San Diego State Aztecs football

San Diego State Aztecs
2018 San Diego State Aztecs football team
First season 1921
Athletic director John David Wicker
Head coach Rocky Long
8th season, 64–29 (.688)
Other staff Jeff Horton (OC)
Danny Gonzales (DC)
Stadium SDCCU Stadium
(Capacity: 54,000[1])
Field surface Grass
Location San Diego, California
Conference Mountain West
Division West
All-time record 50940332 (.556)
Bowl record 88 (.500)
Claimed nat'l titles 3 (small college division)
Conference titles 21 (3 MW)
Division titles 2
Rivalries Fresno State Bulldogs (rivalry)
Consensus All-Americans 11
Colors Scarlet and Black[2]
Fight song SDSU Fight Song
Mascot Montezuma (The Aztec Warrior)
Marching band Marching Aztecs

The San Diego State Aztecs football team represents San Diego State University in the sport of American football. The Aztecs compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and the West Division of the Mountain West Conference (MW). They play their homes games at SDCCU Stadium and are currently coached by Rocky Long. They have won twenty-one conference championships[3] and three national championships at the small college division.[4]

They were scheduled to become a football-only member of the Big East Conference in July 2013, but on January 17, the Mountain West's board of directors voted to reinstate San Diego State.


Early history (1921–1935)

San Diego State University was originally two separate schools. San Diego Normal School had school colors of white and gold. San Diego Junior College had school colors of blue and gold. They decided to merge schools in 1921 to form San Diego State College. The first school colors of SDSC were blue, white and gold. During the 1921 school year they had their first football game. The central athletic figure at San Diego State at the time was Charles E. Peterson. He had originally been appointed in 1916 as a physical education instructor. After serving in World War I, President Hardy prevailed upon him to return and oversee the school's athletics program. Initially, Peterson taught all the men's physical education classes and coached all the intercollegiate teams. After the athletic teams were established in 1921, media referred to the teams as "Staters" or "professors". The school newspaper tried to encourage "Wampus Cats" during its coverage of the 1923–24 school year. In the fall of 1924, Athletic Director C.E. Peterson urged the students to select a nickname and the school newspaper, The Paper Lantern, invited suggestions. Over the next few issues, names such as Panthers, Balboans and Thoroughbreds were suggested and submitted to a committee of Dean Al Peterson, C.E. Peterson and a student. In 1925, student leaders chose the nickname "Aztecs" over such other suggestions as "Balboans". They felt the terminology was more representative of a southwest image and the selection met with no dissent. In February 1925, President Hardy gave his formal approval to the "Aztec" nickname and teams adopted that identity within a week.

Purple and gold were adopted for the 1922–23 term but this became a problem because the colors were the same as St. Augustine High School. It didn't go over very well when one couldn't tell the difference between an Aztec letterman's sweater and a high school sweater. Also, purple and gold were the colors of Whittier College, a fierce conference rival at the time. Not to mention the fact that manufacturers of Aztec merchandise in that era refused to guarantee the color fastness of San Diego State's purple hues. Associated Students president Terrence Geddis led the movement for a change and, after pushing for reconsideration of school colors, students finally got a chance to vote on the matter in December 1927. That was followed by two days of voting the following month where students were to decide between Scarlet and Black and the previous colors, Purple and Gold. On January 19, 1928 the tally was 346–201 in favor of Scarlet and Black and it has remained that ever since.

Small college era (1936–1968)

Don Coryell impact

Don Coryell became the SDSC head coach in 1961, while in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. He led the Aztecs to two "small college" undefeated seasons in 1966 and 1968 and from the College Division (now Divisions II & III) to the University Division (Division I FBS) in 1969.

Pacific Coast Athletic Association era (1969–1977)

San Diego State was a charter member of the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, which was founded on July 1, 1969.

Don Coryell continuing legacy

Coryell coached a total 12 seasons with the Aztecs, using the philosophy of recruiting only junior college players. There, he compiled a record of 104 wins, 19 losses and 2 ties including a total of three undefeated seasons in 1966, 1968, and 1969. His teams had winning streaks of 31 and 25 games, and won three bowl games during his tenure. It was at SDSC that Coryell began to emphasize a passing offense and he recounted, "We could only recruit a limited number of runners and linemen against schools like USC and UCLA. And there were a lot of kids in southern California passing and catching the ball. There seemed to be a deeper supply of quarterbacks and receivers. And the passing game was also open to some new ideas. Coryell adds, "Finally we decided it's crazy that we can win games by throwing the ball without the best personnel. So we threw the hell out of the ball and won some games. When we started doing that, we were like 55–5–1. John Madden served as Coryell's defensive assistant at SDSC. Madden had first met Coryell attending a coaching clinic on the I formation led by McKay. "We'd go to these clinics, and afterward, everyone would run up to talk to McKay", said Madden. "Coryell was there because he introduced (McKay). I was thinking, 'If (McKay) learned from him, I'll go talk to (Coryell).' At San Diego State, Coryell helped develop a number of quarterbacks for the NFL, including Don Horn, Jesse Freitas, Dennis Shaw and future NFL MVP Brian Sipe. Wide receivers who went on to the NFL include Isaac Curtis, Gary Garrison, and Haven Moses. Coryell also coached two players who later became actors: Fred Dryer and Carl Weathers. Following the 1972 season, he moved to the NFL and became head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals.[5]

Western Athletic Conference era (1978–1999)

The Big 80's

During the 1980s at San Diego State, the Aztecs were led by record-setting quarterbacks Todd Santos and Dan McGwire, who later became the tallest quarterback in the history of the NFL (in 1991). The Aztecs won the WAC Championship in 1986 and played at home in the Holiday Bowl against Iowa, but lost by a point 39–38. In 1990, the team played Miami in a game that featured violent fights and a near epic upset.[6][7]

Marshall Faulk's impact

Faulk received an athletic scholarship to attend San Diego State, and played running back for the Aztecs. Faulk was recruited by Curtis Johnson, and coached by Bret Ingalls and future New Orleans Saints head coach, Sean Payton. In one of the most prolific performances of his entire career, he ran all over the University of the Pacific in just his second collegiate game on September 15, 1991. In 37 carries, he racked up 386 yards and scored seven touchdowns, both records for freshmen (the 386 yards were then an NCAA record). "Faulk had scoring runs of 61, 7, 47, 9, 5, 8 and 25 yards." That performance sparked one of the greatest freshman seasons in NCAA history, gaining 1,429 yards rushing, with 23 total touchdowns (21 rushing), and 140 points scored. Faulk went on to better 1,600 yards rushing in his sophomore year. In Faulk's junior season in 1993, he was finally able to showcase his all-purpose ability by catching 47 passes for 640 yards and 3 touchdowns to go with 1,530 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. These numbers put Faulk 3rd in the nation in all-purpose yardage that year, and 2nd in scoring.

Faulk left San Diego State with many of the school's offensive records, among them 5,562 all-purpose yards and 62 career touchdowns, which is the 8th most in NCAA history. After his 1992 season at SDSU, Faulk finished second in the Heisman Trophy award, losing to quarterback Gino Torretta in what was considered a notable snub in the history of the award Torretta's Miami Hurricanes had again gone undefeated in the regular season and was ranked No. 1 in the country before the Heisman balloting, Faulk's team finished with a middling 5–5–1 record, continuing a trend of the Heisman going to the most notable player on one of the nation's best teams. He was a Heisman finalist as well in 1991 (9th) and 1993 (4th). With a year of eligibility remaining, Faulk declared for the NFL draft and was the second overall selection in April 1994.

Mountain West Conference era (2000–present)

In the year 2000, San Diego State became a charter member of the Mountain West Conference.

Brady Hoke tenure

In December 2008, Hoke was hired as the 17th head football coach at San Diego State University. Hoke signed a five-year contract with a guaranteed payment of $3,525,000, plus incentives for hitting revenue marks and bowl berths. San Diego State was also required to pay $240,000 to buy out the remaining two years on Hoke's contract at Ball State. San Diego State compiled a 2–10 record the year before Hoke arrived. In 2009, Hoke led the Aztecs to a record of 4–8. During the 2010 season, Hoke's team improved to 9–4. Two of the Aztecs' losses in 2010 came in close matches against ranked opponents. The Aztecs gave the undefeated, #2 TCU team its closest game of the regular season, losing by a score of 40–35. Hoke's team also lost a close game against No. 12 Missouri by a score of 27–24. The team concluded its season with a convincing 35–14 win over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. Prior to the 2010 season, San Diego State had not won nine games in a season since 1977 when they went 10–1 finishing 16th in the API and had not played in a bowl game since the 1998 team lost in the Las Vegas Bowl. After the 2010 season, a reporter for the Orange County Register wrote that Hoke had given San Diego State "swagger."

Rocky Long tenure

After Hoke accepted the head coaching job at Michigan defensive coordinator Rocky Long was immediately named the new head coach. Rocky Long served as the head coach of New Mexico 1998–2008 where he compiled 65 victories and 5 bowl game appearances in 10 years. During his first 5 years as head coach of the Aztecs (2011–2015) he has led the Aztecs to 5 consecutive bowl games and won San Diego State's first MW title in 2012 (shared), followed by an outright MW Championship in 2015. As of January 1, 2016, he has a 43–23 overall record as head coach of the Aztecs with a 30–9 conference record. In 2015, San Diego State earned an 11–3 record under Long, culminating with an impressive 42–7 victory over Cincinnati.

Win 21

With the backing of San Diego State's "Win 21" campaign, the Aztecs notched their 21st conference championship in 2016 by winning the Mountain West championship game vs. the Wyoming Cowboys

Head coaches

Coach Years Seasons Games Record Pct. Conf. Champs. Bowls
C.E. Peterson1921–192997843–31–4.57730
W.B. Herreid1930–193454620–21–5.48900
Leo Calland1935–194176034–22–4.60020
John Eubank1942170–6–1.07100
Bob Breitbard1945172–5–0.28600
Bill Terry19461106–4.60000
Bill Schutte1947–195598848–36–4.56822
Paul Governali1956–196054211–27–4.31000
Don Coryell1961–197212125104–19–2.84073
Claude Gilbert1973–198088961–26–2.69730
Doug Scovil1981–198555924–32–3.43200
Denny Stolz1986–198833516–19.45711
Al Luginbill1989–199355831–25–2.53401
Ted Tollner1994–200189143–48.47311
Tom Craft2002–200544819–29.39600
Chuck Long2006–20083369–27.25000
Brady Hoke2009–201022513–12.52001
Rocky Long2011–present66542–23.64636


Conference championships

Season Conference Coach Overall Record Conference Record
1922Southern California Junior College ConferenceC. E. Peterson6–44–0
1923C. E. Peterson8–22–0
1924C. E. Peterson7–1–23–0
1936Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic ConferenceLeo B. Calland6–1–15–0
1937Leo B. Calland7–14–1
1950California Collegiate Athletic AssociationBill Schutte5–3–13–0–1
1951Bill Schutte10–0–14–0
1962Don Coryell8–26–0
1966Don Coryell11–05–0
1967Don Coryell10–15–0
1969Pacific Coast Athletic ConferenceDon Coryell11–06–0
1970Don Coryell9–25–1
1972Don Coryell10–14–0
1973Claude Gilbert9–1–13–0–1
1974Claude Gilbert8–2–14–0
1986Western Athletic ConferenceDenny Stolz8–47–1
2012§Mountain West ConferenceRocky Long9–47–1
2015Rocky Long11–38–0
2016Rocky Long11–36–2

§ designates conference co-championship

Division championships

San Diego State has won two division championships, both during their tenure in the Mountain West Conference.

Season Division Overall Record Conference Record
2015West Division11–38–0
2016West Division11–36–2

Mountain West Championship Games

Year Opponent Result
2015Air ForceW 27–24
2016WyomingW 27–24

Bowl games

SDSU is 8–8 all time in post-season bowl games. They first went to a bowl game in 1948 and first won a major-college bowl game in 1969.[8]

Date Coach Bowl Opponent Result
January 1, 1948Bill SchutteHarbor BowlHardin–SimmonsL 0–53
January 1, 1952Bill SchuttePineapple BowlHawaiiW 34–13
December 10, 1966Don CoryellCamellia BowlMontana StateW 28–7
December 9, 1967Don CoryellCamellia BowlSan Francisco StateW 27–6
December 6, 1969Don CoryellPasadena BowlBoston UniversityW 28–7
December 30, 1986Denny StolzHoliday Bowl#16 IowaL 38–39
December 30, 1991Al LuginbillFreedom Bowl#23 TulsaL 17–28
December 19, 1998Ted TollnerLas Vegas BowlNorth CarolinaL 13–20
December 23, 2010Brady HokePoinsettia BowlNavyW 35–14
December 17, 2011Rocky LongNew Orleans BowlLouisiana–LafayetteL 30–32
December 20, 2012Rocky LongPoinsettia BowlBYUL 6–23
December 21, 2013Rocky LongFamous Idaho Potato BowlBuffaloW 49–24
December 23, 2014Rocky LongPoinsettia BowlNavyL 16–17
December 24, 2015Rocky LongHawaii BowlCincinnatiW 42–7
December 17, 2016Rocky LongLas Vegas BowlHoustonW 34–10
December 23, 2017Rocky LongArmed Forces BowlArmyL 35–42

(#) AP Poll ranking

On November 29, 1981, San Diego State played the Air Force Falcons in the Mitsubishi Mirage Bowl at Tokyo Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan which was a regular season game sponsored by the Mitsubishi Motors, losing 21–16. It is not considered a sanctioned bowl and does not reflect on San Diego States's all-time bowl record.


Balboa Stadium (1921–1935)

The Aztecs (formerly "Staters") began playing football when SDSU was still known as San Diego Normal School and then San Diego State Teacher's College, and located on Park Boulevard in University Heights. During this period, the football team called Balboa Stadium home (formerly "City Stadium"). At the time, the seating capacity for Balboa Stadium was 15,000. It was later expanded to 34,000 capacity and served as the home stadium for the San Diego Chargers of the American Football League (AFL) from 1961 to 1966.

Aztec Bowl (1935–1966)

After the University relocated from University Heights to its current location in 1931, accommodations were made on the new campus for a football stadium to be constructed beginning in 1933. The Aztecs played their home games in the on-campus Aztec Bowl during the 30-year period between 1936 and 1966. At the time of its completion in 1936, Aztec Bowl could accommodate 7,500 fans and was the only state college stadium in California. The stadium's capacity was later expanded to a seating capacity of 12,592 fans in 1948. Given the growth of the college and its fan base, the Aztecs found themselves in need of a larger venue. Rather than proceeding with the previously proposed expansion to 45,000 seats, Aztec fans would have to make do with this facility until 1966. During this final year in Aztec Bowl, the Aztecs won their first of three consecutive "small college" (Division II) National Championships. About 80% of Aztec Bowl was covered up (rather than demolished) in 1996 to make way for Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (formerly named Cox Arena), current home of the San Diego State Aztecs men's basketball and women's basketball teams. Formerly listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a portion of Aztec Bowl remains visible on the north side of Viejas Arena.

SDCCU Stadium (1967–present)

Since its inception in 1967, SDCCU Stadium has been the home of San Diego State University Aztecs football. SDCCU Stadium (formerly San Diego Stadium, Jack Murphy Stadium, and Qualcomm Stadium) is a multi-purpose stadium located in the Mission Valley area of San Diego, about 5 miles from campus. The campus and stadium have been connected by the San Diego Trolley since 2005.

SDCCU stadium had also been home to the NFL's San Diego Chargers from 1967 to 2016, and also hosted the San Diego Padres from 19692003. It also hosts the Holiday Bowl and hosted the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl college football games every December. The stadium has hosted three Super Bowl games, two Major League Baseball All-Star Games, and two World Series. It is the only stadium ever to host both the Super Bowl and the World Series in the same year (1998).

Playing in a professional sports facility provides some benefits including improved concessions, luxury suites, "jumbo-tron" screens and other amenities for Aztecs fans. However, the increasing capacity of the stadium (from 52,596 in 1967 to 70,561 in 2015) has created a mismatch for a college football program that drew an average of 29,065 fans to home games in 2015—during an 11–3 MW Championship season, which was their best performance since joining Division I in 1969. Even the best matchups provide a tepid fan experience in a facility that is filled to only 40% of capacity. The Aztecs now tarp off significant sections of the upper seating bowl for their games, creating a reduced capacity of 54,000.

Mission Valley Campus (proposed)

In 2015, the San Diego Chargers stepped up their efforts to relocate to Los Angeles, pending a vote of National Football League owners and a partnership with the Oakland Raiders or St. Louis Rams. In the face of this development, contingency plans have been generated for the future use of the current SDCCU Stadium site in Mission Valley. One proposal that has been put forward by State Senator Marty Block is for San Diego State to take over use of the site in order to expand the campus and also provide for a new multi-use 40,000-seat stadium for Aztecs football and a Major League Soccer team.[9] On January 13, 2016, the Chargers gained approval by the NFL to join the Rams in a move to Los Angeles. On January 12, 2017, the Chargers announced that they would move to Los Angeles for the 2017 season. There is no current decision as to the future of SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley, nor has a deal been approved for San Diego State to take over the site in order to extend the campus or to build a new football stadium.

Current coaching staff

San Diego State coaching staff.

Name Position
Rocky LongHead Coach
Jeff HortonAssociate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach
Danny GonzalesDefensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach
Zach ArnettLinebackers Coach
Hunkie CooperWide Receivers Coach
Bobby HauckSpecial Teams Coordinator
Ernie LawsonDefensive Line Coach
Mike SchmidtOffensive Line Coach
Blane MorganQuarterbacks Coach
Tony WhiteCornerbacks Coach
Adam HallStrength and Conditioning Coach
Kevin McGarryDirector of Player Personnel
Jashon SykesDirector of Operations
Doug DeakinAssistant for Football Operations
Lucky RadleyGraduate Assistant – Defense/Special Teams
Derrick BakerAssistant Strength and Conditioning Coach
Zach ShapiroGraduate Assistant – Defense/Special Teams
Jake LaudenslayerGraduate Assistant – Offense/Tight Ends
Zach ShultisGraduate Assistant – Offense


Night games

Night games have become a San Diego State University football tradition. The first SDSU night game was played on September 25, 1930 at Lane Field. Over 5,000 fans attended the game to watch the Aztecs beat the San Diego Marines 39–0. Since that day, over 75% of all Aztec games, home and away, have been played at night.


The first Aztec Warrior figure associated with the university initially appeared at a San Diego State athletic event over six decades ago. Art Munzig played the original role in a skit during halftime at the San Diego State-Pomona football game kicking off the 1941 football season. The school's Rally Committee came up with the idea based on the ruler of the Aztec empire in the early 1500s, Moctezuma II. The character, affectionately known as "Monty" to generations of SDSU alumni, evolved through the years to become emblematic of San Diego State's athletic teams.

For decades the role was filled mostly by students, who inspired enthusiasm and school spirit during football and basketball games. In 1983, however, Director of Athletics Mary Hill directed Montezuma to adopt a more dignified persona. During that football season, Monty sat atop a pyramid among his attendants on the sidelines at Jack Murphy Stadium. That lasted one year. The next season Moctezuma resumed his more traditional role of involvement and encouragement of Aztec football fans.

Beginning in 2000, some student groups began to propose the university alter its Aztec identity. The new mascot made his first public appearance February 23, 2004 to reveal some costume changes and the modified moniker, "Aztec Warrior." For all but a very few years from the early 1990s through 2006, Carlos Gutierrez took over the role of mascot, raising the position's profile and expanding public appearances throughout the San Diego community. In April 2006, the SDSU Alumni Association sponsored student auditions for a new Aztec Warrior.

Warrior Walk

The team accompanied by the San Diego State Marching Aztecs Drumline, additional members of the spirit squad, and fans walk from the stadium parking lot to the tunnel which leads the team onto the field. This usually occurs two hours before kickoff.

Honorary Warrior

An honorary team captain, usually a former player of the team, leads the team onto the field before kickoff.

Warrior Shield

An Aztec warrior shield that the accompanies the team on the sidelines during home and away games. The shield is held high by the captains during the singing of the Fight Song following victories.

Old Oil Can

The rivalry trophy between the Aztecs and the Bulldogs of Fresno State. The tradition is relatively new having taken place for the first time in 2011. The winner of the game gets the trophy.


Fresno State: Battle for the Oil Can

No other opponent has a more extensive history against SDSU. The Fresno State-San Diego State rivalry, also known as the Battle for the Oil Can, dates back to 1923 when the two teams competed in the SCJCC. The Aztecs winning the initial meeting 12–2 at home. Since then, the sides have met 51 more times, including every year from 1945–79, when the two competed in the same conference or were independents. After not facing one another between 1979–1991, the schools resumed the annual series from 1992–98, when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference. The two teams have met twice since then, in 2002 and 2011. With Fresno State joining the Mountain West Conference in 2012 and the addition of the divisional format, the Aztecs and the Bulldogs will compete on an annual basis once again. One of the most memorable games between the two schools was known as "The Fog Bowl" in 1962. The fog was so thick that the Aztec radio announcer at the time Al Couppee couldn't see the plays, so he went down to the field and into the huddle to give the play-by-play. The Aztecs won the game 29–26 in a thrilling fashion. The two schools started competing in 2011 for the Oil Can trophy. The Oil Can trophy comes from a 1930s-era oil can hailing from Fresno that was found at a construction site at San Diego State. "The oil can likely came from a time when Aztec and Bulldog fans traveled to football games between the two schools via the old, twisting, precipitous Grapevine section of Highway 99 over Tejon Pass", said Jacquelyn K. Glasener, executive director of the Fresno State Alumni Association. "Cars in those days carried extra oil and water to be sure they could make it through difficult trips", added Jim Herrick, executive director of the San Diego State Alumni Association. The game was dubbed by fans the Battle for the Oil Can. The first trophy game was played in 2011. The Aztecs were favored but however they found themselves trailing 21–0 in the first half. They battled back scoring four unanswered touchdowns to win 35–28, with Ronnie Hillman scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to win the game. The Aztecs ended the season with an 8–4 record and made it to the New Orleans Bowl and the Bulldogs ended the season 4–8. San Diego State leads the all-time series with a record of 27–22–4, including a 14–11–2 mark in San Diego, Fresno State leads the trophy series 3–2. In 2016, the series is tied. Fresno State assumed a 4-2 lead in the trophy series with their 27-3 victory over the Aztecs on October 21, 2017 at SDCCU (formerly Qualcomm) Stadium.

Fresno States leads the series 29–24–4 as of October 21, 2017.

Retired numbers

San Diego State has retired four numbers.[10]

No. Player Position Tenure
8Todd SantosQB1984–1987
25Haven MosesWR1966–1967
28Willie BuchanonCB1970–1971
28Marshall FaulkHB1991–1993

Players currently in the NFL

[11] [12]

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