Bulldogs, Hill are all business
FRESNO, Calif. — The parking lot in front of Fresno Distributors, a wholesale plumbing and electrical supply business in the city's gritty industrial section, is filled to overflow with vehicles edged up on the McKinley Avenue sidewalk.
The reason for the crowd this lunch hour isn't the sale on Price-Pfister faucets inside.
It is Fresno State football coach Pat Hill, fresh off a victory at UCLA, who makes a rock star's entrance down the aisle between the kitchen cabinets, tubs and toilets, waving to fans and shaking hands with the regulars at his "Pat Hill radio show."
The faithful, including one man in an FSU red T-shirt that pictures a Bulldog and an American flag with the words, "Need we say more," have come to talk Bulldog football. And Hill — perched on a stool in front of a countertop sign promising "$200 off installation" — is here to do it between bites of pizza. They want nuts and bolts and what better place than a hardware store?
It is also thoroughly in keeping with Hill's blue-collar image. While many of his coaching brethren have their shows at restaurants, that is not Hill. No The Willows for him. Imagine a UH coach's show from the showroom floor of a building supply store in Mapunapuna and you have his weekly show on KMJ.
"Bulldogfootball" — as the square-jawed Hill puts it when he gets rolling — is about hard work and toughness. It is about "hitting somebody in the mouth," or "knocking them in the gut." It is in practice where, after a player was lacerated by a metal bolt, Hill says he got "sewed up right there (on the practice field)."
This day the "Big Dog" himself, as the license plate holder on his Bulldog red Hummer out front advises, is talking about the necessity of "knuckling down" and "getting after" the University of Hawai'i Saturday at Bulldog Stadium.
The 3-1 Bulldogs are the No. 22-ranked team in the country and Hill warns that should only serve to make them more wary, meaner. "People want to beat Fresno," he bellows. "People want to beat Top 25 teams. They want to come into our stadium and win."
Never mind that UH is a 22-point underdog, Hill is preparing the Bulldogs and their fans as if for an invasion of the Huns. "This game against Hawai'i is going to be a tough game I promise you," Hill says. " I promise you right now Hawai'i will come in ready to play. Their backs are to the wall. They're in a must-win situation and they have a lot of pride. They are a tough, tough group of kids and they will play their heart out. It is gonna be a knock-down, drag-out football game."
UH is 1-3 but Hill fends off any notion of the Warriors being anything short of a juggernaut. He bristles when someone asks if the Bulldogs might empty the bench if the score becomes a runaway.
"We have to play up against Hawai'i," Hill says emphatically. "I'm not dreaming about grass skirts. I'm thinking about those green (clad linemen). They are physical. This game is going to be a battle, I promise you."
Hill mentions several times during his various media stops that the Warriors are the "defending WAC champs" and talks up their "senior laden defense" that his "young, work in progress" Bulldogs will have to go up against.
Hill does his best to enlist their support for the titanic struggle that looms. "We have a great opponent coming in, a team that has been very good against us. I expect to see a full house. So do our players. Our players expect to go down the ramp (at Bulldog Stadium) and see it all red there."
The folks who have gathered amid the sinks and bathroom fixtures, part of the delegation of 18,000 to 20,000 who made up the "Red Wave" that followed the Bulldogs to the Rose Bowl for the UCLA game last week, have already assured him they will be there this week, too.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.