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SJ Mercury News: Qayoumi Views Mountain West Move as “Affirmation” of SJSU’s Potential

San Jose State’s Mountain West Conference dream now a reality

Published by the San Jose Mercury News May 4, 2012.

By Jon Wilner

San Jose State’s long, desperate climb into the Mountain West Conference became official Friday. The Spartans will move into their new, more luxurious home in the summer of 2013.

“Events like today are tremendously important markers of affirmation of the kind of potential San Jose State has,” university president Mohammad Qayoumi said. “There’s also a deeper sense of motivation.”

San Jose State will pay the Mountain West a $2 million entrance fee, according to sources. Such fees are standard for most conferences. No state money will be used; the amount can be paid over time and, if necessary, withheld from future revenue distributions by the league office.

The Mountain West will have 10 football-playing members in 2013: San Jose State, Utah State, Fresno State, Nevada, UNLV, Hawaii, Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force and New Mexico.

There is no departure fee for leaving the Western Athletic Conference, which has been the Spartans’ home since 1996 but probably will cease to exist as a football league next year.

“We’re going to stop getting the question (from recruits) about what conference we’re going to be in,” SJSU coach Mike MacIntyre said. “This gives us stability.”

San Jose State’s location in the heavily populated Bay Area made it an attractive addition to the Mountain West, as did the Spartans’ rivalries with conference members Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson also cited SJSU’s increased commitment to academic support for student-athletes.”It’s a growing, dynamic university,” he said.

But the Mountain West has higher standards than the WAC. It expects the Spartans to upgrade their struggling men’s basketball program and improve facilities.

SJSU is in the early stages of building a massive football operations center that will feature the Dick Vermeil Spartan Football Complex and the Bill Walsh Legacy Center.

The project is expected to cost at least $15 million and will be funded with private donations. Qayoumi declined to provide a start date for construction.

Asked about the men’s basketball program, which was 9-22 last season, Qayoumi said: “We are looking at what aspects are systemic and what are quick fixes.”

The move to the Mountain West was months in the making and was led by departing athletic director Tom Bowen, who accepted a similar position at Memphis last month. His deputies, Marie Tuite and John Poch, handled most of the Mountain West-related legwork during the tense final stage.

Tuite, who is serving as the interim athletic director, said she barely slept and lost seven pounds while scrambling to extricate the Spartans from the collapsing WAC.

“It’s such a huge deal for San Jose State,” Tuite said.

In a twist, the competitiveness of SJSU’s football program was not a major impediment to joining the Mountain West: Last season, the ascendant Spartans beat three teams — Colorado State, Hawaii and Fresno State — that will be in the league in 2013.

“We feel like we can play with any team in the Mountain West,” said receiver Jabari Carr, who attended Oak Grove High. “This is huge for the football program, not just (the players) but the community as a whole. We’re changing things, and that will change the way the city looks at San Jose State.”

The Mountain West does not sponsor women’s gymnastics, men’s soccer or women’s water polo. SJSU’s soccer and water polo teams will continue to participate in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. SJSU must find a new home for gymnastics.

Also on Friday, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio announced they will leave the WAC and join Conference USA in 2013.