With the Fresno State Bulldogs at the top of the Mountain West Conference after their historic victory, it may be hard to imagine a scenario in which the university’s football team can ascend to even greater heights.
Well, Fresno State Athletics Director Terry Tumey sees a way to do just that. But it won’t be easy.
The ‘Dogs stand to lose a large segment of their veteran leadership with 26 seniors graduating, making the experience gained by underclassmen paramount to the success of the 2019 football team.
“You can’t replace those guys. What we can do is go out and find the new versions of those guys in order for us to be successful,” Tumey said. “As soon as [the Mountain West championship game] was over, we wanted to enjoy the championship a little bit, but the next day our coaches were out planning recruiting to find that next generation of Bulldogs.”
The ‘Dogs already have landed a highly-coveted recruit to help restock the proverbial cupboard. Buchanan High receiver Jalen Cropper verbally committed to Fresno State on Nov. 25. Cropper is the highest-rated recruit that Bulldogs head coach Jeff Tedford has landed in his two seasons.
But with the looming uncertainty of Tedford’s future with the Fresno State program, it may be difficult to get recruits to commit until Tedford aptly declares his plans going forward.
In the end, Fresno State teams come and go, coaches come and go. And championships come and go. As athletic officials ponder the football program’s next steps, the athletes also have plans of their own to draw out.
And where athletes go after their collegiate athletic careers depends on their nurturance in the classroom as much as on the field.
Fresno State president Dr. Joseph I. Castro, speaking with The Collegian before the championship, said that the university’s priorities are still with the academic development of the student athletes.
“I think the definition of success is so important and, for me, the most important thing is that our student athletes and all of our students get a high-quality education and are well prepared for careers and for life,” Castro said. “Most of our student-athletes are not going to play in the NFL or Major League Baseball. There will be some … but most of our folks do other things.”