A national search led by Bill Walsh, '55 and '59, resulted in the selection in December of Tom Bowen as SJSU's new athletics director.
Bowen, a fund-raising executive for the San Francisco 49ers, has also served in athletic administration leadership positions at the University of California, and Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif.
Athletic Director-Tom Bowen
Tom Bowen, 43, doesn't see himself as a divine intervention on the San José State campus, but the university's new athletic director was six months away from becoming a priest before sports took over his life.
Bowen studied six years for the priesthood after graduating from Notre Dame, but a high school coaching job in Colorado Springs convinced him that the world of sports was his true calling. He discussed his vision for Spartan sports with Washington Square.
Washington Square: Why did you pursue the SJSU job?
Tom Bowen: It appealed to me for a lot of reasons. I like the coaches, Spartan Stadium, the feel of the place. When I was in high school, San José State had a pretty prominent football team. So I connected with the school. There have been great improvements in the facilities — the Koret Center, the Simpkins athletic buildings. And my dream has always been to be a Division IA athletics director.
WSQ: The dream has come true. Now how do you make it work?
TB: There are three elements. One is understanding the climate and the econometric — the ability to generate revenue for your department — of where you're positioned, to support growth and success. A second key is a real understanding of coaching at the Division IA level. The third thing is to articulate truth and communicate well with your constituency. I'm a big believer in understanding the brutal facts of your reality, which is to create energy and change a defeatist attitude into a culture of a champion. My job is to put our athletes into the best position to succeed.
WSQ: What is the game plan for such success?
TB: We need internal reorganization in the sense of a strategic business plan, as opposed to an educational outreach piece of the university. The school's new president, Don Kassing, is 100 percent supportive of creating the right environment, the right programs. His determination is to keep football a part of San José State.
WSQ: How do you improve last year's 6,500 average football attendance?
TB: A new beginning. We have a phenomenal football coach, Dick Tomey, the likes of whom San José State hasn't had in a long time. There is a frustration on campus, but he'll make us a better football team. And we have a new marketing plan.
WSQ: What's so new about your plan?
TB: I'll be a visible presence on campus during the day. I'll bring my coaches up there to mingle, interact with the students. Hopefully, that creates a curiosity. And I've already spoken with community groups. We're here, we want to make a difference, come join us. Apathy is never permanent. If you understand that, you can change the direction of what you're doing.
WSQ: But how do you convince the anti-football faction among SJSU's faculty that the sport is worth saving?
TB: I'm not sure you can ever convince anyone of anything. That negative faculty thing challenges us to be better. I wasn't hired to manage. I don't manage, I lead. I've led everywhere I've been. I'm creating an atmosphere of "we." All of us working together, we can do some wonderful things here. We are the sleeping giant.
WSQ: What will SJSU athletics look like in, say, three years?
TB: The fall of 2007, we should be pretty competitive. Football-wise, we should be well respected in the WAC and well-received on campus, with a consistent attendance base. Everything I'm building is for 2007, where everything is in motion financially, every program has an increased recruiting budget, and all 16 (sports) programs should be in good financial shape.
Head Footbal Coach-Dick Tomey
Put Dick Tomey on a tropical isle or send him off to the desert. The location doesn't matter. He can coach football anywhere.
As proof, Tomey, 66, produced more Division IA football victories at Hawaii and Arizona than any other coach at those two universities. His overall record in 24 seasons as a head coach is 158-110-7.
Tomey rebuilt programs in Honolulu and Tucson, and also doubled their attendance numbers, making him an ideal fit as San José State's new coach.
Tomey addressed the gridiron turnaround he envisions at SJSU.
WSQ: What is the appeal of being a head coach as a senior citizen when other coaches have retired at your age?
DT: It's really not about being a head coach as it's about the challenge of this position here. As I look around, I don't say, "How are we going to do this?" I say, "Why can't we?" There are too many things in place that would give us a chance to have a terrific program.
WSQ: What are those positives?
DT: Facilities. Proximity to all kinds of outstanding players. Great place to live. There are so many more things in place that lead to an outstanding program than there are to justify struggling.
WSQ: You were hired Dec. 29, which basically left you a month to hire a staff and also recruit before the Feb. 2 letter-of-intent signing date. Therefore, won't you struggle right away?
DT: We're going to struggle for a while. But I think we have an enormous opportunity here to have a tremendous program. (Fans) just don't respond to wins, they respond to a competitive program. There are a lot of people with San José roots that would come out and support us if they could see the product is better. We will be better.
WSQ: What do you hope to accomplish your first season?
DT: I don't even have to hope to accomplish. I know we'll get better every day. And I know when people come out to watch us play, they're going to say, "Holy cow." We're going to have a group of players who have a particular way of playing that I think will be compelling.
WSQ: Break down "compelling." What are the components?
DT: We're going to be proud of the way we play. We're going to expect to win. If we don't win, we go back to work. If we do win, we go back to work. We're going to play hard, be fundamentally sound, and people are going to like what they see.
WSQ: Does that mean exciting football?
DT: Exciting football is winning football. Exciting football means you have a chance to win. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to be able to run it and throw it. We're going to be as unpredictable as we can possibly be. Something that will give us a chance to win.
WSQ: How would you describe your defense?
DT: Prideful. Intense. Hard to beat. But that's going to be our entire football team. We're going to play our butts off. There are no shortcuts.
WSQ: Do your hopes for SJSU football include Spartan Stadium sellouts?
DT: Absolutely. We're in a conference where Fresno State and Boise State will be in the top 25 next season. That's a good thing. We're going to spend our time thinking of how we can be the best. It's like being in the classroom with someone who makes good grades. You better get your stuff right.
WSQ: You have lots of energy for someone who is 66. Where does that come from?
DT: I've run marathons. I play one-on-one basketball, lift weights, work out. I played city league baseball until last year. I like competition.
WSQ: How do you convince your players you're not too old for the job?
DT: They won't even think about that because of the way I coach. That won't even be a factor.
WSQ: You're married to a successful novelist, Nanci Kincaid. How did that happen?
DT: Nanci's the most talented person in the family. Her first husband was a football coach, which makes her certifiably insane to have married two of us. But she's a risk taker, and I am too.
– Dave Newhouse, '64