Its another day, meaning that once again efforts are being made on the San Jose campus to kill San Jose State football.
"The debate over how much money budget-strapped state universities should spend on sports teams has found a flashpoint in San Jose.
The Academic Senate at San Jose State on Tuesday voted to cut public funds for its athletic program in half, a move that is largely symbolic and not binding but nevertheless has infuriated sports boosters who fear it might pressure a new university president to eliminate the school’s struggling football program.
The Spartan football team, which has had one winning season since 1993, is among three remaining NCAA Division I-A programs in the state university system. San Diego State and Fresno State have the others. San Jose State has been playing football since 1893.
San Jose’s athletic budget this year was about $12 million – about $6.8 million of which came from state funding assigned to the school for “general use.” That’s the number San Jose’s Academic Senate wants to nearly halve, to about $3.85 million – the difference being about what it cost to field a football team last season.
The $3 million for football “is equal to 600 course sections,” said Jonathan Roth, an associate history professor who favors the cut. “The whole library budget is $7 million, same as the department of athletics.
“We’re not buying books, not buying journals. I’m sorry if getting rid of football will negatively impact athletics. But to me, it’s not as important as having books and journals for the students.”
San Jose’s entire faculty will be asked to ratify the senate action in a separate vote expected to be held within 30 days.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for 2004-05 calls for $6.8 billion in statewide spending cuts, roughly $524 million coming from higher education – $220 million of that from the Cal State system, which took a similar hit before this school year.
The situation at San Jose State is in contrast to that at Sacramento State, where students will vote next week whether to tax themselves $110 a semester to pay for an ambitious, administration-supported plan to build a $73-million football stadium and student center.
San Jose sports have been a target before. The faculty senate first sought reduced spending for athletics in 1983, then again 10 years later. But boosters have managed to fight off major cuts.
James Brent, an associate professor of political science who is pushing to eliminate football, cites a 1999 survey in which CSU students ranked intercollegiate athletics 51st out of 54 reasons for selecting a college. The Academic Senate also produced a study showing that San Jose State spends more general fund money – 3.4% – on athletics than any other school in the CSU system except Cal State Bakersfield.
The language in the San Jose State senate’s resolution did not specifically mention eliminating football, but supporters of the school’s program said there was little doubt it was being targeted. The proposal calls for Paul Yu, who was hired as San Jose State’s president Tuesday, to “initiate the process of withdrawal” from Division I-A and the Western Athletic Conference and join the Big West Conference “or elsewhere.”
The Big West, an affiliation of mostly California public universities, does not offer football.
“A few of them think that maybe they will save money, but they will not,” said Ed Mosher, a long-time donor to San Jose’s athletic and music programs. “The leaders of this group are not interested in the facts or what we do as alumni to raise money that goes to other parts of the school. They are only interested in getting rid of football.
“Well, if they got rid of football, they would lose all of their donors. Not only for the athletic department, but for most of us major donors to the university.”
Joe Crowley, San Jose’s interim president, said he supported some reductions to athletics in the next few years. But Crowley, who sat on a committee several years ago that recommended to Cal State Northridge that it drop football, said San Jose needed to retain its team.
“It’s hard for the faculty to understand,” he said. “It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t experienced it to understand, but a sustained, successful athletic program done right – there is a financial benefit to the university.”
Yu, who takes charge July 15, hinted in a telephone interview from New York on Thursday that he might favor some cuts to athletics.
“We are an academic institution. Our core function must come first, there is no dispute there,” he said. “Everybody agrees on that. The question is, do we want to serve the community? We need community support, so to what extent do Division I sports, or sports at any division level, support the image that represents the spirit of the community as a whole?
“That’s the only question on the table.”
San Jose State isn’t the only school to be grappling with such issues. Humboldt State recently cut $226,000 from its 2004-05 budget, in part by reducing the coaching positions for women’s rowing, men’s and women’s track, and men’s and women’s cross country from full time to part time. It also cut the operating budgets of its sports, including its Division II football team, by about 10% for next year.
A referendum at San Diego State that would have charged students $80 a semester to pay for athletics failed by 156 votes in one of the largest turnouts (13.9%) in school history.
Long Beach State’s budget deficit for next year reportedly will top $500,000, up from previous projections of $150,000.
At San Francisco State, President Robert A. Corrigan refused a student government request to reinstate $1.4 million in funding for athletics, leaving the future of that school’s Division II program in doubt. San Francisco students in March narrowly defeated a referendum to tax themselves that would have replaced the vacated sports funding