A CENTURY OF THE RED WAVE RISING

A timeline of historical moments and milestones that shaped Fresno State athletics

By Eddie Hughes

It all started with an extraordinary vision. A community of hardworking people thirsty for an identity latched on to a growing University. As the student body grew, the fan base grew along with it.

These Bulldogs brought a sense of pride this humble Valley had never before seen. An energy so infectious
that everyone wanted to be a part of it. The Red Wave was born.

Fueled by Bulldog spirit, inspired by legends and uniting us all like nothing else can, athletics became the front porch that introduced thousands to the University.

It wasn’t an overnight success. It took years — decades even — to nurture and mature. Like the crops of our fertile Valley, seeds were nurtured into a fruitful harvest. While the bar was being raised for Dutch Warmerdam’s world-record pole vaults, so too was the bar for what’s possible within the “sleeping giant” that is Fresno State athletics.

And that story is still evolving. This year, we celebrate 100 years of Fresno State athletics. But our story is far from over, and now is not the time to rest. With continued bold thinking and an entire Valley of support, there’s no telling what is yet to come.

 

Here are 100 moments and milestones that have helped shape Fresno State athletics in its first 100 years:

1911

Fresno State Normal School students and logo

1 – On Sept. 11, Fresno State Normal School (pictured above) opened its doors.

1921

basketball 1921

2 – The Bulldogs football team (pictured above) began competition. Led by coach Arthur W. Jones, the Bulldogs finished with a record of 2-4.

3 – The Bulldogs men’s basketball team began competition, finishing with a record of 6-5.

4 – Student body president Warren Moody and friends were continually greeted on campus by a white bulldog. Soon students were bringing the nameless pooch to football games. Arids Walker made the motion to adopt the nickname in a student body meeting. On Nov. 21, the Morning Republican first referred to Fresno State as the Bulldogs.

1922

baseball team 1922

5 – The baseball team (pictured above) began competition. Coached by Arthur W. Jones, the team finished 2-2.

1926

6 – Fresno State Stadium, now known as Ratcliffe Stadium, was dedicated on Oct. 9 on the campus

of what is now Fresno City College.

1929

7 – Hurdler Charles Kaster set a West Coast Relays record in the college class, finishing with a time of 14.5 seconds.

1934

High jumper Walter Marty

8 – High jumper Walter Marty (pictured above) became the first Fresno State athlete to win an NCAA title with a mark of 6 feet, 8¾ inches. In 1933-34, he set three world records, including a jump of 6 feet, 91/8 inches.

9 – Fresno State adopted its fight song, “Fight Varsity” — “Go ’Dogs go, fight ’Dogs fight, goooooo ’Dogs!”

1935

10 – Fresno State’s first live mascot, a white purebred bulldog, was introduced to fans under the name, “Touchdown” (pictured below).

11 – Elroy Robinson won the NCAA and AAU title in the half-mile before setting world records in 1937 in a 1,000-yard race and the 800 meters and 880 yards.

white bulldog and poll jumper

1940

12 – Few, if any, athletes have ever dominated an event like Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam (pictured above) did the pole vault in the 1940s. He topped the world record by more than eight inches, reaching 15 feet, 7¾ inches outdoors in 1942 – a record that stood for 15 years.

Warmerdam was a self-taught pole vaulter who grew up in Hanford, vaulting in his backyard with the limb of a peach tree. He was voted as the top pole vaulter of the 20th century and the greatest track and field athlete of all-time in a 1955 United Press International poll. In 2000, he was named USA Track and Field’s American Pole Vaulter of the Century, and in 2001 — just seven months before his death at age 86 — he was voted by Fresno State fans as the Bulldogs’ Athlete of the Century.

1941

13 – Fresno State’s baseball park (later named Euless Park) opened east of Ratcliffe Stadium on what is now the Fresno City College campus.

14 – Two-time All-American Jack Mulkey (wide receiver/defensive back) became the first Bulldogs football player ever selected in the NFL Draft, chosen in the 15th round by the Chicago Bears.

1942

15 – Jackie Fellows’ 21 touchdown passes led the nation and earned the 5-foot-6 quarterback first-team All-America honors.

1943

16 – There was no football or basketball season in 1943-44 because of World War II.

1950

17 – The Bulldog Foundation was created to support student-athlete scholarships. Today, about $8 million per year is required to provide scholarships to about 400 student-athletes.

18 – Ground was broken on the new Fresno State campus (Shaw/Cedar) on Oct. 17 — five miles east of the old campus (which is now Fresno City College).

The Nickname Bulldogs is Born

Legend has it that in 1921 student body President Warren Moody and friends were continually greeted on campus by a white bulldog. Soon, students were bringing the nameless pooch to football games, and Arids Walker made the motion to adopt the nickname in a student body meeting. On Nov. 21, the Morning Republican first referred to Fresno State as the Bulldogs.

But there was no official mascot until 1935, when a white, purebred bulldog named Touchdown was introduced.

In the mid-1950s, Moose debuted on the sidelines. But tragedy struck in 1958 after a game against College of the Pacific when Moose escaped his student keeper’s grasp and ran under the wheels of the visitors’ rooters train.

bulldog mascots

Upon hearing the news, the Marine Corps donated Moose II, who was later succeeded by Diamond. Moose III, described as “a shy version of [Fresno State’s] ferocious mascot” lived to be 13, but retired in 1973 after 10 years in the role because he feared the cannon that celebrated Bulldogs touchdowns. Moosifour was donated in 1973, but attracted little enthusiasm during a time when campus turmoil upstaged student spirit.

Fresno State’s first costumed-character mascot debuted in the 1970s. The first was a gray fur suit with a papier mache bulldog head and a large, round dog tag that read “Scooby.”

new bulldogs

In 1981, student Gary Johns designed the familiar gray and white TimeOut costume with a lighter Fiberglas head, and student Charles Mugredechian was the first to wear the outfit. To this day, TimeOut has been

a fixture at games and community events. In 2007, a trimmer, more athletic, brown-colored costume was introduced but was promptly rejected by fans and was replaced the next year by a more traditional TimeOut.

In the 1980s football coach Jim Sweeney revived the live mascot tradition, purchasing Halftime. But the tradition faded again until 2006 when Victor E. Bulldog was introduced after a tryout that included more than 90 bulldogs. Beloved by fans, he succumbed to cancer in 2012 at age 8. Victor E. Bulldog II debuted Sept. 15, 2012, and tragically died from a bee sting before turning 3 years old.

In June 2015, Victor E. Bulldog III took the helm, and has been adored by the community since. His “Victor E. lap” will begin in spring 2022 as the University begins its search for Victor E. Bulldog IV.

1952Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama

19 – Led by Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama’s (pictured right) school-record 71 career steals, baseball made its first
of 34 NCAA Tournament appearances.

1954

20 – Men’s gymnasium (now known as North Gym) opened.

1956

21 – Women’s gymnasium (now South Gym) opened.

1959

22 – Baseball made its first College World Series appearance.

1961

23 – Football beat Bowling Green in Mercy Bowl fundraiser for Cal Poly players who died in plane crash.

1964

24 – Track and field won the NCAA College Division national championship. Darel Newman (pictured right) won the 100-yard College Division championship.

Track and Field National Champs

On June 12-13, 1964, at Ratcliffe Stadium, coach Dutch Warmerdam led a 15-man squad to Fresno State’s first team national championship in any sport. Competing in the College Division prior to Fresno State’s Division I days, the team scored 85 points, well ahead of second-place Long Beach State (57), Cal Poly (40), College of the Redlands (37), North Carolina (30) and Ohio State (26).

Sid Nickolas won the 120-yard high hurdles and the long jump, while finishing third in the triple jump. Two-time All-American Charles Craig took first in the triple jump at 51 feet, 9¼ inches. The “Bald Bullet” Darel Newman won the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds, while teammates Sam Workman and Marvin Bryant each clocked 9.4 seconds. Workman also took fourth place in the 220 yards.

The team of Bryant, Nickolas, Workman and Newman also won the 440-yard relay. The team also picked up points in the 3-mile with a fourth-place finish from Howard “Spike” Biggers and a sixth-place finish from Rick Dahlgren. Bill Allen finished sixth in the pole vault.

Following the meet, the Bulldogs who finished in the top six of their events were invited to face the rest of the nation’s top teams in the NCAA University Division Championships in Eugene, Oregon. There, they finished third overall in the team standings, led by Craig’s triple jump national championship.

25 – Charles Craig set the NCAA triple jump record (College Division champion).

1965

26 – Varsity Field (now Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium) opened for Bulldogs baseball.

27 – Women’s volleyball and women’s basketball (pictured right) began competition.

1967

28 – Pitcher Larry Gonsalves (pictured right) threw a perfect game (no hits, no walks) vs. Cal Poly, one of just 24 perfect games in NCAA history.

1968

29 – Wrestler Mike Gallego (pictured above-right) won the Division I national championship at 171 pounds. He compiled a 47-1 career record.

30 – The men’s tennis team won the Division II national championship with a win over Cal State Los Angeles in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tennis Wins National Title

The 1968 Fresno State tennis team won the Division II national championship with a win over Cal State Los Angeles in Fort Worth, Texas. The team also won its first California Collegiate Athletic Association title that year, under coach Richard Murray.

In 1971, Fresno State tennis began competing at the Division I level. In 1979, the women’s tennis team was established.

While women’s tennis remains a varsity sport at Fresno State, the men’s program was discontinued because of ongoing financial challenges that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The men’s tennis program, led by coach Luke Shields, claimed its first Mountain West championship in 2019.

1969

31 – Fresno State joined the Pacific Coast Athletic Association.

1972

32 – Title IX was enacted on June 23, providing women and men with equitable sports opportunities.

33 – Fresno State College renamed California State University, Fresno (or more commonly Fresno State).

1977

Bulldog Stadium 77

34 – “Stadium Builders”: Led by defensive backs Dean Jones and Bob Glazebrook, the 1977 football team reeled off eight straight wins to close the season at 9-2 and was dubbed the “Stadium Builders,” sparking momentum for the team to move from Ratcliffe Stadium to Bulldog Stadium, which broke ground in 1979 (pictured above).

1980

first-ever game at Bulldog Stadium

35 – The first-ever game at Bulldog Stadium (pictured above) took place on Nov. 15, a 21-14 win over Montana State.

1981

36 – The Fresno Bee’s Ron Orozco coined the term Red Wave for the Fresno State fan base on Jan. 17 (pictured below).

37 – Fresno State’s costumed mascot TimeOut was introduced. Students performing as TimeOut are eligible for an annual $2,000 scholarship through the Bulldog Pride Fund.

red wave and mens basketball

1982

38 – The men’s basketball team was ranked as high as No. 11 nationally and made its first Sweet 16 appearance (pictured above).

‘Grant’s Tomb’

Grant’s TombIn the early 1980s, the newly coined Red Wave flooded into Selland Arena for Fresno State men’s basketball games. With coach Boyd Grant leading the program to new heights, the arena was lovingly nicknamed “Grant’s Tomb.” But it was what they did beyond the Valley that got the nation’s attention.

First it was the 1981-82 season, when the Bulldogs finished 27-3 (13-1) to win the Pacific Coast Athletic Association title. Led by Rod Higgins, they advanced to the NCAA Tournament, opening with a 50-46 win over West Virginia to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history before being eliminated by Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown.

In 1982-83, the “Bookend Forwards” Ron Anderson and Bernard Thompson – along with point guard Tyrone Bradley — led Fresno State to an National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship that garnered attention across the country. About 1,500 Red Wavers made the trip to New York to see the Bulldogs win at Madison Square Garden – during an era in which the NCAA Tournament included just 32 teams and the NIT was more competitive than ever. The Bulldogs beat UTEP, Michigan State and Oregon State before heading to New York, where they defeated Wake Forest and DePaul for the title. Thousands of fans gathered on campus for a historical celebration upon the team’s return to Fresno (pictured left).

That fanfare carried over to 1983-84, when the Bulldogs and their “Bookend Forwards” knocked off No. 3 Houston (and star Akeem Olajuwon) 68-61 and No. 5 UNLV 68-43. After beating UNLV again to win the PCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs earned an NCAA Tournament berth, losing to Karl Malone’s Louisiana Tech team in the opening round.

1983basketball won NIT, Leilani Overstreet

39 – A student-athlete facility opened near Bulldog Stadium; named for benefactor Robert “Bob” Duncan in 1986. The Duncan Building now houses football locker rooms, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and more.

40 – Men’s basketball won the NIT championship at Madison Square Garden; before being welcomed home with a parade (pictured right).

1984

41 – Coach Leilani Overstreet (pictured right) led the volleyball team to its first NCAA Tournament, where it tied for fifth place after defeating UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly.

42 – Men’s water polo ranked a program-best sixth nationally, and ranked eighth the following year before winning a Big West Conference title in 1990.

43 – John Hoover was named the NCAA Pitcher of the Year, setting an NCAA record with 19 complete games. He also held the NCAA record with 42 career complete games, and the school record of 44 career wins.

1985

44 – Olympian Ruth Lawanson (pictured below).

Lawanson Becomes First Female Athlete to Have Jersey Retired

Ruth LawansonAll-American Ruth Lawanson became the first female athlete in Fresno State history to have her jersey number retired on Jan. 21, 1985, at the volleyball team’s awards banquet.

On Nov. 9, 2019, she was further honored when her No. 15 jersey was ceremoniously raised to the rafters in the Save Mart Center, the arena the Bulldogs volleyball team now calls home.

Lawanson, the 1984-85 Fresno State Athlete of the Year, led the Bulldogs to a program-record 26 wins during her senior season in 1984, and she remains the program’s career leader in hitting percentage.

The Nigeria native went on to compete in Major League Volleyball, earning Player of the Year honors in 1988 before helping Team USA to a bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

1986

45 – Men’s soccer advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

46 – On Nov. 22, during the first half against Utah State, quarterback Kevin Sweeney (pictured above) connected on an 11-yard pass to Stephen Baker to become the NCAA’s all-time passing leader, breaking Doug Flutie’s record from Boston College. Sweeney finished with 10,623 yards (10,808 including bowl games).

1987

Wendy Martell, Jose Elgorriaga, Doug Fraley

47 – Wendy Martell (pictured above) became the first women’s basketball player to have her jersey retired after becoming the first All-American in program history with a school-record 1,595 points (which now ranks fifth all-time). Her No. 34 jersey was later raised into the Save Mart Center rafters in 2020.

48 – Under coach Jose Elgorriaga (pictured above), who was also a Spanish professor on campus, men’s soccer achieved the school’s first No. 1 national ranking in any Division I sport. On Sept. 27, an NCAA-record 12,224 fans watched the Bulldogs host San Francisco.

49 – Olympian Lacy Barnes-Mileham earns third straight NCAA runner-up in discus.

50 – Doug Fraley (pictured above) won the NCAA indoor and outdoor national championships in pole vault with a record-mark of 18-feet, 11 inches. He also won the 1986 indoor national title.

1988

51 – Baseball won a school-record 32 straight games and was ranked No. 1 nationally before advancing to its second College World Series. PCAA Player of the Year Lance Shebelut set a school record with 32 home runs.

52 – The PCAA became the Big West Conference.

1989Tom Goodwin

53 – Three baseball players were selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft: outfielder Steve Hosey (14th overall, Giants), shortstop Eddie Zosky (19th, Blue Jays) and Tom Goodwin (22nd, Dodgers).

54 – Tom Goodwin (pictured right) led the NCAA in stolen bases for the second straight year. The 14-year Major Leaguer holds Fresno State’s all-time record with 164 stolen bases. He also won a gold medal as the youngest member of Team USA at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

1990

55 – Men’s golf placed fifth in the NCAA championships, the school’s highest-ever finish. Mike Watney coached 29 All-Americans, including David and Kevin Sutherland, and won 12 conference championships in 34 years leading the program before he retired in 2013.

56 – J.D. Williams became Fresno State’s first, first-round NFL Draft pick (16th overall, Buffalo Bills).

1991

57 – Two-time All-American men’s soccer player Gerrell Elliott was named the NCAA player of the year. He was Fresno State’s career leader in goals (54) and points (136).

58 – Pitcher Bobby Jones was named NCAA Player of the Year with a 16-2 record and 1.88 ERA. He had an NCAA-record 166 strikeouts and led the Diamond ’Dogs to their third College World Series.

1992