Well, well, well. Just when we thought we were out, they pullll us back in. Last year's Fresno State KYE was supposed to be a requiem for a team as the Broncos headed off to greener pastures in the AAC. Obviously, things changed and we find ourselves back in the MWC fold and a familiar foe back at our doorstep. Fresno has always seemed like the team that should be our rival, but have ended up beneath our boot more often than not. Could this be the year that Fresno finally gets off the schnide? We'll see in about 8 hours. You can wait that long, right? Know thy enemy, Bronco Nation. Know him well.
Ten things Bronco fans might not know about the Bulldogs or their California crash-pad
10) The area where Fresno, California now resides was first inhabited by the Yokut Indian tribe and before that, probably dinosaurs. It wasn't till the after the California Gold Rush that dejected prospectors took a look at the spot and said "I guess this is good enough". Fresno County was founded in 1856 by fu-manchued caucasian peoples who named the settlement "Fresno" after the Spanish word for ash trees (ash trees were in abundance along the banks of the San Joaquin
Phoenix river). By 1872, the Central Pacific Railroad (CPR) had established a station in the heart of the county and many residents of neighboring communities moved to be closer to the convenient new travel hub—the resulting population boom helped Fresno to become an incorporated city just 13 years later. To this day, weary travelers will still find themselves in Fresno—to which they generally state, "wait, this isn't Bakersfield...back in the car, everyone."
9) What we call "Fresno State", is actually California State University, Fresno. The school was founded in 1911 as Fresno State Normal School and went on to become Fresno State Teachers College and Fresno State College before becoming California State University, Fresno in 1972. Just so we're clear...it went from FSNS to FSTC to FSC to CSUF. Now you're ready to compete in the acronym olympics (in Munich this year, I believe). Since "Fresno State" is, in reality, CSUF, Fresno is mercifully spared from the soul-crushing "Fresno is not a state" taunts that so damage the psyches of Bronco fans each and every year.
8) In 1893, an illiterate building contractor named Joseph Spinney sat on the Fresno board of trustees. Spinney was an enormously corrupt figure and had gained influence by representing the vice interests of the town (you know...gambling, booze, prostitution, hamster racing...)—he also held a powerful swing vote that he used to push through political appointments, secure building contracts (for himself) and influence the hiring of police officers and firemen. Spinney was made chairman of the board, effectively making him the mayor of the city...a position he held for a full ten minutes before resigning and nominating pal C.J. Craycroft to take his place (a slam-dunk nomination, since he still held that mighty swing vote). Spinney's portrait still hangs in Fresno's City Hall along with all the other past mayors despite him having served just slightly longer than Kellen Moore usually played after half-time. Bummer too...shady businessmen that amass wealth and influence by operating brothels and saloons generally make really good politicians.
"I hereby bequeath my mustache to my great-great-grandson, Pat Hill"
7) Fresno played their first season of collegiate football in 1921, but had a disappointing 2-5 season under head coach Arthur Jones (not the guy from Laugh-in...that's Arte Johnson). The fledgling squad's only wins came against the Modesto JC and Cal Tech, and suffered two losses to Fresno High School and their first ever loss to future-rival San José State. The next year, Jones righted the ship and led the team to a 6-1record and a California Coast Conference Championship, although against still largely high school squads and possibly traveling bands of hobos.
6) Fresno State's bulldog mascot was chosen in 1921, coinciding with their first year of organized football. According to legend, the bulldog was chosen after a white bulldog showed up on campus and took a shine to the student body president. It's pretty much the same way that Louisiana Tech chose their mascot, except La Tech's bulldog allegedly saved people from a fire before himself expiring while Fresno State's bulldog clearly cares nothing for the value of human life. In case you were curious, Fresno's live bulldog mascot is named "Victor E. Bulldog" because PUNS.
"Fire? Every dog for himself"
5) While the walrus-like Pat Hill will always hold a special place in my heart amongst the Fresno State coaching lineage, Stanley Borleske might be my favorite. Borleske started out playing end for Michigan and was said to have caught one of the first ever forward passes—an idea that Robert Prince thought "too radical" during this year's UW game. Borleske followed up his playing career with a head coaching gig at North Dakota State, where he's credited with giving the team their nickname—the Bison (after Street Fighter II boss M. Bison, I'm guessing). Borleske took over the Fresno State squad in 1929, and probably because of the stock market crash, the squad went 1-7. However, the following year, Borleske led the team to their first ever undefeated campaign—an 8-0 triumph over the now-defunct NCAC (Northern California Athletic Conference).
4) Generally, obscene football scores are found in the earlier part of the century when parity was rare and coaches were praised for being a-holes...but Fresno bucked that trend in 1991 when they defeated New Mexico 94-17. Why the old school curb stomping from Jim Sweeney's Bulldogs? The oldest reason in the book: revenge. Lowly New Mexico had upset the 10-0 (and 23rd ranked) Bulldogs two years earlier and whilst exiting the field, the ultra thick-skinned Sweeney had been taunted by Lobo onlookers who dropped the "s" on the headman's last name, likening him to a frankfurter, if you will.
Sweeney, like an elephant, never forgot...and when the Lobos hit Bulldog Stadium, Sweeney, reluctant to again be a "weenie", became "Sweeney the meanie". The score was 59-7 before halftime and Sweeney still had his team throwing like a June Jones/Hal Mumme fantasy—even calling a timeout to make sure they could punch in one more before halftime (which they did). Utlimately, it was the biggest rout in Fresno State's history, and sadly, only the 2nd worst beating the Lobos have ever received. Lesson: Don't ever call Jim Sweeney a "weenie" because next time he won't be so nice.
"I'm rubber and you're glue."
3) In 2012, Fresno State finally cracked the top 25, debuting at #19 in Business Insider's list of the 25 most dangerous colleges in America. Fresno was just edged out by Rutgers for 18th on the list, but Rutgers is in New Jersey and if The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire have taught us anything it's that that state is out to murder everyone. Oh, and since you were wondering and don't like to click blind links, UCLA was number one. Go Bruins.
2) One of Fresno State's most decorated athletes was Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam—a pole vaulter of some renown and former world record holder. In 1940, at a track meet at Cal, Dutch became the first person ever to clear 15 feet in the pole vault, a feat he repeated 42 more times in competition throughout his career. At the top of his game, Warmerdam set 7 unofficial and 3 official world records in a 4 year span—the last of which—a 15'7" vault, stood for 15 years. Warmerdam never was able to taste Olympic glory since the 1940 and 1944 games were squashed by WWII (and he was no longer considered an amateur in 1948) but he is enshrined in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame as well as the Millrose Games Hall of Fame. Warmerdam accomplished all of his feats of derring-do with a bamboo pole. Doesn't that just beat all? That was a rhetorical question because, yes, he did beat everyone.
Warmerdam setting a world-record and landing on 1940s high tech safety dirt.
1) Fresno State's campus features a "Peace Garden" which features statues of nonviolent activists and leaders. The centerpiece of the garden is a large bronze bust of Mohandas Gandhi. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense, seeing as Fresno has been decidedly pacifist in their resistance to the Boise State football team over the last decade. Give peace a chance.
"We lost by 50 because Gandhi would've wanted it that way."