Monday, December 20, 2010
Fresno State Football Has Become Mediocrity at its Finest
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
From the moment I heard Pat Hill tell the media that 8-4 could be the best this program could ever hope for, I knew there was a problem. Apparently I'm the only one who thinks so because the university is yet to make a change when one is long overdue.
Saturday's bowl game, the Humanitarian Bowl, came around against Northern Illinois and I thought this was Fresno State's best chance to get out of the 0-2 bowl game hole they'd been in. I thought this would be a great opportunity to flex their muscles a little bit and show that they were a stronger team than they've shown all season.
I was wrong.
Four embarrassing quarters later, the Bulldogs walked out of Boise with their heads down after getting blown out by the Huskies, 40-17.
That night, I received a text message from a good friend of mine who had picked Fresno State to win and told me "I'll never pick them to win ever again." He picked them last year against Wyoming and ended up on the wrong side of that one, too.
As long as I've been a fan and as long as I've grown up with Bulldog blood running through my veins, it's become increasingly hard to believe this team can achieve anything at all let alone a win in a decent bowl game.
No offense to Boise, but the Humanitarian Bowl isn't exactly looked upon highly by the rest of the college football world. I'm sure you guys do a good job hosting it, but there's nothing to gain with a win. It's just another bowl game in a long list of bowl games no one cares about.
Though most will tell you Fresno State had little to gain with a win, they had a whole lot more to lose with a loss. They saw just how much they lost after getting pounded by a team that shouldn't even have been in the same league with the Bulldogs.
So what happens now?
Well, there's a fan base to speak to and explain why this program hasn't won a bowl game in three years. But here's an even better question. Why, after 12 season as the head coach at Fresno State, has Pat Hill won just one conference championship (1999 - shared with TCU and Hawaii) and four bowl games in 11 appearances?
There are a lot of questions this fan base wants. Above all, they want to know why Hill is still their head coach. It's a fair question and the university knows it. The problem is, they say they don't have the money to buy out the contract extension they gave him this time last year.
I was back home in Fresno for the Thanksgiving holiday and I remember a family friend of mine commenting on a local writer for the Fresno Bee. The guy he was referring to was Matt James and this family friend felt James was far too critical of the football program.
As you might imagine, I disagreed with him.
While James can be a tad critical, I asked this family friend if there's really anything to be optimistic about? Is there anything in their past, or their future for that matter, that would make you feel the least bit optimistic about what they can accomplish. I received no answer.
After the sound beating they took at the hands of a team that finished in second place in the MAC Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn, playing in his final game as a Bulldog, told the media after the game "they wanted it more than us for whatever reason."
It's that kind of attitude that makes it seem like the Bulldogs could care less about the beating they took. It's that kind of attitude that has made mediocrity the norm around the central valley.
On Sunday, Pat Hill held an exit media session to talk about the year that was. One of the comments he made proves my point about just doing well enough to get by.
In an article from Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee, Hill told the media, "I know eight-win seasons might seem like the norm here, but wins are wins and wins are tough to get. Sure, we all want more. But what this team did, playing a lot of young guys, not really having consistency on offense, beating Cincinnati and Illinois in the same year to get to an eight-win regular season, that's a good year."
Wins are tough to get? What conference does Fresno State play in again?
Hill can continue to give the rest of their opponents all the credit he wants to give them. He can continue to say, with each loss, that they ran into the best team in school history but that excuse is going to run out when the 2011 season comes around.
Next season, there will be no Boise State to stand in their way. There won't be the big bad boys in blue to keep you from getting to the top of the conference for the first time in Hill's 12 seasons as the head coach.
No, I'm not going to count the shared title so don't even ask me.
The one person, the only person, I feel sorry for at this point is redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Carr. Yes, that Derek Carr, the younger brother to current NFL quarterback, David Carr.
Next year, he's going to have the pressure of an entire fan base squarely on his shoulders. While it might be unfair to put much pressure on a first year starter, he's already expected to be the savior of a program that is on a tail spin with no correction in sight.
I'm done with mediocrity and I'm done listening to the man at the head of this team make excuses for every loss they take. He expects this fan base to be ok with an 8-4 or 8-5 finish to every season and he expects that we'll just live with mediocrity.
Though I'm not ok with it, the university apparently is. While the rest of college football programs would fire their head coach after three straight bowl losses and only four wins in 11 bowl appearances, this program gives their head coach a contract extension. Apparently they were hoping for something the rest of us knew wasn't coming.
So, we'll look to 2011 and hope for better things. When or if they don't come, we'll just be handed the same old lines about how hard wins are to come by.
The fans expect better but apparently Coach Hill does not.