San Jose State University to bring back men's track and field program

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Dozens witnessed the rebirth of one of the nation's top track and field programs on Monday. San Jose State University announced it is bringing back the men's program after it was terminated 28 years ago. The program has seen many great figures, including Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

The program ended in 1988 as the victim of budget cuts and a struggling economy even though it was considered one of the best in the nation, if not the world. On Monday, two legends returned home to make sure the university is back on track.

The date for reinstating men's track and field at San Jose State has been set -- October 16, 2018.

That's 50 years after Smith and Carlos made one of the most political statements in the history of the Olympics by raising their fists during the medal ceremony in Mexico City.

Smith, who won gold in the 200 meter race, has said it was not a black power salute but a fight for human rights.

That historic moment is captured in a 22 foot high statue at SJSU.

"Look at the face of that young man up there," Smith said, "That's the cry for freedom."

At the time, the nation was still struggling to end racial segregation and discrimination.

Carlos, who won the bronze medal, said that effort for equality has shifted to a new phase.

"Of course all lives matter," he said. "But I have the right to say that I'm concerned about the number of young black kids that's dying throughout the nation and that needs to stop."

Well-known sociologist and San Jose State graduate Harry Edwards, Ph.D., says it's time to turn the page while never forgetting the contributions of these athletes. From 1941 to 1970, San Jose State produced 27 track and field Olympians.

"And a reporter said, 'Is there something in the water there?'" said Edwards. "Yeah, there is, they call it the Spartan spirit. They call it the Spartan courage."

The campaign to fund the new $5 million track and field facility was launched Monday next to the statue that continues to ask the nation to take a stand.

San Jose State reinstated their women's track and field team two years ago, but they have to practice at De Anza College. Once the new facility is completed, they'll be able to practice at SJSU as well.

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