“Aztecs-1 of a Kind”
San Diego State said goodbye last week to their greatest football fan, Tom Ables, who supported the program since 1946. He passed at age 91, after watching 788-SDSU games. He truly was an “Aztec for Life”
Now they’ve lost the man who started the drive to make the university athletic program big-time.
Fred Miller has passed away at age 86 in Oregon. He was the Director of Athletics for 11-years, who took SDSU on the road back from football desolation.
He was a ‘doer’, who got things accomplished.
He was loud, proud, boastful, bombastic. He was an entrepreneur, a snake oil salesman, a glad-hander. A fan and a fund raiser.
Fred Miller ushered in an era that rescued the program from the abyss. He chased away all those who thought the football program was strictly a money-draining loser to the university budget.
There would be new offices and training facilities behind Peterson Gym, built by friends of the program Miller wanted to develop. No more trailers, but a taste of something first class.
He decided he wanted the Aztecs to be the “Miami of the West”, though sometimes we thought it was Miami of Ohio, not the Miami Hurricanes.
He hired Al Luginbill, from his Pac 10-background.. With those Pac 10-ties, he scheduled home games with USC-UCLA and that Miami football program.
It ushered in the Marshall Faulk era. He was a cornerstone of getting that player, and the games on the early ESPN-Thursday night telecasts.
He took SDSU image wise out of small town America and actually put it on the national recognition map.
His decade plus run had rough patches too. The failed hirings in basketball of Jim Brandeburg, who somehow lost his fire and his recruiting contacts, once he left Wyoming. Failure after failure to elevate hoops and baseball.
It took forever to build something to replace Peterson Gym, the home games at the Sports Arena etc, but it was all part of the Miller blueprint to grow the program.
He had learned his trade well.
Prior to his arrival at SDSU, he had taken Arizona State to new levels. And it was his program there too.
He got rid of legendary coach Frank Kush, the nfiery winning coach, who wound up getting fired in an NCAA scandal that put ASU on probation. An angry, divided Tempe, found there was life after Kush and Sun Angel Foundation.
He led the drive to renovate Sun Devils Stadium, making it big time, probably just behind the USC stay at the LA Coliseum and the UCLA Bruins home at the Rose Bowl.
He was fund raiser and a hell raiser there too, as he guided ASU from its glory days in the old WAC, into the then Pac-10 Conference..
The roots of San Diego State’s athletic and academic success were put in place by Dr. Fred Miller, never afraid to accept a challenge, nor take on the establishment.
He sure didn’t like when I went on a tirade in Phoenix, as a sports-talk host, doing Sun Devils games, asking “why does ASU have to cheat?”
He sure did like me when the Voice of the Chargers became the Voice of Aztecs during the wild Faulk-David Lowrey-WAC-days, as I kept harping on fans to call my “Kiss my Ass-tecs Line”.
SDSU should be thankful, as they lay him to rest in Oregon. He did an awful lot when the program needed guidance, creativeness, and stability.
He was a man in the right place at the right time, with a school that really needed a lot. ..maybe ahead of his time. The Aztecs got there because of all he did here, for that decade plus.
There will likely be noise in heaven today. It’s probably Fred Miller trying to sell something to someone at the gate.
Helluva guy. Helluva a job. Like I said …”1-of-a-Kind”