Growing up in Fresno, there were two things to do in town at two different times of year.
During the summer, I'd find my way over to Beiden Field to watch the Fresno State baseball team play. The stadium was hardly ever sold out and it was hardly ever half full, so good seats were never hard to come by.
During the fall, it was tailgate time with friends and family. After that, you'd extinguish the barbecue and start the trek to Bulldog Stadium to watch the football team play.
These were the two times a year that I looked forward to. Though summer meant being out of school for three months, so I guess that might have been the biggest reason to love summer.
I've seen some tremendous players through the years roll through Bulldog Stadium wearing the Bulldog red and white.
Mark Barsotti, Ron Cox, Ron Rivers, Lorenzo Neal, Trent Dilfer, Jesse Hardwick, Anthony Daigle, James Sanders, Billy Volek and Ryan Mathews...just to name just a few players that have worn the Bulldog uniform. But I've also gotten to watch opponents like Marshall Faulk come into Fresno as a member of the San Diego State Aztecs and make the Bulldog defense look foolish.
There were some fun memories growing up as a kid in that stadium. I can't tell you how many times we waited for the clock to run down to triple zeros and run out onto the field looking for autographs. The players are larger than life when you're eight and nine years old.
When I began to get older, my focus started coming off the players on the field and started on to how this team could finally break through their inability to win the big games.
A lot of Bulldog fans remember the 1992 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, California, where the Bulldogs took down heavily favored USC in their own backyard. Many fans also remember the 2001 team, led by David Carr, that obtained the highest ranking in school history (eighth).
They also remember the letdown and a loss to a team that put themselves on the map with that win. The Bulldogs were back home in Fresno, ranked eighth in the country, and they were taking on little known Boise State University.
That night, the Broncos put themselves on the map as they upset Fresno State at Bulldog Stadium.
It was the start of Boise's domination of the Bulldogs—a domination that has been lopsided in the eight years after that.
Fresno State hired head coach Pat Hill back in 1998. A coach that put out the mantra, "Anyone, anytime, anywhere."
Though the mantra has given Fresno State a lot of respect over the years, with such trips to Oklahoma, LSU, Tennessee and Wisconsin, it has also brought losses to a lot of those schools as well.
Since Hill came on board, the Bulldogs have won just one conference title that came in 1999, a title they shared with both Hawaii and former WAC member TCU.
That leads me to wonder why Fresno State would keep him on as their head coach. Is it because they don't feel they can do any better or do they really feel like he's on the verge of greatness with this team?
From everything Fresno State fans have seen, it would lead them to believe that nothing will really change from one year to the next.
Sure, they'll have wins here or there, maybe knock off a big-name team one year or the next, but without a conference title or a legitimate bowl berth, what really does this mean?
There's always been a debate as to why the Bulldogs can't have the same success Boise State has had.
Is it the fact that the recruiting is better? As far as I'm concerned, I don't see where Boise is outrecruiting Pat Hill and his staff.
If there is a difference, it's because players want to go to Boise State because they know they'll be a part of what has been a winning tradition. They know they're going to be playing for a team and a coach that has had Top 5 rankings and two BCS bowl appearances.
Fresno State has yet to sniff their first. In fact, they haven't played in a big-time bowl game in quite some time.
While I'm not exactly advocating the firing of Pat Hill or that the university should look for a new head coach.
What I am saying is that Bulldog fans are tired of being okay with mediocrity. They're tired of seeing the same thing year in and year out. They're tired of playing in the MPC Computers Bowl or something equivalent to that.
They want to see success from this team and not just every 10-15 years. They want something to celebrate at Bulldog Stadium and they want something to get excited about.
Football season means a lot to the people in Fresno and the surrounding counties. Why? Because the Bulldogs are the only Division 1 school between San Jose and Los Angeles. That's a large chunk of area to have just one D1 school.
The school will make its change to the Mountain West Conference after the completion of the 2011 season. At that point, if no change is seen with this team, its record or its performance, it might be time to think about going in a new direction.
It's nothing against Pat Hill. But it's time Fresno State held themselves to a higher standard and expected more of its football program.
It's time that they believe in something more than just an average finish to the year and an average bowl game where they might get beaten—again—by a 6-6 Wyoming team that has no business even being within seven points of the Bulldogs.
Ask any Fresno State fan and they'll tell you they're ready to see drastic improvement in this team. They see it on paper and they hear it from Hill before every season. They hear how much they've improved in recruiting, they've heard all the anticipation.
But, so far, it's been just that. Talk.
The time for action is now. If they want to be where Boise State has already been, things will need to change and the mindset of the coaching staff will need to change right along with it.
If it doesn't change, Fresno State will be just another mediocre Mountain West team getting beaten by a much-improved San Diego State team.
They don't want to be left in the dust and they don't want to be looked at as a team that "could have gotten there."
This school deserves better and this fan base deserves better. They've waited far too long to see it happen and frankly a lot of them are done waiting.