Yes, SJSU Deserves to Be in the MWC

Yes, SJSU Deserves to Be in the MWC

San Jose State recently announced it was joining the Mountain West Conference in 2013. There are some who feel the Spartans didn't deserve the invitation. Don Hoekwater, publisher of Inside Sparta and associate editor Mike Morgan attempt to educate the less-informed in this commentary.



Friday was a great day for San Jose State. While it was glory for the athletic department, it was actually recognition of an entire school effort. Joining the Mountain West Conference will not only bring stability, recognition, and prestige to SJSU athletics, it will also spread the San Jose State name nationwide. The culmination of seven-plus years of hard work and dedication resulted in what may be a, "decades-long" celebration, as said by none other than legendary SJSU director of sports information Lawrence Fan, who's seen a few decades himself at 7th and Alma.

But there are those who don't think the Spartans have earned this reward. We're going to do what we can to help them see the light.

Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal asks, "when have the Spartans ever been good?" Now, based on the tone of his rant it's quite possible Mr. Murray is between the ages of 6 and 8, and wouldn't immediately recall that San Jose State earned a berth in, and won, the New Mexico Bowl in 2006. But assuming he's actually an adult, he's obviously not well-versed in sports history prior to 2007, or hasn't quite yet figured out how to use Google. Yes, San Jose State has had a rough time of it since the glory years of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Nobody refutes that. Presenting the obvious, one must also recognize the dedication of SJSU to bring back those days not only in football, but in the other 16 NCAA sports. A prime example is that SJSU recently announced the addition of a women's track team, with the possibility of adding more events to that program, as well as a men's team. The world-class and renowned "Speed City" could return.

Mr. Murray also states that there was talk of dropping football as little as two years ago, yet doesn't mention who it was talking about it. We've been close to the program for several years and there has never been credible talk of dropping football from anyone that matters at San Jose State since Tom Bowen took over as athletic director in 2004.

To be fair, Mr. Murray does mention the dated nature of the facilities at SJSU, which is true. But if you bring up that topic you must also include the fact that San Jose State has taken great strides in improving that situation, beginning with the planned addition of the Bill Walsh Center and the Dick Vermeil Football Complex. In Friday's press conference interim athletic director Marie Tuite made sure to mention that many potential donors were waiting to see what was going to happen with the MWC before opening their checkbooks. Along with that potential windfall, belonging to a conference of the stature of the Mountain West will certainly add to the prestige of the university, and it isn't a stretch to assume such visibility will result in more giving.

Of course the primary thing that will raise the esteem of the San Jose State name will be winning. Regardless of the stature of the conference, SJSU needs to win and it has shown without a doubt that it is continuing to improve in football, the flagship sport. After his first season, which resulted in one victory, head coach Mike MacIntyre and crew put together a five-win season, which could have easily seen two more added to the win column. There's no reason to believe that upward climb won't continue. And it would be a severe omission to not recognize that SJSU has recently won WAC Championships in men's golf, women's golf, women's swimming and diving, and women's gymnastics.

Murray also brings up attendance, saying SJSU's number don't relate to actual numbers in the stadium. He claims actual attendance is, "way below those numbers" but offers no proof.

So let's take a look at some numbers. First off, according to the NCAA, for the 2011 season San Jose State averaged 18,214 fans for each football game. Mr. Murray's hometown Nevada Wolf Pack, which will join the MWC this year, came in at 15,776.

In 2011, San Jose State also had the 16th largest increase in fan attendance for football with 3,741 more fans per game. Nevada isn't even on the list. Of the current MWC members only San Diego State, which is leaving, saw a larger increase.

But let's look at the three most important reasons for SJSU's selection. Here they are from the least important to the most:

  1. Geography. SJSU's location fits well within in the footprint of the MWC. The school is located within driving distance of two of the MWC newest members, Nevada and Fresno State, and will become the closest conference member to the University of Hawaii. With the departure of TCU from the MWC, the addition of another school in Texas to replace them would have meant adding a school far outside the conference footprint. TCU, a school that has had major BCS level success in recent years, was worth that inconvenience. No other available Texas candidate schools were worth it.

  2. Recruiting. The MWC takes a major loss in their California recruiting market with the departure of San Diego State to the Big East this fall. Adding San Jose State gives the MWC a solid presence in the fertile Bay Area recruiting market, which will help offset the loss of the SoCal market. San Jose State replaces San Diego State in the MWC, both in terms of a large television market, and as a fertile recruiting area. No other school in the western United States that wasn't already in a BCS conference could come close to filling San Diego State's shoes like SJSU. San Jose State's addition to the MWC will not only provide those conference members outside of California better access to the SF Bay Area recruiting area, it also insures that their schools will play in the State of California every year, something that carries a lot of weight when trying to convince a California high school prospect and his parents to attend a school outside of their home state.

  3. 7.15 Million. That's the number of people there are in the San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan area, and it is the main reason the MWC wanted San Jose State in their conference. That factor cannot be understated. The business of college football is all about the number of TV sets tuned in to watch the games. It is THE cash cow that drives everything. The ultimate goal for all of the recent conference re-alignment that has taken place within the FBS division of the NCAA is for schools and conferences to position themselves to garner the best television contracts possible. The MWC will soon be negotiating a new television contract. That contract will be far less lucrative without a major television market included in membership ranks.

Some would argue that although San Jose State resides in a large market, the Spartans don't generate enough interest within the Bay Area to make a difference. But, because of the size of the SF Bay Area market, it really won't take much for SJSU to make a difference in the MWC television viewership.

For example: The MWC recently added the University of Nevada as a member, effective this fall. The Reno metropolitan area, consisting of two counties, has a population of approximately 420,000 people, If 25% of the population in the Reno market were tuned into a Nevada Wolf Pack football game (which is an extremely high number), that would equate to just over 100,000 viewers. By comparison, if only 2% of the nine county Bay Area population of 7.15 million were tuned into a San Jose State game, that would equate to 143,000 viewers.

Another way of looking at it is the 5% rule:

5% of the Reno metro population is 21,000
5% of the SF Bay Area metro population is 357,000 (17 times higher than Reno).

Here are numbers which show the impact to the SF Bay Area market. The population of the SF Bay Area metropolitan area is greater than all of the other metro areas of the MWC schools combined:

Rank

School

Metro Area

Population

1

San Jose State University

SF Bay Area

7,150,000

2

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV

1,900,000

3

University of Hawaii

Honolulu, HI

1,300,000 (State)

4

California State University, Fresno

Fresno , CA

922,000

5

University of New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM

887,000

6

Air Force Academy

Colorado Springs, CO

645,000

7

University of Nevada

Reno, NV

420,000

8

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, CO

271,000

9

Utah State University

Logan, UT

125,000

10

University of Wyoming

Laramie, WY

81,000


Regardless of any and all misinformation and red herring arguments the naysayers put out there, the bottom line is the Mountain West Conference leadership spent nearly a year looking at San Jose State and decided they were indeed worthy of inclusion. Now it's up to SJSU to prove them right.



Don Hoekwater is the Publisher of Inside Sparta. You are welcome to contact Don with any questions or suggestions at publisher@insidesparta.net.

Mike Morgan is an Associate Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at mike@insidesparta.net

Better yet, join the rest of the Inside Sparta community in discussions of this article, and more, on the Inside Sparta Discussion Forums!


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