Much has been made about attendance at various Fresno State sporting events over the years.
I’m a firm believer that the product on display is the most important aspect to fan support, and for the Bulldogs, their inconsistencies have taken a damning toll.
The Fresno Bee’s Robert Kuwada and Marek Warszawski tackled this issue in extensive detail. They analyzed both the men’s basketball team, along with the football team. They concluded that the athletic department is losing fan interest and money at an alarming rate.
Warszawski highlighted the fact that since the 2006-07 men’s basketball season – which featured a 24-10 team with an incredible 17-3 record at home — Fresno State has seen a 46 percent drop in home-game attendance.
A staggering percentage, but not surprising. After that season, it took Fresno State over six years to have a winning record again. The team went a combined 85-114. That is an unacceptable period for a program intent on growing and becoming a legitimate and consistent player in the NCAA basketball landscape.
With former head coach Rodney Terry at the helm, the Bulldogs’ had a streak of 20-win seasons along with an impressive record at home – winning more than 10 games every year since 2013-14. But that statistic is misleading.
The Bulldogs’ knack for losing to bad teams is beyond deflating. That is something most fans that I know can agree with.
For instance, Fresno State had a five-game winning streak heading into a matchup with Wyoming at home this past season. The Bulldogs needed the win for Mountain West seeding, but more importantly, for momentum.
Things went from bad to worse for Fresno State. Star guard Jaron Hopkins went down to an injury, and once again the players failed to meet the standards they set throughout their season and winning streak.
As a fan, we applaud the hustle and heart, but we want to win.
When we look back on history, we see the Jerry Tarkanian era as the standard. There should only be improvement, not regression.
Like I mentioned, it’s not just basketball.
The football team is experiencing similar issues. After a period of poor play on the field, fans are reluctant to come out. Kuwada stated that after the 3-9, 2015 season, season-ticket purchases dropped by more than 3,000 — going from 18,432 to 15,404 tickets sold.
After Derek Carr’s departure after 2013, the Bulldogs’ faced an uncertain future. They would win only 10 games in the next three years.
It’s simple. If we win games, fans will come out.
Head coach Jeff Tedford came, and he did just that. Along with a 10-win season and a bowl win, according to the NCAA Football attendance report for 2017, Fresno State had a top-10 surge in attendance.
It ranked No. 7 for the greatest jump in attendance from the previous year, increasing by an average of 5,139 fans per game – 30,632 fans this season compared with 25,493 last year.
Many fans have seen Jim Sweeney, David and Derek Carr and even Trent Dilfer donning the red and white. Our institution has the pedigree to be a consistently good program, and until that happens, the attendance fluctuation will continue to stain our sporting department.
Interestingly, the football team wasn’t the only group to make headlines.
The Bulldogs’ wrestling team just ranked fifth in the nation in home attendance, with crowds averaging a total of 4,566. An amazing restart to the program, but it’s not just the return that has sparked interest.
These wrestlers are good.
Redshirt sophomore Khristian Olivas and freshman heavyweight AJ Nevills took the Bulldogs’ leash and took them all the way to the NCAA Championships. Their performances captured the attention of the Valley, and even though they were relegated to the consolation bracket, their future in the program burns brighter and brighter.
Undoubtedly, many questions face the Fresno State athletic department moving forward. However, one thing is for certain. Winning cures everything.