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."
San Jose State reinstating men's track and field. 'Making it official today. pic.twitter.com/LgXnG7uFF3— Lyanne Melendez (@LyanneMelendez) August 1, 2016
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."
Olympic greats John Carlos and Tommie Smith are here! San Jose State to reinstate men's Track & Field in Oct. 2018. pic.twitter.com/gmlW5csjcr— Lyanne Melendez (@LyanneMelendez) August 1, 2016
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.
"Today he's resting in peace knowing that the men he loves are being honored at San José State." - Kathi Winter pic.twitter.com/hkEq1LHKLy— Spartan Athletics (@SJSUAthletics) August 1, 2016
“We needed someone to tell us you must do more than you think you are capable of,” said Tommie Smith of Dr. Harry Edwards #sjsulegacy— San Jose State (@SJSU) August 1, 2016
John Carlos: “We are no different than any one of you. The question is have you found out who the man or woman is in the mirror as we did?”— San Jose State (@SJSU) August 1, 2016