Here’s a message for doubters, dropouts and down-on-the-couch types diminishing the ranks of the once nationally recognized Red Wave.
These, my friends, are the good old’ days.
Jeff Tedford’s Bulldogs ended all debate about being Fresno State’s greatest football team by vanquishing Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The victory gave the Bulldogs the school record for victories in a season with 12 — a tally that included two wins over Pac-12 opponents led by former NFL head coaches and a nail-biting overtime victory at arch-nemesis Boise State.
Honor the Past But Invest in the Future
Finally — thanks to Marcus McMaryion, Jeff Allison, George Helmuth, Ronnie Rivers, Tank Kelly, KeeSean Johnson, and many more players — Fresno State fans can embrace the present and the future.
For too long, Fresno State fans have been stuck in the past — often reliving the thrills of old or bemoaning the Mountain West Conference instead of investing in the here and now.
Yes, it’s fun to remember the good times: Beating USC in the Freedom Bowl, the Carr brothers’ throwing 178 career touchdown passes, or destroying Oregon State — ranked No. 1 in the nation by Sports Illustrated — at home.
But our memories shouldn’t hold us captive. Or blind us to the possibilities ahead.
Those imprisoned by the past should take note of Tedford. He pays tribute to the Fresno State coaches before him, especially Jim Sweeney and Pat Hill. He talks glowingly of the standout quarterbacks he developed in college, Aaron Rodgers among many.
Tedford, however, doesn’t dwell on his previous success at Cal and only grudgingly talks about his time as a pretty good Fresno State quarterback. He knows that Fresno State’s continued success demands his full focus on today and tomorrow.
There’s a Role for Everyone
The wonderful thing about Fresno State athletics is that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to take part.
Big donors carry the freight for building and renovating facilities, but there’s a role for everybody — right down to buying one ticket for one game sometime during the season.
Everybody’s on the bandwagon now, but a month ago just 26,162 fans turned out to see then 9-2 Fresno State defeat its oldest rival, San Jose State.
That kind of “crowd” doesn’t pay the bills.
Shadow of Tark Era Obscures Basketball
Other Fresno State sports are struggling to break loose from the past, too — none more so than the men’s basketball program.
The Bulldogs have a promising young coach in Justin Hutson and play an aggressive, exciting style of ball. Yet, they’re seemingly off the radar and the Save Mart Center is more of a mausoleum than the ear-splitting House That Tark Built.
Perhaps that changes for the better with tonight’s game against Cal. Perhaps the crowds and the community buzz crank up when the Bulldogs’ Mountain West schedule begins in January.
2018 Football Team Might Notch One More Win
I’ve heard all the reasons why the Red Wave doesn’t roar like it once did. The games are on TV. Bulldog Stadium is outdated. Millennials aren’t much into sports. Jerry Tarkanian split the community into loyalists and critics, and it will take decades for the wounds to mend. You can add many more factors, I’m sure.
The reality is, without more fans, Bulldog Stadium remains outdated and the Save Mart Center continues as a great place to enjoy 90 minutes of solitude.
Sweeney’s 1977 “Stadium Builders” team launched the Bulldogs out of 13,000-seat Ratcliffe Stadium on Blackstone Avenue and into their campus digs.
Hill’s “anyone, anywhere, anytime” mantra and the Carrs sold out Bulldog Stadium.
Perhaps the 2018 football team’s greatest victory is yet to come — propelling the Red Wave out of the past and into the future.