Recent articles have painted a grim picture of the San Jose State University football program's future.
New NCAA legislation will require that schools maintaining NCAA Division I-A status play at least five home games and average 15,000 attendees throughout the season.
It is a fact: The San Jose State University football program is at risk of losing its Division I-A status. But I have every confidence that we can rally as a community to ensure that it does not happen.
When I took on the challenge of rebuilding the football program at San Jose State, I envisioned some very lofty but attainable goals. All of the ingredients are in place for us to build a program that will make the city, Silicon Valley and the Bay Area proud.
However, we need to add one important element: We need you.
What will it take?
A recent editorial asked what will get San Jose excited about its own teams. I wish I knew the answer. In my mind, youth, collegiate and professional sports are vital for building a strong and safe community.
Major college sports programs often are the face of the university to the outside world. Just consider Gonzaga (Spokane, Wash.), Fresno State (Fresno), and Kansas State (Manhattan, Kan.). Division I-A sports have brought these communities recognition, opportunity, fiscal benefits and invaluable community pride.
My life's work is to make a difference in the lives of young men, and football -- all sports programs, for that matter -- absolutely makes a difference. I, a first-generation college graduate, probably would not have pursued higher education had it not been for my athletic involvement.
Many see college football as an extracurricular activity that they could take or leave. But I see football as a laboratory for life. It teaches persistence and responsibility, discipline and teamwork. It is not a selfish sport. The best team does not always win. The team that plays the best together wins.
There are also those who believe that football takes money away from other sports. In fact, the opposite is true. Football at San Jose State generates 85 percent of all outside revenue for the athletic program. Division I-A status has allowed San Jose State to operate a comprehensive and fiscally sound $11 million athletics program.
This community thrives on innovation, leadership and the power of teamwork. It would be a shame to lose a program that provides financial support and opportunity for the very students who just might be future members of our companies or leaders in our community.
What do we envision?
The SJSU football program will strive to develop the entire student-athlete. We are committed to many things, but the primary focus is on:
• Educating and graduating our student-athletes.
• Winning the school's first Western Athletic Conference football title.
• Having fun.
My staff is committed to recruiting locally, building relationships with the corporate community and fostering community service through the development of young people. We want our football program to provide value to not only its players but also to the university and the community.
We envision a stadium filled with more than 20,000 cheering fans. We envision home games as events for all families in our community. We envision a football program that not only breeds champions but also serves as an example to the youth in our area of what is possible.
Why do I believe we can do this? Why is it worth your time? Just look at the facts:
• We are on our way to building a championship team: My goal is to bring home the school's first Western Athletic Conference football championship trophy. While it takes patience and time to bake the perfect pie, we're well on our way.
We are attracting top talent to our campus, and I am confident we will improve our recruiting classes each year. We are using the new $4 million, 10,000-square-foot Koret Athletics Training Center. We recently received a six-figure donation to begin building the Gadway Academic Support Center.
• We have the resources in our own back yard: Not many football programs have the luxury of nearly a million residents in their home city, more than 100,000 alumni within a 75-mile radius, an abundance of student-athletes to recruit and the entrepreneurial power and support of Silicon Valley.
• We're spreading the word: We're calling out to the community to join us in rebuilding this organization. We're already working on creating events to attract more families to our games. We're reaching out to the local youth leagues to encourage their support and attendance. And we're talking about our progress.
• I believe this can be done: The pieces are in place, and fortunately we do not have to re-invent the wheel. We have identified some major adjustments to return the program to the glory days of the '80s. I believe in my team, and I believe in this community.
How can you help?
Building the type of program I envision will not be easy. It can't be done without the support of the city and its citizens. We need you.
• Support the program: The 1st & 10 Club is the official fund-raising program to advance San Jose State football. You can sign up at my new Web site (www.coachfitzhill.com).
• Join us at the games: Tickets are available at (408) 924-SJTX. Did you know a family of four can attend most games for as little as $20?
• Encourage business and government leaders to help: Support from our corporate and city leaders is vital to make our vision a reality. We want to hear from companies and community leaders who have ideas or interest in helping us rebuild this program.
I am convinced that we can continue to compete at the Division I-A level. I welcome your comments and suggestions, as well as your assistance in returning this program to its rightful place.
Head Football Coach- San Jose State University
For more information, contact SJSU football coach Fitz Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org