Fresno State coaches engage with fans in Visalia

Head coaches for FSU football, men’s basketball and equestrian visit BarrelHouse Brewing Co. to speak with local fans; coaches talk recruiting, team culture and upcoming seasons

(Kason Clark)
Kason Clark
Published June 11, 2024  • 
12:30 pm

VISALIA – With college on summer break, several coaches from Fresno State University decided to use that time off to visit and engage with fans across the Central Valley. One stop was BarrelHouse Brewing Co. in Visalia this past Friday night, where fans got the chance to meet football coach Jeff Tedford, men’s basketball coach Vance Walberg and equestrian coach Eric Hubbard. 

“It felt good to know that they’re reaching out to connect with Visalia and try to get people excited about the teams. I think they have a real following here,” Fresno State fan and Visalia native Joel Martens said. “It’s great that they’re trying to involve the whole Valley.”

As they got the chance to meet their fans down in Tulare County on June 7, the FSU coaches enjoyed getting to spread their message and receive continued support. 

“It’s great to come out and see the people who travel to the stadium all the time for us to play. To get to the outskirts and come to them,” Tedford said. “You don’t get the opportunity to see everybody all the time when you’re so focused on just the stadium and what you do there, so it’s really nice to see the people who invest so much in the program.”

“It’s awesome. I would love to do a whole bunch of these,” Walberg said. “Just to have people see what our message is and just let them know who we are.”

The visit to Tulare County was put together by the Bulldog Foundation Group, which has scheduled several more events for the coaches across the Central Valley. As they get to meet more and more fans, the coaches believe it will help their programs. 

“I think the more that we can spread what we have at Fresno State, the better it is,” Walberg said. “My job is to fill that stadium. We have to play winning basketball to get fans there and I think the more we can talk about what we have, I think it’s better for us.”

The night started with the coaches grabbing some beers and talking with some of the fans. Martens, an FSU alumni and FSU football season-ticket holder, got to talk to Tedford about former Central Valley Christian running back and FSU commit Bryson Donelson and his prospects with the Bulldogs. 

Later in the event, each coach went up individually to answer questions from BDF Execute Director Terry Johnson. Hubbard went up first to talk about growing up in Idaho, his love for horses and how he wound up as the head coach of the FSU equestrian program.

He further talked about his athletes and their connections to agriculture through their academics. He talked about the events his athletes compete in, how they take care of their horses and how he recruits riders to his program. He wrapped up his time by thanking the local fans for their support before handing it off to Walberg. 

As the new head coach for FSU men’s basketball, Walberg started by talking about his hiring back in April, filling out his coaching staff and signing junior college stars Alex Crawford and Amar Augillard to begin building his roster. 

Walberg also shared the challenges that NIL has presented as other schools can offer more money to recruits. So as he has had to recruit with less money, Walberg harped on finding players that fit his play style and culture. 

“You have to find the right people that you think will fit with you and let them know the style that we’re going to play,” Walberg said to fans. “The six kids I brought in so far, they’re tremendous kids from tremendous families that you’re going to really love.”

Walberg wrapped up his time going into detail about his dribble drive motion offense, which he invented at Clovis West in 1997 and has become popularized by other collegiate coaches. The focus of this offense relies on a quick pace up and down the court to wear down the opponents. 

Tedford went up to speak to end the night. He started his time by talking about the Bulldogs’ success during his tenure and how their support from across the Central Valley has fuelled that. During his time, Tedford gave a quick shoutout to FSU commit Donelson, much to the enjoyment of the Visalia crowd. 

“I was really impressed by his presentation tonight,” Martens said about Tedford’s answers. “I was really impressed by Donelson and Coach Tedford agreed that he was a really good prospect. He hadn’t seen him yet at the college level but he was excited about him being on the team.”

Donelson is one of two Tulare County players committed to the Bulldogs, with the other being former El Diamante offensive lineman Marsel Akins. As Tedford builds his roster, he looks to keep the homegrown talent planted in the Central Valley. 

“We want to keep the local kids home,” Tedford said. “It’s great for their families to be able to get to their games. Those kids are going to have a big following coming to Bulldog Stadium to watch them play. I think they’re both going to have very successful careers in Bulldog football.”

Like Walberg, he talked about the challenges with NIL money and the transfer portal. With these new challenges, Tedford stated their focus is on retaining players in order to continue competing in the Mountain West Conference. Thanks to their efforts, the Bulldogs only lost one key player to the transfer portal as Tedford credits the team culture for withstanding the lure of big dollars somewhere else. 

“They’ve stayed home because of the culture, the environment, the pride and the tradition of Bulldog football and what we have done,” Tedford said to the fans. “They haven’t stayed home for big money.”

Tedford continued to talk about their preparation this summer and more about their team culture. He then ended the night stating how excited the Bulldogs are to open the upcoming season on the road against reigning national champion Michigan. 

“It’s nothing new for our team to play in big venues against big teams. We’re excited for it,” Tedford said to the fans. “We are looking forward to competing against the national champions. It’s a great opportunity for our program.”

Kason Clark
Reporter