SJSU in the News: Athletics Department Raises Funds for Bill Walsh Center

SJSU in the News: Athletics Department Raises Funds for Bill Walsh Center

A rendering of the Bill Walsh Center exterior view (SJSU Athletics image).

San Jose State forges ahead with Bill Walsh Center

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News Feb. 10, 2012.

By Jon Wilner

The San Jose State athletic department is planning to build a massive football complex that will include a facility named in honor of its most famous alumnus.

The Bill Walsh Center will be the spiritual and intellectual heart of the 60,000-square-foot, two-building complex rising above the north end zone of Spartan Stadium. A football operations center also is in the works.

With an estimated cost of $9 million to $14 million, the project is expected to begin next winter and be completed by the start of the 2013 football season.

“We’re very excited,” said Walsh’s son, Craig. “There’s enough synergy in the community to get it done. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it and another to get the financing. But they’ve closed that loop. They’ve worked hard.”

San Jose State president Mohammad Qayoumi supports the project provided that funding goals are met, according to university media relations director Pat Lopes Harris.

No state money will be used. The complex will be paid for by donations to Spartan athletics, which is using a committee of Walsh’s friends and former players to help raise money.

Athletic director Tom Bowen said enough money has been pledged to start the project but that fundraising is ongoing.

“The commitment by the university is there — this project will happen,” Bowen said. “We’ve been working on it for four years. This is the fulfillment of a promise that (former SJSU president) Don Kassing and I made to Bill. It’s something he wanted to do.”

According to at least one influential faculty member, it’s something the Spartans need to do.

“There are facilities needs in athletics to modernize, improve and expand in order to best serve current and future students at the highest levels, which includes the fact that we are a Division I institution,” said professor Annette Nellen, chair of the university’s Athletics Board, which serves as a liaison between the faculty and the athletic department.

“I think there has been appropriate research and input from many on-campus and off-campus sources to identify where fundraising efforts are needed.”

The football operations center will include offices for coaches, a locker room and player lounge, medical and training facilities and a dining hall.

It’s designed to allow SJSU to remain competitive in the Western Athletic Conference, where numerous schools have built new athletic facilities since the completion of SJSU’s last project, the Koret training center, more than a decade ago.

“We’re behind, and this will get up right there with them,” Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre said. “It will help in recruiting, in our daily function and help with the overall culture of the team and the community. People will realize football is important, and perception’s huge.”

But the centerpiece of Bowen’s plan is what SJSU is calling “The Bill Walsh Center: Institute for the Development of Human Potential.” It will hold lectures and seminars promoting Walsh’s vision of leadership.

San Jose State is the first Bay Area sporting institution to name a facility after the legendary coach, who played for the Spartans and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from SJSU.

Walsh’s wife, Geri, also attended the university, and they met there. Walsh died in 2007.

“It’s where Bill got his start, and it’s appropriate,” said Bill Ring, who played for Walsh with the 49ers and remains a close family friend.

“The embodiment of what San Jose State is trying to do is exactly what Bill wanted — (after his coaching career) he really turned his attention to mentoring people. He was in it to give of himself, to teach.”

SJSU’s plans call for an eight-foot bronze statue of Walsh outside the complex. The buildings will be connected by a second-floor walkway, with the Walsh Center overlooking the north end zone of Spartan Stadium.

The first floor will house San Jose State’s athletic Hall of Fame and Walsh memorabilia, including his 500-page thesis on the flank offense, which Craig Walsh described as the precursor to his father’s famed West Coast offense.

But the facility is not a museum.

The second floor will have an amphitheater and meeting rooms, allowing San Jose State to host conferences, clinics and seminars based on Walsh’s philosophy of sports psychology and management.

After retiring from coaching, Walsh taught classes at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He is also the author of numerous books on coaching, organization and leadership.

“It’s going to be a think tank for leadership,” Craig Walsh said. “We want it to be a West Coast destination. Everything will be under the guise of innovation.”

For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner’s College Hotline at Contact him at or 408-920-5716.

What it is: A 60,000-square-foot, two-building complex that will rise above the north end zone of Spartan Stadium and allow SJSU to stay competitive in the WAC.
Cost: $9 million to $14 million, paid for by donations to Spartan athletics