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*The following was personally submitted by Dr.James Brent, and is the sole opinion of such author*.
I have been asked by Spartan Thunder.com to give an update on the Spartans 4 Sanity movement, and I have agreed to do so.
When I started Spartans 4 Sanity, my goal was not to eliminate football.
Rather, I was concerned about the portion of the university's general fund budget (i.e. the portion of the university's budget that comes from the state of California) that was going to athletics.
When the NCAA announced new attendance and other requirements for Division I-A schools in 2002, the SJSU administration simply decided to comply.
Despite the fact that the university was undergoing a severe budget shortfall as a result of the state budget crisis, there was never any discussion of the costs and benefits of remaining in Division I-A.
I started Spartans 4 Sanity to place pressure on the administration to reduce the athletics share of the university's general fund budget.
If a substantial reduction could be achieved while retaining football, I would be satisfied. My own personal, deeply held-belief is that the only way to achieve such a reduction over the long term is to leave Division I-A, which would effectively mean the end of football at SJSU.
But the elimination of football was never the primary goal for me. I merely saw it as the only realistic means of permanently reducing the athletics general fund budget.
In the last year, President Kassing has made several major changes regarding the athletics program. Some have been good, most have not made any real difference. I do feel that he has been making a good-faith effort to implement the faculty's request to reduce the athletics share of the general fund budget to 1.8%.
But nothing has changed my belief that this is an effort that, in the long run, is doomed to failure as long as we remain in Division I-A. Here's a "report card."
The Good –
I agree with President's Kassing's decision to give operational control over Spartan Stadium from Spartan Shops to the Division of Athletics.
This is fresh, bold thinking.
I'm not aware of all of the details of the deal, but this move seems to cut out a layer of bureaucracy, and it will allow athletics to market itself better.
Basically, over the long haul, I would prefer if all revenue for athletics came from ticket & vending sales, sponsorships, TV contracts, etc. I don't think that will ever happen at SJSU, but if athletics is generating attendance at an event, they seem entitled to keep any profits they can generate from that event [after reimbursing the university for any costs that it incurs].
The Mixed –
To his credit, President Kassing has attempted to find other sources of revenue in order to reduce the Division of Athletics' reliance on general fund dollars.
Last year, he imposed a student fee increase, with a big chunk going to athletics. I have mixed feelings about this.
I have long supported the general idea of increasing student fees to support athletics as a way of reducing the general fund budget for athletics. But students are supposed to be given the opportunity to vote on such fee increases before they are implemented. CSU presidents are given the power to unilaterally implement such fee increases, but such increases should be for urgent needs, which does not include athletics on this campus.
I had lunch with Joe Crowley when he was president, and we talked about football. He told me the story of what happened at Tulane University after their president announced that he was considering removing the school from Division I-A.
Crowley said that the community and the alumni rose up in a massive show of support. Attendance at games surged. Donations increased dramatically.
It was so overwhelming that the decision was eventually reversed.
But when the SJSU football program was threatened -- first by the change in the NCAA attendance rules and then by Spartans 4 Sanity -- the community did nothing.
Ticket sales didn't increase.
Donations didn't increase.
Football supporters always claim what a resource it is for the alumni and the community, but the alumni and community utterly failed in their responsibility to support the team financially.
So the university basically imposed a tax on the one captive group, the one group that didn't really care about football, and couldn't really afford a fee increase – the students. To me, this is perfectly symbolic of everything I oppose about the football program.
The Bad –
Last season, the SJSU football team kept promising that "It's a New Day in San Jose." Now that the season is over, we can see that this was nothing more than PR hype, and that the new day looks just like the old days. The names are different, but the fundamentals haven't changed: attendance was terrible, matching the team's on-field performance.
In addition, it's been revealed that the football team's academic performance is even worse than we were led to believe.
Regarding attendance, football boosters are quick to point out that average attendance in 2005 (12,506) was almost double the average attendance from 2004.
This argument conveniently ignores many facts. It is true that attendance was up in 2005 compared to 2004.
But in 2004, SJSU had one of the worst attendance records in Division I-A history. It had nowhere to go but up. In addition, average attendance in 2005 was actually lower this season than it was in 2003(15,080), at a time when everyone acknowledged that the program was failing.
In 2005, it was ranked 111th out of 123 Division I-A teams. SJSU has now failed to meet the NCAA minimum average attendance requirement of 15,000 for two seasons in a row. And let's not forget that the final two games of the season attracted only 6,985 and 8,045 fans respectively.
This hardly evidence of increased interest in Spartan football.
In addition, despite the opening of the campus village and the visibility of the Spartan Squad, overall student attendance at football games can still only be described as pathetic.
Regarding the team's performance on the field, the administration claims the football team is resurgent because it won its last two games.
What a joke!
The Spartans won only three games in 2004. One of those wins came against a team in a lower division. The other two wins came against teams that are almost as bad as the Spartans. If this is the team's definition of success, then it is in a lot of trouble.
Finally, this year we have learned that the academic performance of the football team is horrible, with the lowest graduation rate in the WAC.
The team has lost three scholarship as a sanction for this poor performance. This news comes after many years in which the athletics department bragged about their graduation rate.
It's things like this that kill any credibility the athletics department might have in the eyes of the faculty.
Football booster typically respond to facts like these by saying, "Just Wait! Changes are happening! Things will be different."
But faculty have been hearing that for more than 30 years, and we just don't believe it any more. We were told everything would be different when we built a stadium.
They said that everything would be different when we joined the WAC.
They said that everything would be different under Fitz Hill.
They said that Dick Tomey would change everything.
The program has a history of making promises that it has failed to keep, so until those promises actually become a reality, I put no stock in them.
Nevertheless, Spartans 4 Sanity is currently on hiatus because it has achieved all the goals I realistically expected it to achieve by this point.
I never expected that the football program would go away. However, we have achieved a public, high-profile commitment from the administration to dramatically reduce the percentage of the university's general fund going to athletics over time, and the university has been taking steps to fulfill that commitment.
We also were successful in the Mercury News to publish a four-part investigative report in which they essentially supported most of the allegations we had been making.
Most importantly, they exposed the fact that the football program does not pay for itself and, indeed, has a budget shortfall of about $1 million per year. The athletics department can thus no longer repeat the lie that football pays for itself.
In the long run, I believe that the effort to save football at SJSU is doomed to failure.
Even if the team begins winning some games under Coach Tomey, history shows us that attendance will not increase dramatically – it didn't increase during the last winning season, under Coach Dave Baldwin.
And eventually, of course, the team will begin losing again, and we'll be right back where we started.
When that happens, Spartans 4 Sanity will be waiting!
Dr. James Brent.
Professor- SJSU Political Science Dept.
For more information regarding Dr. James Brent, and his bio at SJSU, simply just click on the link below.