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Monday, June 20, 2011
Heart of the City: San Diego State

By Andrea Adelson

We are profiling city schools that compete in a market alongside an NFL franchise. Up next:

School: San Diego State
Location: San Diego
Enrollment: 34,000
Bowl appearances: 5
NFL first-round picks: 5
Losing seasons: 19
10-win seasons: 4

Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: Numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The good: Everything is in place for San Diego State to emerge as one of the top non-AQ schools in the nation. The location is hard to beat -- San Diego has some of the best weather in the country, and the school is a short drive from the downtown Gaslamp Quarter. Being in California is obviously a huge plus, with the fertile recruiting ground the Aztecs have to choose from -- even with competition from AQ schools. Don Coryell showed exactly how much success can be had at San Diego State -- his “Air Coryell” offense essentially revolutionized the game. Coryell went 104-19-2 from 1961-72, and helped the school make the move up from Division II to I-A. He won three bowl games, had a record 42 players drafted and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Coryell left for the NFL and became the first coach to win 100 games on the pro and collegiate level. Some 36 coaches have come from the Coryell coaching tree. The San Diego State locker room is named for Coryell and is one of the largest areas in the Aztecs Athletics Center. Marshall Faulk had tremendous success, too, finishing second in the Heisman race in 1992 despite being on a mediocre team. Faulk is slated to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame later this summer.

The bad: San Diego State has not been able to consistently realize its true potential. The Aztecs made a bowl game in 2010 for the first time since 1998, beating Navy in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Last season marked the first winning season since 1998 as well. Coach Brady Hoke, who spurred the turnaround, left for Michigan in the offseason and former New Mexico coach Rocky Long is now in charge. Long had success at New Mexico, a program that has dipped to become the worst in the nation since his departure, so hopes are high that a breakthrough is coming. Though San Diego State plays at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the Chargers, the school rarely sells out its home games and averages about 34,000 a game. The stadium is in need of $80 million in maintenance and repairs over the next seven years. There is still much debate about whether the Chargers will decide to stay in the stadium, get a new site in San Diego or leave altogether. The Chargers’ lease runs through 2020 but there is an option to break the lease with an early termination penalty. There is no question the Chargers want a new stadium, but there has been little movement in that direction. If the Chargers do move, then the city would have to figure out whether it is worth maintaining the stadium just for Aztecs games and the two bowl games the city hosts.