’Dog Bytes

Sports Briefs

by Eddie Hughes

Bulldogs Set Records for Academic All Stars

A record 155 Fresno State student-athletes were named to the 2015-16 Academic All-Mountain West team — the highest number since the Bulldogs joined the Mountain West in 2012-13.

Eligible selections must have completed at least one academic term at the member institution and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, in addition to being a starter or significant contributor on their athletic team.

The swimming and diving team’s 22 selections were the most for any Bulldogs program. Football added 19 members, and six other teams landed double-digit honorees: women’s track and field (17), baseball (16), women’s soccer (13), softball (12), men’s track and field (11) and volleyball (10).

The Bulldogs also set a record with 82 Mountain West Scholar-Athletes — requiring a 3.5 cumulative GPA or better.


‘The Pete at The Bob’

Bob Bennett, the winningest coach in Fresno State baseball history, was honored May 7 as the University’s baseball facility was renamed Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.

Bennett led the Bulldogs to 1,302 wins in his 34 years as coach, including 26 straight winning seasons, 21 NCAA regionals, 17 conference championships and two College World Series appearances (1988, 1991). Bennett’s Diamond ‘Dogs led the nation in attendance in 1988 and 1989. Bennett played for Beiden from 1952 to 1955.

“This is a great honor, and I really appreciate this,” Bennett says. “It is also a great honor for my players. I wish their names could be on the stadium too. Fresno State baseball has been a big part of my life, as a player and a coach, and this University has done so much for me, my family and all my players.”

More than 100 former players and their families joined Bennett on the field for the pregame dedication ceremony.

Bobby Jones, who was the 1991 NCAA Player of the Year before a 10-year career with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, spoke to Bennett in front of the crowd about the lessons Bennett taught his players.

“You taught us to be community figures, to always remember where [we] came from, and that is something that stood with me for the rest of my life.” ~ Bobby Jones

Bennett’s young grandson, Wyatt Prieto, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Bulldogs beat San Diego State 1-0 in 10 innings. The Bulldogs went on to win the Mountain West championship.



H2O Polo Coming Soon

Natalie Benson

Fresno State hired former Olympian Natalie Benson on June 16 to lead its new women’s water polo program that will begin competition in spring 2018.

“From her collegiate career to her Olympic experience and now as a college coach, we know we have found the right person with the integrity, the drive and the coaching expertise to put Fresno State on the water polo map,” says Jim Bartko, Fresno State director of athletics.

Regarded as one of the best women’s water polo players of all time, Benson was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2015. She helped the USA Olympic team win medals in 2004 (bronze) and 2008 (silver), and she led UCLA to three national championships.

Benson compiled a 56-49 record at Marist over the past three seasons. A two-time MAAC coach of the year, her team won the conference championship in 2015.

The Bulldogs will compete in the nine-team Golden Coast Conference which includes such programs as San Diego State, Fresno Pacific and Santa Clara.

Water polo timeline

Summer 2016               Recruitment begins
November 2016           Early signing period
August 2017                  Student-athletes arrive
Spring 2018                  Competition begins


Bulldogs Pin Down Wrestling Coach

Troy Steiner

New coach Troy Steiner will lead Fresno State wrestling on the mat next fall for the first time since the program was cut in 2006. Steiner was an assistant at Oregon State for 10 years before being named Bulldogs coach.

“Today is truly a special day nationally for the sport of wrestling and here for the fans in the Valley who deeply love this sport,” said Fresno State director of athletics Jim Bartko on May 10 when he made the announcement.

A four-time All-American at Iowa, Steiner was a member of three national championship teams and won the 1992 individual national championship at 142 pounds.

As a coach, Steiner helped guide Oregon State to top-10 team finishes in 2012 and 2013 and seven Pac 12 Championships, including five-straight from 2012 to 2016.

Wrestling at Fresno State dates to 1962. The program has won 11 team conference championships, had 14 top-25 finishes (including a No. 8 ranking in 1993), 99 individual conference champions, 33 All-Americans and three individuals who combined to win six national championships.

Wrestling timeline

Summer 2016               Recruitment begins
November 2016           Early signing period
August 2017                  Student-athletes arrive
Winter 2017-18            Competition begins


There’s No Place Like Home (Plate)

Linda Garza

After a high-profile national search, homegrown candidate Linda Garza was selected as Fresno State’s new softball coach. Garza attended Hoover High School and says she grew up watching the Bulldogs, dreaming to one day be a part of the program.

“I think [Bulldog softball] is so incredible to be able to be a part of” Garza says. “The amount of Olympians, the amount of All-Americans, every coach that’s ever stepped foot in this arena has been successful and my job is to continue building on that legacy.

“There are 300 places [softball programs] in the country — and I only wanted to be here.”

In 2013, Garza took over an 11-year-old UC Riverside program that had never had a winning season. She led UC Riverside to 39 and 32 wins the past two years.

Garza was a star infielder at UNLV from 1998 to 2001, earning all-Mountain West honors.

She replaces Trisha Ford, who left Fresno State for Arizona State after leading the Bulldogs to a return trip to the NCAA tournament, a second straight Mountain West championship and a No. 18 national ranking.

—For all the latest news on Fresno State athletics, visit GoBulldogs.com.