Fresno State’s loss to San Jose State Saturday marked the end of the Bulldogs’ last, slim chance at a BCS bowl and the perks that come with it.
When Northern Illinois passed Fresno State in the BCS standings on Nov. 24, the chances the program would break through the BCS glass ceiling in its final season took a big hit. The loss to the Spartans in San Jose made it official that, during the BCS’ frustrating rule over college football since 1999, Fresno State never made it to the promised land.
The significance of not reaching a BCS bowl is not just about this season or Friday’s loss. The significance is that the playoff system that starts next season marks the end of the path of least resistance to reach the glory of program-defining wins.
Before the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the Boise State football program was respected as a strong mid-major that on any given Saturday could compete against the best. The win over Oklahoma gave it something more: credibility that lasted past one season.
Boise State became a fixture in the top 25 and didn’t have to start the season scratching and clawing over a mountain of BCS conference teams. The higher preseason rankings helped Boise State reach another BCS bowl in 2009.
With the new playoff system, that mountain became Mount. Everest.
The selection committee is expected to put extra focus on strength of schedule and which teams deserve to make the four-team playoff replacing the BCS. Even if the playoff eventually expands to eight teams, that is bad news for Fresno State and even Boise State since its recent slide by their standards.
The formula of dominating a weaker schedule that included a win or two against solid big-conference teams becomes ineffective after this season. Schools like Fresno State and Northern Illinois will find it difficult, some might say nearly impossible, to earn a shot at the glory Boise State won with two BCS wins.
Nearly impossible, however, is not the same as impossible. A lot needs to happen for Fresno State to become a program that can consistently make the top 25 and occasionally gather the talent necessary to threaten the elite four (or eventually eight) in the playoffs.
The infrastructure for success needs to improve first and foremost. That means facilities, donations and butts in seats on game day. The new sports medicine facility and the plan for the Jim Sweeney Center are steps in the right direction.
The center will be a 10,000 square-foot structure for the football program.
It’s a good start, but Fresno State will never be Oregon with its coffers full of Nike money.
But the school that resides in an agriculturally rich area must find a way to keep as much of its homegrown talent as possible.
This is a program that must be built slowly, with consecutive nine or 10-win seasons that establish the reputation Fresno State needs. The age of manipulating the BCS is over.