Multiple San Jose State student athletes said they are growing frustrated with the athletics department because they believe resources are not fairly allocated, scholarships were being unfairly pulled and concerns are not being addressed.
Sarahvaughn King, a sophomore sprinter on the track and field team, said she was promised an upgraded facility, state-of-the-art equipment and a chance to be part of the Speed City legacy before committing to SJSU in 2018.
Lavette King, Sarahvaughn King’s mother, said that the chance to follow in Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ footsteps was what set SJSU apart for her daughter.
“[Sarahvaughn] on her own said this is history, and if [the athletics department] really is trying to revive this. This gives me an opportunity to be part of history and this time it’s women that will be a part of bringing back this history,” Lavette King said. “Just nothing that they said was true.”
The sprinter said the athletics department had cut corners in every aspect regarding track and field. She mentioned how her team shoes were inadequate. She also said the team does not get enough funding to send the whole team to compete, and only about three to five athletes can go.
“[We also don’t get] equal treatment in terms of getting like rehab or treatment. I know some people don’t think it’s a priority but sometimes we have trouble getting treatment if football is in the training room,” Sarahvaughn King said.
For Sarahvaughn and her mother, the abandoning of promised renovations for Bud Winter Field and the new parking lot development planned to replace the track was the biggest disappointment.
“The public was told that the track team was going to be supported and that this legacy mattered to them. This is unpatriotic. How do you decide that you are going to take the legacy of two Olympians and crumble it to dust?” Lavette King said. “Unpatriotic, un-American, anti-civil rights. [Athletics Director] Marie Tuite and [CFO] Charlie Faas will forever be on the wrong side of history.”
The sprinter sustained an foot injury and said it was a result of practicing hurdle hops on the cement floor of the weight room. She was forced to compete with her injury and could not see a trainer for two months to get the injury diagnosed.
When she tried to bring up complaints to the SJSU athletics director, Tuite threatened canceling the track and field team on multiple occasions.
“[Tuite] was saying that she originally wanted a whole different sport,” Sarahvaughn King said. “That didn’t necessarily feel the best to hear that.”
Lavette King believed these threats were a misuse of power.
“It’s insane to me that someone thinks they can abuse power in such a way that no one would ever notice,” Lavette King said. “[The athletics department thinks] it’s OK whenever the girls complain for Marie Tuite to say to them, ‘Do you want me to cancel the track team? I didn’t want a track team, I wanted field hockey.’ That’s insane to me that that would be OK.”
King’s former teammate Brittany Brown said she had her scholarship pulled three days before tuition was due.
“Getting my scholarship taken away was probably the most hardest things I had to deal with. I wasn’t aware that I was even in danger of getting it taken away. I found out via email actually,” Brown said. “It’s heartbreaking to see . . . all the help you once had seems to not really care what happens to you.”
Brown told her coach that she planned to pursue a masters degree at a different university. Her scholarship was pulled the day after.
“I went to her office and I asked why she took my scholarship away. She never really answered the question,” Brown said. “I had a horrible experience attending [SJSU]. It was more so a dictatorship more than a partnership when it came to the athletics program.”
Another student athlete, who asked to remain anonymous, shared similar sentiments. She said she felt “swept under the rug” when her full-ride scholarship was pulled last minute when she was going into her final year.
“I don’t know what I’ve done. I really wish that I could say yeah I was disrespectful . . . or like I didn’t work hard in the gym, or my grades were slipping, or I didn’t compete, I don’t know I wish I could find something,” the athlete said. “No one is helping me with this appeal, so I don’t know what I am doing. Am I going to go to school here [next year]?”
But for this athlete, losing her scholarship was the last straw. She said lack of attention to teams other than football prevented her, and many others, from seeking the medical attention they required.
“You think the percentage of athletes affected by medical stuff shouldn’t be that high, it’s every single person that was in [a meeting of student-athlete representatives]. The medical staff here is so bad it’s scary,” the athlete said. “I am surprised there is not lawsuits against like basically every single one of the medical team doctors that see us female athletes here.”
She said that there are more student athletes who feel neglected by athletics but are unwilling to speak in fear of retribution.
“I think what people are worried about is that they are all upset about this stuff . . . I already have my scholarship pulled [now] so I have nothing to lose.”
Lindsey Boyd contributed reporting.