It’s official… and for fans of the oldest and greatest sport, about time: after months of statements and speculation, Fresno State has announced the return of men’s wrestling, along with the addition of a women’s water polo and other developments for the school’s athletic programs, the “Fresno Bee” reported Thursday.
If you’re a wrestling fan in the state of California, don’t rush out and buy your tickets just yet. While California State University, Fresno has already announced that Save Mart Center will be the home venue for Bulldog wrestling, the program – which was axed in 2007 because of budget cuts — will most likely not start competing until 2018-19. That said, a 9-12 month timeline has been set culminating with the hiring of coaches and signing of new recruits between December 2015 and February 2016, Fresno State’s newly hired athletic director Jim Bartko said during his presentation of a five-point plan which he labeled to “Achieve Highest Standards, Strengthen the Pack, Build Our Home Field Advantage, Expand Competitive Opportunity, and Swell the Red Wave” according to the Mountain West Conference Connection website.
The projected budget for wrestling in Year One is $140,000, with $119,000 in coaching salaries and benefits and $21,000 in operating costs, according to the “Fresno Bee”. In Year Two, the projected budget will be $292,500 with $269,500 in salaries and benefits and $23,000 in operating costs. By Year Three, with the team at full strength, it will be $689,293 with $269,500 in salaries and benefits and $248,976 in athletic aid (scholarships).
“There’s no way I can say we’re not doing it: We are bringing back two sports,” Bartko said. “Now it’s the timing. We’re going to have wrestling and water polo. We have to raise a little bit of money. That’s on our fundraising staff to go out, not just for these two sports, but others. We have a committee, great people in this community that are passionate and can help kind of get us over the hump the first couple of years and get it started. We’ll figure out how to keep it going down the road.”
“Budgets, we did research, did a little background, as to what coaches make around the country, kind of gives us an idea what we have to raise the first year, second year, third year, to get everything going,” Bartko continued. “What we’re not going to do is take money from current programs to fund new programs, because that’s not right for those programs. We’re going to make sure those sports are taken care of, raise some money for the new sports and make sure we have 21 cohesive sports working together, maximize what we’re doing and do it the right way.”
In addition to announcing two new sports, Bartko announced a number of other initiatives to strengthen the intercollegiate sports scene at Fresno State, including enhancements to Bulldog Stadium, re-sodding the women’s soccer and lacrosse stadium, and plans to resurface the courts at Wathen Tennis Center and renovate Warmerdam Field for the track and field program.
The idea of reinstating the Fresno State wrestling program has been openly discussed by school president Joseph Castro since his press conference to mark his first 100 days in office in November 2013, saying at the time, “I think there is a compelling case that’s being made for wrestling, and I want to make sure that information is all part of the review and the discussions.” At the time Bartko was announced as the school’s new AD in November, Castro had first promised an announcement concerning the return of wrestling before Christmas… then, before the end of January. (See the partial list of College Wrestling Examiner stories about Fresno State reinstating wrestling below.)