Mountain West deal with ESPN should get Fresno State more exposure and money

Expect some Fresno State football games back on ESPN. Maybe a few Fresno State men’s basketball games on ESPN as well.

The Mountain West Conference and ESPN are finalizing a seven-year media rights deal for the sports network to televise up to 22 football games, as well as 25 men’s basketball games annually, according to

Fresno State fans can expect some Bulldogs football games to be televised on an ESPN channel again, most likely games against Boise State.

And that means more potential exposure and money for Fresno State.

The deal with ESPN brings the Mountain West’s media rights deal up to $116 million through 2019-2020, roughly $18 million per year. The conference still is negotiating the rights to the Mountain West championship football game, which would generate more revenue.

Fresno State had played some of its football games on ESPN’s stable of channels while the school was in the Western Athletic Conference.

But that type of national exposure went away at the start of this current school year when Fresno State joined the Mountain West. Since the Mountain West didn’t have any agreement with ESPN or ABC, most of its top football games were televised on the NBC Sports Network.

There appears to be some caveats with the pending deal, however, and it favors Boise State more than any other program in the conference. That was to be expected as part of the Boise State’s agreement to stay in the Mountain West rather than join the Big East in football.

Of the 22 football games to be televised on ESPN, all six of Boise State’s home games will be included, and much of the monies with the ESPN deal are tied to games involving the Broncos.

At the least, Fresno State fans can anticipate the football game against Boise State to shown on an ESPN network, based on past history. Each time the Bulldogs and Broncos faced each other while in the WAC, ESPN televised the game.

But the return to ESPN also will likely mean playing games on non-Saturdays again as Fresno State often did at the network’s request while in the WAC.

Fresno State’s schedule last season was the first time in more than 10 years that the Bulldogs played all of their regular-season games on Saturdays.

CBS and CBS Sports Network remains the primary holder for Mountain West games and still gets first pick of the best games.

Sunbirds punch ticket to NCCAA men’s nationals in Indiana

Fresno Pacific head coach Chris Wright makes a call from the bench during their game against Hawaii Hilo at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.

The Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team beat Azusa Pacific on Wednesday and is now headed to the National Christian College Athletic Association finals on March 13-16 in Winona Lake, Ind.

The Sunbirds built a 53-35 lead against Azusa but were facing foul trouble to two of their starters. Malcolm Griffin and Antonio Credit each had four fouls, but coach Chris Wright decided to keep them in with 16 minutes remaining.

“Rolled the dice,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked out for us.”

Azusa Pacific rallied to cut the halftime deficit to 57-46, then went ahead 72-70 on Troy Leaf’s three-point play with 14:14 remaining in the game.

The Sunbirds led 86-85 with 7:39 remaining, but Griffin’s dunk capped a 9-2 run that made it 95-87 with 5:24 left.

After Azusa got within 106-103 with 28 seconds left, Taylor hit 1 of 2 free throws and Matt Samuels hit a pair to seal he Sunbirds’ 20th win.

“Twenty wins is special,” Wright said. “I’m excited for us to get to Indiana. It will be fun to compete for a national title.”

Taylor finished with 39 points, Samuels added 20 and Griffin chipped in with 19.

The Sunbirds (20-7) will find out Sunday who they will play on March 13. Fresno Pacific will likely be one of the top seeds in the eight-team tournament at Grace College.

Boyd Grant unable to attend Fresno State’s 30-year anniversary of NIT championship

Former Fresno State men’s basketball coach Boyd Grant waves while being recognized at half time of the Fresno State women’s game againt Idaho at the Save Mart Center Thursday, February 16, 2012. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Fresno State will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the men’s basketball team’s 1983 NIT championship on Saturday, but coach Boyd Grant won’t be able to attend after all.

Grant — who in nine seasons (1977-86) guided the Bulldogs to an overall record of 194-74, including 25-10 in the NIT title season of 1982-83 — is recovering from pneumonia and won’t  be at the 7 p.m. game against Boise State at the Save Mart Center. The team will be honored at halftime.

“It is with great disappointment that I will not be able to attend this weekend’s 30 year celebration of the 1983 Championship team,” Grant said, in a news release. “I am excited to hear that so many of the players from that team are returning to celebrate such an accomplishment after 30 years with the dedicated fans of the Red Wave that supported them through it all.”

Players from the 1982-83 team expected to be in attendance include Tyrone Bradley, Marvin Carter, Dave Mosebar, Charlie Smith, Mark Gustin, Omel Nieves, Mitch Arnold and Desi Barmore. Other former Bulldogs from that era, including Bobby Anderson, Bobby Davis, Kenny Cook and Art Williams will also be on hand.

Two of the team’s stars — “Bookend Forwards” Bernard Thompson and Ron Anderson — are not scheduled to attend.

“I’m really excited about coming back and seeing my friends,” Bradley said. “It will be great to get together after all of these years.”

Said Mosebar: “I am very much looking forward to seeing all of the guys and coaches. I’m sorry that we won’t be able to see Coach Grant there because of his pneumonia, but I am looking forward to seeing all of the guys.”

In the 1983 NIT, Fresno State defeated UTEP (71-64), Michigan State (72-58), Oregon Sate (76-67) and Wake Forest (86-62) to reach the final against DePaul. The Bulldogs beat the Blue Demons 69-60 in the championship.

Note: Fresno State is promoting Saturday’s matchup as a White Out game. All fans are encouraged to wear white and the first 500 through the doors will get an official White Out game day shirt and some fans will also receive a Coach Terry Towel.

Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team eyes top seed in NCCAA West

Fresno Pacific’s Rickey Vick goes to the hoop on a fast break against Hawaii Hilo in their game at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.

Even though the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team isn’t eligible to play in the Pacific West Conference tournament and the NCAA Division II tournament, it doesn’t mean the Sunbirds can’t go to a postseseason tournament.

There is a realistic shot that the Sunbirds could go to the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament that is comprised of faith-based schools from DI, DII, DIII and NAIA.

Teams are divided into regions and must survive that field to qualify for the national tournament. The Sunbirds would be the top seed if the season ended today. The West Region playoffs will be comprised of four teams with the higher seed hosting.

Region winners would then move on to the national tournament in Winoa Lake, Ind. on March 5.

As of now, the top four West Region teams are:

1. Fresno Pacific (15-7, 10-4)

2. Arizona Christian (17-6, 7-4)

3. Cal Baptist (13-9, 7-7)

4. Azusa Pacific (9-11, 6-6)

Other teams:

5. Hope International (22-5, 7-4)

6. Point Loma (4-18, 1-13)

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Sunbirds men’s hoops put streak on line in showdown

Fresno Pacific’s Matt Samuels drives against Hawaii Hilo’s C.J. Brown in their game at Fresno Pacific on Jan. 14, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Can the Fresno Pacific men’s basketball team get closer to Dixie State?

We’ll see.

The Sunbirds put their seven-game winning streak on the line against the Pacific West Conference leader on Tuesday in St. George, Utah. The Sunbirds trail the Red Storm by two games.

Dixie State has won seven straight, edging Grand Canyon 65-64 on Saturday while the Sunbirds rolled to a 108-62 victory over Holy Names.

Sunbirds coach Chris Wright has a simple game plan: “We have to do what we do, which is make the game fast-paced. We have to be very solid defensively and not get beat up on the glass.”

The Sunbirds defeated Dixie State 82-80 earlier this season. After Tuesday’s game, the Sunbirds return home to face Azusa Pacific on Saturday.