SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - It was a historic day for San Jose State University Monday as school officials announced the return of men's track and field after a 30-year absence. Back in its hay day, the program produced some of the fastest men in the world.
By San Jose State University's student union, it's hard to miss the statues of alumni Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The Olympians are known for their controversial "black-gloved salute" at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.
"They mean so much to the university," said San Jose State Athletics Director Gene Bleymaier. "It's one of the most iconic figures in sports history."
The pair returned to campus as the school announced its reinstating the once "world-renowned" men's track and field program, cut in 1988 due to the recession,
"You come back and you are very humbled to be back to realize San Jose State felt they did a tragic thing for the legacy of the school," said San Jose State Alumni Olympian John Carlos.
It was 48 years ago, Smith won the 200 meters setting a world record with Carlos winning the bronze. However, the two were kicked out of the Olympic games for raising their fists and bowing their heads protesting civil and human rights at a time segregation was prevalent. Tommie Smith said he stood for his beliefs.
"Equality is not a way to go it's the only way to go and we fought for that," said San Jose State Alumni Olympian Tommie Smith.
It's a move that was met with backlash but a message that still resonates today.
"Every ethnic group no matter what you are white, black, Hispanic," said Carlos. "It doesn't matter what you are someone is going through trials and tribulations somewhere."
The school is investing $5 million for a new track and field facility across from San Jose's Sharks Ice. It's the same track used in the 1960's. The hope now is that the program will be as successful as that era when the track program was known as "Speed City."
"You are going to see the rise and might again," said Smith.
The school plans to start fundraising now to pay for the program. The program will start in 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of when Smith and Carlos won their medals.