SJSU's president supports football

San Jose State could have hired an interim president with no background in, or passion for, college sports. But Bell got the man he wanted.

The problem began long before he arrived and will continue after he departs.

But during his six months as school president, Joe Crowley plans to fully support the San Jose State football program, which will lose Division I-A status if it doesn't meet NCAA attendance requirements in 2004.

Crowley, who began his six-month tenure as interim president this month, is a former NCAA president and lifelong college football fan.

``I'm going to do whatever I can to have the building blocks in place so that come '04, we're prepared to meet the standards,'' Crowley said.

``The importance of athletics, in terms of an institution's reputation, is pretty clear to me. I've always been a sports fan.''

His track record:

Crowley was an undergraduate at Iowa, earned his masters at Fresno State and his doctorate at Washington -- three football-crazed schools.

If he had any lingering doubts about the importance of major college football, they ended during his 22-year tenure as Nevada's president. In 1992, Crowley oversaw the Wolf Pack's move from Division I-AA to Division I-A.

``It was an amazing experience to see the reaction of the community,'' he said. ``It's a prestige thing. All we did was take one `A' off, and it was as if there was a revolution.''

Crowley's appointment was crucial for the Spartans' football program, which lost its most influential supporter in April when school President Robert Caret announced he would accept a similar post at Towson University.

San Jose State could have hired an interim president with no background in, or passion for, college sports. Instead, Athletic Director Chuck Bell got the man he wanted.

``Dr. Crowley told me that he would be here no more than six months, but that he would not be a part of any legacy that led to San Jose State football being any place but where it has been,'' Bell said.''

Crowley's influence will be limited -- in part because of his abbreviated tenure, in part because the Spartans have a plan to preserve their Division I-A status.

To meet one of the most daunting requirements, averaging 15,000 fans per home game in '04, they have placed two popular opponents, Stanford and Fresno State, on the home schedule.

(In addition, Bell has reworked the schedule to meet another '04 requirement: at least five home games.)

The little guys:

``It's a challenge for quite a few I-A schools,'' Crowley said. ``They're all thinking the same thoughts we are: How are we going to get it done, and do it right?''

Crowley is also concerned about the state of college football -- from the pending wave of expansion, sparked by the Atlantic Coast Conference's admission of Miami and Virginia Tech, to the growing rift between the power conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern, etc.) and everyone else.

But at some point, it seems, the system will collapse on itself. San Jose State is one of a dozen schools in danger of losing its Division I-A status. If those teams are banished to Division I-AA, there will be fewer teams for the big boys to play.

``It's a huge problem,'' Crowley said. ``There's so much vested interest, and there's so much potential for the disparity to keep growing. But I don't see a magic pill. We have to work around the edges . . .

``People are caught up in the immutable logic or wanting more and more money.''

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