By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
FRESNO, Calif. – In a land that college football realignment talk often overlooks, a team’s bills aren’t paid by ESPN and CBS.
While Ole Miss profits from its SEC affiliation and the television contracts that go along with that, Fresno State profits from Ole Miss – and schools like it.
Having a name in the house sells tickets, and that’s how Fresno State operates.
“For your non-BCS schools it’s getting rarer and rarer to get these games in your hometown. We’ve been fortunate in my years here. We’ve had Pac-10 schools, Cal, Oregon and Oregon State, the Big East with Illinois and Wisconsin,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said.
But the Bulldogs have taken the traditional route of non-BCS teams to host games like this. They’ve gone on the road first – often with no return game – and sometimes they’ve signed contracts with two road games for one home game.
Nebraska and Colorado are both scheduled to visit Fresno in upcoming seasons as a result of two-for-one deals.
Fresno played at Ole Miss last year, a 55-38 Rebels win, and will play in Oxford again in September 2015.
Hill says hosting Ole Miss is a chance for his fans to see what an SEC team looks like but notes Fresno has “paid unbelievable dues” to get games like this at home.
During the week Hill told the Fresno Bee, “These types of games, as the landscape changes in college athletics, are going to be harder and harder to get. I promise you that. … This is the way that we pay for our athletic program right here. We don’t get it through TV contracts or bowl games. We get them at the gate. This is a big one for us, very big.”
Fresno officials said the team’s 48-27 win at Idaho last week – in which quarterback Derek Carr had 371 passing yards and the school’s first five-touchdown pass performance in seven years – led to a rush for tickets.
Fresno drew just 27,542 fans to 41,031-seat Bulldog Stadium for North Dakota two weeks ago. That was the Bulldogs’ home opener and their only home game prior to the Rebels’ visit.
Fresno senior associate AD Paul Ladwig said the game is important but won’t make or break the department.
“I don’t hang a hat on a game. I hang it on 70 events we sell tickets too. It this an important business night? Absolutely. It’s a night we know we can make some dollars and pay some bills,” he said.
Ladwig praised Ole Miss officials for scheduling the game.
“There are not a lot of schools out there today that will take the risk to travel this far to come and play a school like Fresno State. I applaud everybody at Ole Miss for doing it, the way we look at it, the right way,” he said. “When one of the big boys jump on an airplane and come this far, it’s welcomed. Quite frankly, the people here want to see SEC football. It’s what they perceive as big boy football. It’s a tremendous opportunity for our school and community to have this national stage.”
Ole Miss has played non-BCS opponents on the road before, most recently Tulane last season. In the last 10 years the Rebels have made trips to Memphis, Wyoming and Arkansas State.
Having Ole Miss in town was a quick topic of conversation all week.
“People have been coming up to me and asked me if I was excited, if I was ready. Of course! As a competitor you’re always ready to play these kinds of games,” Carr said.