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September 07, 2004

Another Division I-A Football Program On The Ropes

FROM THE SOUTH BAY comes yet another alarming status report on what could unfortunately be the demise of a century-old football program.

There’s a lot gone wrong for San Jose State these past few years, and there’s far from a groundswell of energy to energize the program. To use a boxing analogy, it’s like the football program has been knocked down repeatedly, but gotten up each time. However, on the last knockdown, SJ State took an 8 count and has unsteadily returned to the vertical.

Much of the problem has to do with the makeup of the commuter school’s student population and an exaggerated apathy that has worsened through the years.

In a nutshell:

• SJ State is overwhelmingly a commuter school, approximately 27,000 out of 29,000 students are commuters. That translates to not a lot of ownership or interest in the football team.

• The average age for undergraduate students is 24; for graduate students: almost 33. Many have jobs and families. This is hardly the profile of rabid, avid fans with face paint that the school needs to fill the stands.

• Average student attendance last year was 862 per game. That’s less than 3% of the student population.

• A paltry total of 310 students showed up for the Tulsa game last year.

There are legions of groups opposing the continued propping up of a sick program that they see as a drain on financial resources that could be better spent on academics. Faculty leader James Brent, an outspoken opponent, is very blunt in his assessment of the teetering situation, “The students don't care about it. We've already figured out where it fits -- it doesn't fit.”

It doesn’t help that the state of California has cut hundreds of millions from the state university system, or that SJ State has had a perennially mediocre team, or that SJ State has had a revolving door of presidents, interim presidents and acting presidents.

Now would be a great time for a megabucks benefactor to step forward and pony up about $50 million or so to save the day.

Any takers out there?

(this 353 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary--has been reduced from a 917 word article in the San Jose Mercury News of 9-1-04)