The concept is simple: win more with less.
It’s called “moneyball,” and it’s an idea coined by Oakland Athletics Billy Beane, whose notoriety with conceiving playoff teams given the club’s financial restraints sparked a film adaptation starring Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt.
It’s a concept the Fresno State men’s club bowling teams is utilizing right now.
The Bulldogs, who won the Intercollegiate Team Championships in 2011, were within grabbing distance of the national crown again this season.
This year, Fresno State finished in third place, falling to McKendree University in the semifinals on April 19.
And consider: the Bulldogs lack the funds – and the scholarships – storied bowling programs have.
The Fresno State men’s bowling club operates “somewhere around $45-50,000,” coach Chris Preble said. “(That’s) what we’re doing it with.”
“I love the attitude that that puts into our players,” Preble said. “There’s never any ‘we’re living fat off the hog, we’re getting lazy.’ If we get fat off the hog or lazy, we don’t get to go.
“I think the kids buy into it. I think they appreciate that challenge. It’s a lot of fun to win, and it’s a lot of fun to knock programs that have more.”
The programs that have more include schools such as Robert Morris, this year’s national champion, and Wichita State, “the Duke of college bowling,” Preble said.
The Bulldogs have sponsors to help ease the burden of fundraising, but not the powerful arms of the Shockers, who Preble said were rumored to have six-figure budgets powering their men’s and women’s teams.
He might not be far off.
According to Wichita State’s official school website, the total economic impact of the Shocker Bowling Program (billed as “the most successful sport program on the WSU campus”) to Wichita State University and the city of Wichita for 2011-2012 was $3,625,365.
The Shockers made 28 straight national tournament appearances up until failing to qualify this season.
That title now belongs to the Bulldogs.
Fresno State now holds the nation’s longest-active streak of national tournament appearances, having made it to the 16-team tourney 12 years in a row. The streak started a year before Preble took over the program.
The Bulldogs won the national championship in 2011, got knocked off in the first two rounds of nationals in 2012 and finished third this season.
Team president Kiel Jordon also earned an all-tournament selection.
“If you were to tell me tomorrow that we had a sponsor that could take care of all the fundraising we have to do, I would be extremely thrilled to hear that,” Preble said.
“But in the meantime, I’m going to use every bit of that to motivate my players to not back down to programs that have it better.”