Football and campus growth go hand-in-hand

Check out the background of my arguments in favor of and others’ arguments against the importance of Bulldog football here and here. Dissension is found on the comments. They ultimately prompted this blog.

The football program does Fresno State pretty well.

Maybe there’s no evidence that the football program benefits academics, but we have a basically self-sustaining team — not the wider athletic department — that does no financial harm to the university.

There’s a bare surplus this year — just over $5,000, as I read in the Bee — so football surely doesn’t hurt things financially much if at all, especially if we or a conference buddy goes to a bowl game. I’m crossing my fingers for non-financial reasons.

Even if ticket sales don’t reach projections, it’s still a solid investment in prestige. Disagree? What about the increase in enrollment?

That’s not fair — reality tells me that it’s hard to tell if football really drives enrollment increases.

More students will always be good for the university as a whole. Quickly growing enrollment is a good way to increase your share of the CSU budget. How good does this line look in a funds proposal or whatever they use in negotiations?

“Fresno State is the fastest-growing CSU in the system. We really need money for a parking garage.”

I doubt parking garage funds are a line item on the CSU budget. We can hope.

But with constantly growing enrollment, who’s to say that the football program has bolstered us whatsoever to get to this point?

College growth without the football.

Why is Fresno State so big on such a small campus? That’s pretty easy.

Chew on this: there really aren’t many four-year colleges in the area. Our competition among affordable — state-subsidized — higher education is basically Stanislaus State and that campus isn’t that close.

Prestigious undergraduate programs somewhere else are either private or obscure. Obscure works fine for some public schools. Just not our fast-growing, public, commuter college, lone among four-year public education in a few counties.

Those private, obscure schools also tend to be liberal arts colleges. Limited course selection when it comes to building things with math, science and computers. Limited everything — all the benefits and problems of small colleges.

UC Merced, though, is one to watch out for. Once it gets off the ground, our enrollment could very easily be split between them and us. Welty and the rest of the staff is preparing — some would argue failing to prepare — Fresno State for the oncoming century in more ways than we realize.

Despite that the University of California is directed more towards graduate students than baccalaureates, they tend to be popular with the top something-percent of a high school graduating class — instant admission, dontcha know?

This makes it all the more important that Fresno State set itself apart, distinguish itself.

Fresno already has the draw as a teachers’ college — has been since it was founded in 1911 — and does very well in training local nurses, too. Those two fields will always be draws.

But we’re not talking about good, solid students aiming for public service; we’re talking about “miracle geniuses,” the social entrepreneurs.

I’ve known too many miracle geniuses to buy into any relation. Students who are miracle geniuses through high school don’t stay that way. That’s my observation, bolstered by someone’s observations of law school graduates’ pay and job satisfaction.

Students who did seemingly perfect in law school grade-wise had similar pay, but substantially less job satisfaction than their less grade-centric colleagues.

The study found no correlation between grades and pay — in America, that’s success.

It’s not too irresponsible to suggest that a similar mentality drives most students who do well in high school or undergraduate work.

Those miracle geniuses who don’t flounder in undergraduate more often have the academic blinders on — more interested in game theory and subatomic science than founding a world-shaking start-up.

Agreeable students, who have a way with words, people and often-unscrupulous business practices are who we want. They’re the entrepreneurs. To their credit, they usually hate school.

Fresno State is unique in location, demographics and proximity to other locations, but only football really gives us the prestige edge.

Football is for the college?

There are studies I’m too lazy to dig up that suggest that name recognition, after only cost, is basically the whole battle when it comes to choosing a college.

In several cases, it’s simply name recognition and impressiveness factor, even when cost still matters.

Prestige appeals to everyone at some base level, so the only thing better than that on your wall-mounted sheepskin is prestige at a discount — that’s Fresno State’s niche.

Football remains a good way to bolster name recognition, it’s like prestige-in-training, at the very least.

After all, the best thing about sports headlines — unlike news or features buried beyond page A-1 — is that they get read.

They’re discussed openly, avidly, actively, repetitively. They’re debated with even more ferocity.

A professor’s study of MySpace use among college students doesn’t make nearly as readable news, and definitely not as much as a narrow 47-45 brawl against a Texas tradition powerhouse.

Triple overtime is always national television. Always nationally discussed. Always promotes national name recognition.

Name recognition keeps the name in the back of your mind. Unless you’re constantly thinking about football, when someone asks you about a college, the tendency is to respond positively — “I think I’ve heard that’s a good school.”

People think positively about something, and forget everything but the good feelings. Not everyone succumbs all the time. Enough do.

There’s some psychology term for that phenomenon. I don’t know it.

College is for the football?

If it were true, I’d say people don’t seriously choose the college for the football, except I once had a roommate who did. I myself came here for two reasons: cost and marching band. In that order, but with much more emphasis on the latter than you’d believe.

People do come to college for the college experience — football included. People come unknowingly because of football.

As a commenter said, the “brunt of the funds” at Fresno State comes from taxpayers. Don’t forget the middleman — the Chancellor’s office.

If Fresno State wants the brunt of the funds from the Chancellor’s office — here’s a hint: like all the others it does — Fresno State needs a nice, big increase in enrollment, consistent from year to year.

To get this? Fresno State needs recognition. It has students, and growing enrollment. It needs even more students and even faster enrollment to get some more money.

Growth of students means growth of budget, and eventually growth of academics. It’s an established and time-honored process. I don’t doubt that name recognition, via football headlines, helps a lot.

Maybe I go a little too far, maybe I don’t. Either way, the football program does much more than it’s credited.

It doesn’t matter what the university is known for if we’re first trying to get known at all. It hasn’t always been this way, but with schools upon schools in this country, that’s just the name of the game.

We have to be a college town before we’re an academic college. Football’s the way to both.

Comments are welcome, but remember that this is an addendum and clarification to the previous positions, and is posted in response to comments on either. Read them here and here.

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