Education

Fresno St. president on money-losing stadium naming rights deal: “Beneficial” in the long-run

Just a few weeks after Bulldog Stadium officially transitioned over to Valley Children’s Stadium, Fresno State President Saul Jimenez-Sandoval is hinting at a break with media marketing company Learfield Sports. 

Fresno State and Learfield signed an agreement in 2004 giving Learfield the multi-media rights to the university’s athletic programs. 

The agreement is set to expire in 2026. 

Provisions in the university’s $10 million stadium naming rights deal with Valley Children’s Hospital prevent most other healthcare entities from marketing at the university or sponsoring the athletics teams. 

That led to the university renegotiating its agreement with Learfield, which will see Fresno State take home $3.6 million less over the last five years of the contract because of the Valley Children’s deal. 

In a recent interview with KSEE24, Jimenez-Sandoval defended the deal with Valley Children’s and hinted that the university will not renew with Learfield. 

“It depends, right? If we were to stay with Learfield, then of course that would be some sort of logic that would follow through. But Learfield is not the only media business in the market. So given that, we are exploring other possibilities in the market,” Jimenez-Sandoval said. 

“The monies that we are supposedly losing is the monies that we are investing in the upfront cost that we have to account for at the beginning. In the long run – the life of this – is going to be beneficial for Fresno State in the 10-year period.” 

Along with the Learfield deal, Jimenez-Sandoval also spoke to potential renovations to Valley Children’s Stadium, which have been in the works for several years without any progress to show for it.

One financial boon that would be a lifeline for stadium renovations is Measure E, the county-wide 0.2 percent sales tax that would benefit Fresno State. 

If Measure E passes, Fresno State is projected to bring in $36 million annually for 20 years, which a third of that allowed to be used for athletics. 

That could result in $240 million that the university could use to renovate Valley Children’s Stadium. 

Whether or not Measure E comes to pass, Jimenez-Sandoval expressed confidence that Valley Children’s Stadium will receive much-needed upgrades soon. 

“I think we will see it in the near future, and I say that with full confidence,” Jimenez-Sandoval said. “The community understands the power of what Valley Children’s Stadium represents to them. The community, when they see Valley Children’s Stadium, see themselves reflected in the game that is then in turn representative of everyone outside of the Valley. Someone watching any football game will say Fresno State, and therefore will say Coalinga, and will say Fowler, and will say Reedley and everything else that’s accounted to it.” 

Since renovating Valley Children’s Stadium will certainly be at the center of Fresno State’s future in the volatile college football landscape, Jimenez-Sandoval also discussed the university’s future in the Mountain West and any possibility that the Pac-12 could come calling. 

“I’ll start out by saying that we are very comfortable within the Mountain West. We are leaders within the leaders of the Mountain West. The Mountain West has been a very strong house, a very strong home for Fresno State,” Jimenez-Sandoval said. 

“But I’m also going to say the following: I want what is best for our community and want our community to be showcased within a national and international arena. Within that, I am very vested in doing so with every opportunity that I have.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.