In the 1960s and 1970s, SJSU had a powerhouse water polo team. They won a national title in 1968, and finished in the top five nationally four times in the 1970s. But in 1981, the school discontinued the program to comply with Title IX regulations.
Bill Simpkins, a former college water polo player himself and son of long-time SJSU benefactors and alumni Alan and Phyllis Simpkins, repeatedly pressed the university to reinstate the sport. But the funds weren’t there. So Simpkins spearheaded an effort to raise enough money to bring the sport back.
“The team had a winning history. It needed to come back,” Simpkins said. “The sport of water polo has not added a new D1 team for over 30 years. Hopefully, this will start a trend. My parents, Alan and Phyllis, were my wingmen.”
Bill Simpkins and his wife Brigid made a generous donation. So did Peter Ueberroth,’59 Business Administration. Ueberroth is a former travel industry executive, Major League Baseball commissioner and U.S. Olympic Committee chairman.
Jane Hind set up a $1 million dollar endowment in her late husband’s name. Greg Hind, ’69 Health Science, was an All-American water polo player in the 1970s at SJSU.
Altogether, more than 100 people donated more than $3.5 million, which will sustain the program for five years until the university takes over the financing. Interest from the Greg Hine endowment will fund student-athlete scholarships beginning next year.
Before the team’s first game in September, several donors and former water polo players participated in a cap ceremony, giving swim caps to the 19 players on the current roster.
For a moment in time, right there on the pool’s edge, the years melted away as the generations bonded over their love of the game and their quest to keep this Spartan tradition going strong.