On Monday, November 13, the SDSU athletics department announced that Head Coach Brady Hoke will retire at the end of the season.
Hoke, calling it quits at age 65, and the current staff will finish out the remaining two games of the season looking to improve on a dismal season that currently sees the Red and Black at the bottom of the Mountain West Conference standings.
The Aztecs stand 3-7 overall and 1-5 in conference. The team has struggled to pull out several close games losing four one-score contests this year, including last Saturday’s 22-19 loss at Colorado State.
Oftentimes, the defense has played well enough to win, while the offense has failed to consistently put points on the scoreboard. This follows last year’s disappointing campaign that saw SDSU finish with a mediocre 7-6 record and a loss to Middle Tennessee State in the Hawaii Bowl.
It wasn’t always this way.
In his first tenure as head coach in 2009 and 2010, Hoke and his experienced coaching staff helped instill a toughness and competitive spirit that had been sorely missing from Aztecs football. His defensive-minded, run-first approach helped produce a 9-4 record in the 2010 season that ended with an SDSU victory in the Poinsettia Bowl, the program’s first bowl game in 12 years.
Hoke was beloved by many fans & alumni for his trademark voice, pizza nights with players and his meaningful outreach with Aztecs supporters. His connection with Tom Ables to build upon tradition and football culture established fan favorite practices like the Warrior Walk.
But, arguably, his biggest contribution to the recent run of success for SDSU football was bringing in Rocky Long to coach his defense. It enabled Long to step into the head role when Hoke was hired by Michigan after the 2010 season.
Under Long as head coach, the Aztecs captured three Mountain West titles and made bowl appearances in nine seasons. When he stepped down from head coaching duties in 2020, Long left SDSU as the program’s second-winningest coach ever.
The former New Mexico head coach brought Hoke back to coach the San Diego State defensive line in 2019, leading to Hoke’s second tenure as head coach when Long stepped aside after that season.
Even with the tough season this year, Hoke will leave SDSU with a winning record. He has compiled 39 wins and 30 losses in his second go-round with the Aztecs with two remaining outcomes left to be decided this season. The high mark will be a 12-2 campaign in 2021 when “home” games were being played in Carson. The low point is definitely what we’ve all been witnessing this season.
So, what’s next?
The current SDSU football coaching lineup includes several first-year guys with the Aztecs, including SDSU alum and offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley, running backs coach Jimmy Beal, defensive line coach Bojay Filimoeatu, and wide receivers coach Jonathan Krause.
In the next group, you have offensive line coach Mike Goff in his second year on the Mesa, tight ends coach Savai’i Eselu and safeties coach Kyle Hoke (Brady’s nephew) in their third year, special teams coordinator Doug Deakin in his fifth year on staff and Demetrius Sumler, cornerbacks coach, in his seventh season.
None of them have guarantees beyond the current season.
Finally, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Kurt Mattix signed an extension in February that sees him being paid 100 percent of his salary through February 2025, even if he is not on staff, according to an October report in the Union Tribune.
As for head coaching candidates outside of the program, several top assistants have popped to the forefront. The ones cited most often currently work at schools in Power conferences. Would any of them leave for a head coaching position in the Mountain West, where the outgoing coach is only the eighth-highest paid coach in the conference? We are about to find out.
As a longtime SDSU fan who, as a kid, loved watching the exciting Aztecs’ offenses under Craig Penrose and a slew of great quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers that followed, I’d love to see Athletic Director JD Wicker pursue one of the hot offensive coordinators being mentioned as the next San Diego State head coach.
Media outlets have listed some exciting offensive minds as potential candidates. Names such as Washington Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, Missouri offensive coordinator Kirby Moore and Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren. Each name listed all have proven abilities and proven results with high-powered offenses. All three coincidentally have ties to the Mountain West as former players or coaches.
If SDSU were to keep to its recent defense-first mentality, the coaching options are rumored to include UCLA defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn (former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn’s son), USC defensive backs coach Donte Williams, and Nebraska defensive coordinator Tony White.
The last name ought to be familiar to Aztecs fans as White was on the Montezuma Mesa for nine seasons. He began as the cornerbacks coach under Hoke in 2009 and then served additionally as SDSU’s recruiting coordinator for his final seven seasons. His defensive backfield units were stellar under his charge with SDSU ranking in the top five nationally in interceptions in two of this final three years.
As recruiting coordinator, White had great success. He twice was named MWC Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com and, in 2014, was recognized as the top recruiter among non-Power Five programs by Rivals.com.
If Wicker decides to keep defense at the forefront of future Aztecs squads, White would be an outstanding choice.
But, older SDSU football fans long for the days of outstanding skill players and up-tempo, high-powered offenses. Let’s bring some excitement back to the home of Hall of Fame coach Don Coryell and offensive studs like Todd Santos, Dan McGwire, Marshall Faulk, Darnay Scott, and Az Hakim, Kevin O’Connell, the late Gavin Escobar, Ronnie Hillman, DJ Pumphrey, Rashad Penny, current coach Lindley, and a host of others. These guys entertained the Red and Black faithful and made Saturday evenings at the Murph/Qualcomm the play to see exciting football.
Watch the current University of Washington squad and you see offensive creativity and talented skill players executing at the highest levels.
Behind Heisman candidate QB Michael Penix Jr., the team ranks number one in the nation in passing at 378 yards a game. The Huskies are averaging 41 points a game, good for fifth-best in the country this season.
Grubb may be a bit too popular of a hire Nationally for the Aztecs to land. Reports last season arose that Alabama’s Nick Saban had entertained a meeting with Grubb to discuss a possible OC spot in Tuscaloosa. Regardless of the fact that Grubb never joined the Alabama Crimson Tide staff, it shows just how much in demand Grubb will be this off season. Either way, SDSU should reach out for the conversation with Grubb.
Missouri’s Moore was also a key part of the successful Fresno State Bulldogs offenses and knows the conference well having played receiver for Boise State from 2009-2013. Though this option may have his alma-mater Boise State written all over it, Moore has already demonstrated that he is unapologetic when coaching within the same Conference as his playing days.
SDSU got an up-close look at the Oregon State Beavers’ quick-strike offense in Corvallis earlier this season. Lindgren coached at San Jose State when the Spartans had some of their best teams in recent memory, so he’d be no stranger to MWC battles.
These are the coaching candidates that excite me as someone who wants to see entertaining and high scoring offense from the home team at Snapdragon Stadium.
Yes, Hoke is out. So, who is in? The next few weeks will be fascinating to watch play out, likely more exciting than what we’ve seen on the field for most of the last two seasons.