The Mountain West Conference commissioner says a proposed local sales tax measure dedicated to Fresno State is a good idea.
“I’m biased, but I think it’s really, really important because of what athletics is to both the academy and to the community. Athletics becomes the front porch, provides millions of dollars in exposure and advertising across platforms that reach potential donors, potential students, and nationwide exposure. When you’re on Fox and CBS Sports Net, that brand is out front for everything the school represents,” Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said at a news conference at Fresno State on Monday.
Nevarez is in her first year as the head of the conference, coming from the West Coast Conference, where she served in the same role. She also held administrative roles at San Jose State, the University of Oklahoma, and the Pacific-12 Conference.
Supporters of the measure are currently gathering signatures to place it on the March 5, 2024 ballot. It would raise Fresno County sales tax by a quarter-percent for 25 years, bringing in an estimated $56 million a year. The money would be used for Fresno State educational and athletic programs.
A previous version, known as Measure E, failed with voters in November 2022.
Nevarez visited the Fresno State campus this week.
— Gloria Nevarez (@GloNevarez) August 22, 2023
On College Football’s Upheaval
Nevarez said she is “deeply heartbroken and frustrated” about the situation with the Pac-12, where eight teams will leave by next season.
The last few seasons have seen an upheaval in major college conferences. Teams are switching sides, leading to big TV deals for the SEC and Big Ten, and possible extinction for the Pac-12.
“I’m optimistic that this settles out in the next couple of weeks, month, at least for the short term. And then when all the media deals come up for renegotiation again, I think that we’re going to be back in this merry-go-round. So much of it is about media contracts,” Nevarez said.
Asked if she thought greed was a motive, Nevarez said there are several factors at play.
“I’m really not going to be judgmental because I’ve worked on big campuses,” she said. “There is tremendous pressure to fund and do things at a very high level. And there’s only so many buckets of resources that can continue to fuel those programs and to chase excellence.”
“I understand the tension of trying to operate athletic departments at that level and the need for resources at that level,” Nevarez said.
Optimistic about Mountain West Future
She remains optimistic about the current MWC.
“We have a really good, stable conference right now,” Nevarez said.
The conference’s TV rights deal with CBS and Fox come up in three years, but Nevarez anticipates a renegotiation could happen sooner.
“Right now, the media market’s a little bit flat, but we’re optimistic that when we go to market, we’ll have a lot of opportunity. But also we have strength in our geography, in being in the western region and having reasonable travel flights,” she said.
Nevarez said the Mountain West is well-positioned in the expanded College Football Playoff and the big-time money that goes with it. Taking effect for the 2024-25 season, the top six conference champions will qualify. That increases the odds for the MWC.