was awesome, having them (the Red Wave) cheer Fresno State. It was a great environment down there.
“I think we’re getting better each and every week. We have only so many more opportunities to play at home. I hope the fans come out and support us and help us – create that energy and that positive vibe in our stadium. It should be a fun night.”