DG: Where is Fresno State headed in regards to conference membership?
JB: I’ve talked with the president from the time I got hired until most recently. Our goal is to win our conference championship and get our facilities where they need to be, dominate what we have, take control of what we have, get our staffing in place, get our budget in place, add the two new sports we have coming on.
Who knows what’s going to happen with the Big 12. They might not do anything the way it’s looking right now, and we’re not ready for it right now with our infrastructure.
We outdraw most of the schools that were in the hunt for it [the Big 12 released the list of teams that made the cut for potentially being added to the conference: Air Force, BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado State, UConn, Houston, Rice, South Florida, SMU, Temple and Tulane.]. We have a bigger population base. We have a bigger TV market. Right now, we’re building our teams up to where we’re all competing at the top level, get football turned back around, get the stadium done to where it’s capable to house a Big 12 or Pac 12 team, because right now the press box is pretty minimal, and the stairwells and the elevators and the concourses aren’t where they need to be. So our goal right now for the next couple years is to get that done.
We’re happy in the Mountain West. We have a good conference, a good commissioner and now we just have to make sure we do our part.
DG: The past few years the talk nationally around college athletics has been about the Power 5 (Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference (B1G), Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC)) schools possibly breaking off from the smaller schools in the future. Do you think we will be a part of that?
JB: There’s going to be so much change in the next five years, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. I think if we get done what we need to get done, we’ll put ourselves in a position to be in the hunt for anything, but we have to get there first. We have to fill the stadium back up, and we’ve got to get the stadium redone. We’ve got to get basketball to continue winning. We’ve got to get our wrestling and water polo teams going and get our staff up in place and get our fundraising back to where it needs to be. When that time comes, who knows what’s going to happen? But no one’s going to be able to predict the future. It’s too hard. It’s going to change a lot.
DG: How important are the guarantees you get in the game contracts for your budget?
JB: It’s huge. It’s a balancing act. Next year’s schedule is tough; we play Alabama, Washington and BYU. It’s a tough three games. We’ll net close to $2 million next year, and this year we net $200,000. Last year, we had negative $10,000. So you go from $2 million to negative $10,000. You don’t want to over schedule either because if you get too many tough games, you’ll get beaten up, so you’ve got to balance it.
We’re a few years behind in our scheduling. We want to net about a million a year, give or take. We’ve scheduled UCLA, Texas A&M, USC, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama — we’ve got a lot of games coming up that will get us those guarantees.
DG: So this is what we are looking at — we go on the road to a big-time opponent like Alabama to get the big guarantee, and then we bring in a smaller opponent such as Tulsa?
JB: Yes. A lot of schools do the ABCs. Tulsa’s a B, but they beat us, so the Bs are the ones where you’re going to have a tough game at home that you have a chance to win, and you could win. The Cs are the ones you should win. So you have an A, a B and a C. You have a game that’s a payout game going against a Big 12 or a Big 10 team — if you can get a home-and-home with them that’s great, but if you can’t, we go on the road to them. If not, then you get a home-and-home with somebody like the Tulsas, Toledos, Minnesotas and others. Then you get a C like a Sac State, UC Davis, Abilene Christian or whomever it might be.
DG: What about the ESPN deals that you get when they pick up games? How much do you factor that in before the season, and what does it affect?
JB: Yes, it does affect us, but we don’t really control it. ESPN basically chooses the games. If you get on ESPN 3, you don’t get any money; ESPN 2 or ESPN you get $500,000. In the past we’ve been getting two or three games a year. This year we only have one.
Last year we had two, so we budget probably one and then hope that we get good teams, good matchups. Not playing Boise State the last couple of years hurts. Usually that game’s an ESPN game. This year was thin. It does play into effect. It depends on whom you’re playing.
The higher you’re ranked, the more you’ll be on TV. If you’re 1-3, you’re not going to be on TV as often, so we’re hoping to turn around the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately this year, the games are all already picked. We’re done, but we like to have two games a year minimum, and we’ll go from there.