Financial problems arise regarding track and field progress

By Lindsey Boyd ( @lindsboyd3):

The women’s Division I track and field team was added to San Jose State University in 2014, but the history of its re-establishment started in 2011 when SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi was hired.

Qayoumi’s presidency was marked by quick decisions that garnered public attention such as his hiring of known NCAA violator Gene Bleymaier as SJSU athletic director in 2012.

Less than a year earlier, Bleymaier was fired from his 29-year position as athletic director of Boise State University after Boise State was charged with 22 NCAA violations, including lack of institutional control. The other violations involved five teams and 75 student athletes.

Qayoumi also made a $28 million contract with Cisco, without seeking competitive bids, to update SJSU’s communication systems, according to the Mercury News in October 2014. It reported that the deal was made after CSU already stated a similar technology would be given at no cost to SJSU.

After signing a five-year, $220,000 contract with $102,000 coming from the Tower Foundation, according to the Mercury News, Bleymaier remained athletic director of SJSU for almost five years. During his time, SJSU was invited into the Mountain West Conference on the contingency that athletic facilities be updated.

By 2013, SJSU became part of the Mountain West Conference and the $38.5 million North End Zone Project to rebuild the football stadium by 2015 was developed and approved by Cal State. In a statement to the Mercury News in May 2013, Bleymaier said that half of the money for the stadium was already collected.

Four years later, SJSU has yet to begin construction on the North End or “Vermeil-Walsh Athletic Complex.” The athletics department has started a new program called “All In” with the goal of raising $25 million for phase I of the football facility.

In August of 2015, Qayoumi left SJSU to become the chief advisor on infrastructure and technology to the President of Afghanistan. He was replaced in June 2016 by Mary Papazian.

Papazian was part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the $10.2 million golf facility – the same facility that used Blach Construction and Gensler as its architect. Blach also constructed the SJSU Health and Wellness Center in 2015 and Gensler designed the plans for the North End Zone Project.

Sources in golf course construction and architecture say that two 18-hole golf courses could be built with $10.2 million. They did acknowledge that bids for state work are doubled and sometimes tripled to pay unionized workers. However, the sources say $3 million for a 4-acre golf facility is not what they would expect the cost to be. One source said if it wasn’t a state project, the facility would cost less than $1 million.

Next to the golf facility is where Bud Winter Field lies — the area where women’s track and field practice.

The return of men’s track and field to SJSU was announced Aug. 1, 2016. Along with this announcement, the university also stated that it planned to build a new track and field facility in time for the men’s return which was to be funded by the Student Union and private gifts.

As of today, the Student Union stated that it has committed $3 million to a field, $500,000 of which is going toward the new softball field. Charlie Faas, the CFO of SJSU, has stated that it is “premature” to discuss the track and field facility funds. Athletic director Marie Tuite said there are no final plans or location for the track that was originally estimated at $5 million.

We do not have the funding and there are no final decisions on where the track will be located (once we do secure funding),” according to an email from Tuite.

As to why the track and field team practices in the dirt parking lot at Bud Winter Field with broken equipment, potholes in the track and shards of glass and garbage in the field left over from tailgates and SJ Giants parking, Tuite stated that the team doesn’t want to practice anywhere else.

“The track team has CLEARLY communicated with me that they want to stay at their current practice facility,” according to an email from Tuite.

The team has been practicing one day a week at West Valley Community College so that long distance sprinters can have a proper facility for practice.  After a team meeting with Tuite, the track and field team is able to speak with the media but does not want to focus on the safety hazards of the facility.

Public records have been requested regarding South Campus facilities, financial statements and the deal between SJSU baseball and SJ Giants that allows the Giants to park on top of the track and field facility in exchange for SJSU baseball to play in Municipal Stadium.

According to the California Public Records Act and to SJSU’s Public Record Request website, SJSU must acknowledge a public record request within 10 days. Three email attempts and 14 days later, SJSU acknowledged the request.

After three weeks of requesting an interview with Tuite, the university has said that Tuite and Fass need to meet to discuss plans for a track and field facility before doing an interview.

“With any big project, the path from beginning to end is almost never a straight line,” according to Pat Harris, media relations director of SJSU stated in an email. “Things come up. People need to discuss, and then there’s movement forward.”

In request to interviewing Bleymaier, who resigned as athletic director in February 2017 to become special advisor to President Papazian and focus on South Campus plans, Harris said that she is “unsure of his involvement at this point.”

SJSU has made clear that funding must be collected before ground is broken on any facility. Who knows, maybe this will be the year the bowling center in the Student Union finally opens?

 

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