Those are the words of San Jose State Director of Athletics Tom Bowen when asked what is needed to continue the rising fan and community interest in San Jose State athletics.
"We've provided our coaches with the tools they need to produce winning teams," Bowen continued. "Winning will generate interest with the fans and the athletes we're recruiting. If they aren't winning then they will answer directly to me, and they know it."
When Bowen took the helm of the athletic department in 2004, San Jose State was one of the worst athletic programs in the Western Athletic Conference. Most of the 16 varsity sports were at or near the bottom of the standings. The most visible sport, football, hadn't had a winning season since 2000 and was widely rumored to soon be either dropped to a lower division, or wiped out completely. The pendulum is now swinging the other way. In 2006 the football team recorded its first winning record in 6 years and went to a bowl game for the first time since 1990. In 2008 the team finished 6-6 - which made them bowl-eligible - but they were passed over for selection.
Other SJSU athletic program highlights:
- Women's Golf won the WAC Championship this year
- Gymnastics was selected for the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season
- Water Polo reached a No. 6 National Ranking in 2009
- Baseball is in first place
Other programs continue to improve, and none are last in the conference. However, improvement must continue. For some coaches, 2009-2010 will be the season they need to prove their mettle.
"We're not going to settle with just getting from the bottom to the middle," Bowen said. "We can be at the top of the conference in all sports, and that's our goal."
While on-the-field performance is certainly important, winning in the classroom is also a top priority for Bowen. This year, for the first time since the NCAA began tracking academic progress program began, all 16 San Jose State varsity athletic programs scored above the 925 threshold in their Academic Progress Rate (APR). Four programs scored a perfect 1000.
"We've stressed to our athletes that they need to be in the classroom and work hard," Bowen said. "If I find out there's a problem I'll go to the classroom and pull them out, and we'll have a talk. I've done it several times. They know I mean business."
What does the future hold for San Jose State sports? One thing Bowen would like to do is expand the pool of student-athletes available to the programs. Right now a significant inhibiting factor is the cost of out-of-state tuition. Scholarships are paid for by the Athletic Department. For an in-state player the cost is approximately $2,392.00 for Fall 2009, according to the San Jose State website. Non-California residents are charged those fees plus $339 per unit for the fall semester. For 12 units that is an additional $4,068 per student, making the cost almost three times higher for student athletes who come from other states. Bowen is seeking to mitigate some of that cost.
"We've applied to the CSU Chancellor for out-of-state fee waivers," Bowen said. "All the big conference schools allow them and it gives them a huge advantage for recruiting top players from all over the country. Right now we're trying to get 8-10 waivers." The waiver would allow the Athletic Department to pay in-state fees for players who live outside California.
Turning to football, Bowen spoke on the possibility of renewing the series with Bay Area rival The University of California. The last time the two teams played was in 1996. They have met 35 times over the years - the third-most SJSU out of conference matchups, behind Stanford and Pacific, which no longer has a football program.
"In 2006 we presented a plan to them to play five dates," Bowen said. "It's not going to happen, they don't want to play us, so we're not going to pursue that any further."
Spartan Stadium is nearing the completion of the replacement of its natural grass field with Field Turf, an artificial surface that closely resembles natural grass but without the maintenance issues. Bowen recently told Inside Sparta that the renovation was accomplished without the use of SJSU Athletic Department funds. Other planned improvements will need funding, however.
"We're looking at about $40 million for Spartan Stadium," he said. "We have a list of projects we want to do, it's an old stadium and needs some upgrades. The field is a huge improvement and when people look down at it from the stands they will be amazed."
Bowen added that some of the other projects include painting, replacing the speaker system, revamping the seats, and a special end-zone project. He also said that current plans for the old Spartan Village include creating more parking.
"Right now our parking capacity is for only around 17-18,000 fans," he said. "We have a stadium that holds over 30,000 people so we need to provide a place for them to park."
With that in mind, a major goal of the athletic department is to get more people to the stadium. One tactic Bowen is employing is by getting marquis opponents to come to Spartan Stadium. In 2009 San Jose State hosts Utah, which finished 2008 ranked No. 2 in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings, and was the only major-college team that completed the season with a perfect record.
"That game could be the turning point for San Jose State football," he said. "We'll get 30,000-plus in the stadium and people will see how fun it is to watch Spartan football. We're going to get more of those types of games for Spartan Stadium. People need to be there on Sept. 12."
Don Hoekwater is the Publisher of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
Better yet, join the rest of the Inside Sparta community in discussions of this article, and more, on the Inside Sparta Discussion Forums!