Spartan athletics in a desperate need of a culture shock

By Keanu Haghighi (@KeanuHaghighi):

It’s without question that winning does not come easy in Division I athletics. Nobody has become victim to that statement more than the men’s athletic programs at San Jose State University. With short stints of success followed by numerous down years, it’s apparent that the root of SJSU’s troubles with winning stems from a plagued issue within its culture.

The attendance numbers at SJSU sporting events directly reflect on the current climate of the programs. In football, the Spartans rank dead last in attendance in the Mountain West. Yes,  the most storied program at this university can’t even fill up seats in its own stadium anymore.

In basketball, San Jose State plays in the smallest arena in their conference. The Event Center can only fit 5,000 spectators for home basketball games, yet the average attendance last year was 1,647.

Even the smaller programs such as water polo, golf and cross country don’t bring crowds nor attention from the student body. Simply put, the lack of a winning culture directly correlates with the attention and crowds San Jose State draws.  

However there is still a minority of people out there who believe SJSU athletics have a winning culture. When emailing a media representative about getting in contact with the various coaches of the men’s programs at SJSU, I was given a passive aggressive lecture via email about how the current state of athletics is not bad at all. The representative said things such as:

“In football, the team has done a lot of positive things in their community service activities and with their academics. That is part of the winning culture Coach Brennan envisions for the program.”

It then occurred to me that a huge reason as to why there is a lack of a winning culture at San Jose State is that the people who are at the top cannot identify a problem in the first place. The “accomplishments” that the media representative emailed back were just meager participation trophies and pats on the back for trying. That mentality over the span of many years has put the men’s programs at San Jose State in its current state.

So how does the school transform this losing mentality into a winning culture? Coach Brennan talked about how San Diego State was able to turn their football program around and saw a similar future for San Jose State.

“They [San Diego State] were a program that had a similar history to us,” Brennan said. “They got some stability and some consistency in leadership and in the coaching staff. Now you see them as a team who is excellent in our conference and doing things the right way. I think the process takes time.”

When asking men’s basketball head coach Jean Prioleau about what needs to be done in order to maintain a winning culture he sternly uttered “Consistency.”

What’s for certain is that no one person deserves all the blame for the culture currently instilled in the San Jose State’s men’s athletic programs. Everybody can take part in making San Jose State a consistent conference powerhouse.

The top administrators could start being more proactive in identifying problems within the programs and taking the necessary steps to address them. The students can be more engaged with SJSU’s athletics and try to create an atmosphere where the players are motivated to play better in front of their supporters. The media covering these programs can be more critical of the performances on the field, which could create a sense of urgency to win more consistently and send the message that losing is something this school does not tolerate a lot of.

This shift in culture won’t be something that can be fixed overnight. It will take time, but if everyone starts participating in attempting to create a winning culture, then the future of men’s athletics at this school will be very bright.

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