Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hardwood "glory days"

There's been lots of chatter on the streets (and airwaves) today about Matt James' column in this morning's Fresno Bee. Most seemed to have loved the column -- which is odd in itself because fans never like newspaper reporters.

Makes sense why people liked the column. It was well-written. It was an interesting topic. 'Dogs hoops news is long overdue. And it argued why the Steve Cleveland regime is a success, despite coming off the Fresno State program's worst record in more than two decades. I liked the column too.

But there were two nuggets in there -- two nuggets -- that nearly ruined it for me. Here's one:

"Selland Arena was a better venue for college basketball. Still is. No doubt about it."
Not true. Selland was a great college basketball atmosphere, but it was also home to the Bulldogs during their glory days (more on this later). If Save Mart Center was filled to capacity with fans practically begging to see super-talented teams and had students entering a lottery just to buy season tickets, it would be significantly louder and tougher for visitors to win in than Selland (think about it, 16,000 people vs. 10,000). Essentially, we're talking about taking most of the same Selland fans who earned a reputation for being the Red Wave and adding 6,000 people to it. Louder. More imposing. When Fresno State has its next serious threat on the hardwood, and fans fill the stands, the Save Mart Center will be an unreal venue.

Now on to this "glory days" issue. The column says there never were any:

"Let's be perfectly clear. There were no glory days. They never happened. Since 1982, the Bulldogs have two conference titles. Since 1984, they've been to one NCAA Tournament. One."
James explained that he didn't count one of Jerry Tarkanian's NCAA appearances because it was given an asterisk in the record books due to NCAA violations. But saying there were no glory days is wild. What do you call Fresno State basketball being a national story all season long during the Tark era? A good column would be comparing how many regional and national TV appearances the 'Dogs had under Tark and how many they have had under Cleveland. Another good column idea would be to research all the ranked and traditionally strong teams Tark scheduled and won against. To me -- when a program is mentioned in all the preseason mags and on TV by prognosticators as a threat to go to the Final Four, when guys are going to the NBA (some as lottery picks), when high school All-Americans are anxious to visit Fresno State, when the Bulldogs have a legit shot to win against ANY team in the nation -- those are glory days. In a way, that's what Fresno State's football program is right now -- one that can beat any other team on a given day and has proven it.

Wow, this blog's getting long enough, so I'll spare the fact that the Boyd Grant era could be defined as another set of "glory days." A NCAA tournament final 16 appearance, and a 1983 NIT championship in Madison Square Garden (when the NCAA tourney was smaller and the NIT was much tougher) that led to a parade rivaled only by last year's national championship in baseball.

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