The Fresno State job is open and that alone makes it a great job in the eyes of any football coach with aspirations of running a program, whether a well-worn veteran looking for another shot at a top spot or an up-and-coming coordinator looking for a first shot.
It’s an opportunity.
But warts and all, what kind of a job is it, really?
It is much better than it was five years ago when Fresno State hired Tim DeRuyter to replace Pat Hill, who had won a lot of football games for the Bulldogs in the face of declining budgets and aging facilities that squeezed a lot of life out of the program.
We’ll hire the best coach and do a fair price and fair salary based on experience and (the $3.1 million owed to former coach Tim DeRuyter) will have no impact on the hire.
Fresno State Athletic Director Jim Bartko
The talent level does not match the group that DeRuyter inherited, which included Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse, Phillip Thomas, Tyeler Davison and Derron Smith, among others. But driven by the success DeRuyter and the Bulldogs had in winning back-to-to-back Mountain West championships in 2012 and ’13, staffing is up, the program budget is up, facilities have been upgraded and there is greater administration support under Athletic Director Jim Bartko and University President Dr. Joseph I. Castro.
The Bulldogs are not at the top of the Mountain West but they also are not near the bottom, which they were after making a significant jump up from the Western Athletic Conference.
For starters, Bartko said the $3.1 million Fresno State owes DeRuyter for the final two years of a five-year contract signed after the 2013 season will not be an impediment in the hire of a new coach.
“No impact,” he said. “We’ll hire the best coach and do a fair price and fair salary based on experience and it will have no impact on the hire. The (assistant) coaches’ pool will stay the same. We have a good pool and whoever the next coach is might flip it around, but it is no impediment at all.”
In 2011, Hill’s final season, the Bulldogs recruiting budget was $92,000 and it was cut midway through the season.
Fresno State last lost seven games in a row in 2006, a 4-9 season. That team went 3-1 in November, including consecutive wins over New Mexico State, Idaho and Louisiana Tech.
In 2014-’15, Fresno State invested $139,930 on football recruiting, which was at the bottom of the conference but a significant improvement that has allowed it to broaden the pool of players it is recruiting.
The facilities improvements include a locker room renovation completed in 2014 and the Meyers Family Sports Medicine Center, which serves all student-athletes at Fresno State. The weight room has been upgraded. Bartko also obviously has designs on a renovation of Bulldog Stadium that could cost $60 million to $70 million, a four-phase project that is expected to be completed by the start of the 2019 season.
The football staff at Fresno State also now includes a chief of staff and a director of player personnel, as well as an assistant director of player personnel, an offensive analyst, and special teams and offensive quality control positions, which did not exist five years ago.
The Bulldogs also have two full-time strength and conditioning coaches in Thomas Stallworth and assistant Bobby Thomas.
“It’s a different landscape than it was five years ago, no doubt,” said Steve Robertello, deputy athletic director. “That’s a credit to Tim and that’s a credit to Pat, in terms of the infrastructure of the program being better than it was five years ago.”
Et cetera – Quarterbacks Chason Virgil and Zach Kline continued to compete Wednesday for the starting assignment at Colorado State on Saturday, with no winner yet declared. Interim coach Eric Kiesau said they could go through the week of practice before a decision is reached.
The Bulldogs’ defense has not intercepted a pass since its overtime loss to Tulsa on Sept. 24, a span of five games. In 2011, when Fresno State was tied for last in the nation in turnovers gained, it went seven consecutive games without an interception.
▪ Safety Stratton Brown, who has had 10 or more tackles in three consecutive games with a high of 15 in the last game vs. Air Force, is now tied with inside linebacker Jeff Camilli for the team lead with 81.
In his first two seasons and 23 career games, Brown was credited with 21 tackles.
▪ Fresno State, on a seven-game losing streak, has never lost eight games in a row.
▪ In the matchup last season between Fresno State and Colorado State, the Bulldogs gave up punt return touchdowns of 61 and 75 yards and a kickoff return touchdown that went for 96.
The Bulldogs are in better shape to defend those plays, at least. Fresno State this week is leading the Mountain West in allowing just 22 yards on seven punt returns and an average of 17.9 yards on 28 kickoff returns.
FRESNO STATE AT COLORADO STATE
- Saturday: 12:30 p.m. at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium (34,400) in Fort Collins, Colo.
- Records: Bulldogs 1-8, 0-5 Mountain West; Rams 4-4, 2-2
- Online/radio: MWN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)