“Aztecs Football–Winning But Losing”
What is next?
Maybe we find out sometime on Wednesday.
Maybe not for a week or so.
Rocky Long has done marvelous things at San Diego State, driving a moribund program into the upper echelon Group of 5-schools, and becoming a dominant force in the Mountain West Conference.
But maybe he has reached the end of the road here. Maybe he needs a new challenge. Maybe he wants to go somewhere and get paid. Maybe he wants to be part of something respected, in the community, or maybe by his own Athletic Director.
Long was in upstate New York to meet with Dino Babers of Syracuse University on Monday. The national writers believe it was to be considered for the Orange Defensive Coordinators job. I was told it was to become Assistant Head Coach or possible Coach in Waiting.
Long is also mentioned as a candidate for Mike Leach’s Defensive Coordinators job at Washington State, and quietly to the vacant job at USC under Clay Helton.
The jobs are big time. They pay well, 1M at Washington State, as much as 1.2M at Syracuse, and 1.5 or more at USC.
Long’s phenominal run at SDSU has led to an (81-38) record, but you could never tell by crowd turnout at SDSU home games, with the stadium never sold out, in fact never really approaching 30,000 paid customers per home game.
SDSU has never been able to configure a plan to get San Diego to embrace the greatness of all the things Long has done.
There could be lots of reasons for Long’s decision to look at something else.
..A chance to go to a Power 5-school and do what he does best, teach defense and win and be in a New Year’s Day game.
..A chance to get a quality payday in the twilight of a fine career. He makes (878,000) per year, and is only 7th on the payday list in his own conference.
..A chance to go somewhere where college football is held in high regard, compared to San Diego, where the Aztecs have not replaced the departed Chargers in the hearts of football fans.
..A chance to go somewhere without the drain of being a head coach dealing with 105-players, and an assistants staff under siege.
..A chance to not have to be responsible for an assistant coaching staff, which earns just 1.4M total in salaries in an expensive city to live in.
..A chance to work for some other AD aside from JD Wicker and his quirky personality.
..A chance to get away from the Mountain West Conference, its rinky-dink reputation, and a leadership team that cannot market its schools or get a decent TV contract.
..A chance to be part of the Power 5, not the disrespected Group of 5-conferences.
..A chance to walk way from a street fight with the AD, who might be mandating changes to the offensive coaching staff, going against the loyalty part of Long’s DNA.
It is stunning to look at the Mountain West payroll and see where the winningest coach is situated on the dollar ladder. In the just completed 2019 season, Long was 7th in salary.
..1.8M-Mike Bobo-Colorado State…since fired
..1.6M-Brian Harsin-Boise State
..1.5M-Jeff Tedford-Fresno State..just retired
..1.4M-Craig Bohl-Wyoming..never won a title
..975K-Troy Calhoun-Air Force
..900K-Gary Anderson-Utah State in first year back
..878K-Rocky Long-SDSU..(81-38)..Dean of Coaches-9 Bowls
USA Today’s Salary list for the MWC shows SDSU’s football budget (15.5M), ranked third behind Colorado State (21.6M) and Fresno (17.8). Oddly, national power Boise has a budget of (11.8M). In terms of salaries for the football staff, Boise is tops with a (4.8M) coaching payout. Wyoming was second (4.6M). San Diego State is ranked 4th at (3.9M).. So the Aztecs are in the upper third in football money, but their head coach is in the bottom third. Does not make sense.
How could San Diego State allow this situation to exist, to have this icon of a coach on the Montezuma Mesa be so poorly compensated? Are dollars tight at state schools here? Yes, but so are they other places around the league.
The Aztecs went 11-years without a winning season. Brady Hoke and Rocky Long changed all that, but it does not appear they have been rewarded. Granted no one expects anything like the (9.9M) package Dabo Swinney gets at Clemson or the (9.6M) haul made by Nick Saban at Alabama.
For a school that made a fatal mistake and fired Beth Burns-the women’s basketball coach, and had to pay over 4.5M in wrongful termination plus legal fees, how could they not better take care of a great coach and possibly a greater man? They haven’t won anything since where before they went to the NCAA tourney a number of times.
As this program has grown, we have seen all types of head coach. Al Luginbill-forever the snake-oil salesman. Ted Tollner, the ultimate gentleman. Tom Craft and his schemes. Chuck Long who became a fraud and failure. Brady Hoke and his forceful personality. To where we are now, all those wins and bowl games, under Long.
I’ve been around a lot of unique college coaches, doing play-by-play, sports talk and covering teams.
From the old school standards of Woody Hayes, to the beliggerance of Bo Schembechler, to the demands of Frank Kush, to the team first theory of Bobby Ross, to the emotional pitch of Marty Schottenheimer, to the XO-intelligence of Norv Turner.
Rocky Long has a piece of each of those coaches as part of his fabric.
He has every right to look for something different, if his heart and his head tell him it is time for a change. SDSU’s leadership better look within themselves as to what they could-should have done better to keep him.
Rocky Long, unvarnished, unfiltered, has brought us a special experience at SDSU. From culture, to accountability, to honesty to dedication. He’s done all he could. Maybe San Diego State has done all it could too.
Or maybe Aztecs leadership should have done better.
I can hear Long sales pitching that every recruit in upstate New York, should want to wear ‘Orange’. Or praising ‘Cougar Weather’ up in Pullman, Washington. Or standing and tell his defense to ‘Fight On’ his way if he were to become a USC Trojan.
If he leaves, we might get Brady Hoke-revisited as his replacement. If he leaves, he might take Brady Hoke with him, and that would be our double loss.
We find out shortly.
Aztecs football-winning, but now possibly losing the man responsible for it all. It would be good for the coach, bad for those of us left behind who care about the Aztecs.