Sunday, November 23, 2008
SDSU fires Long after three seasons despite AD's vote of confidence
ESPN.com news services
SAN DIEGO -- Chuck Long spent the last 4½ weeks presumably thinking his job as San Diego State's football coach was safe through next season.
Two top SDSU officials spent the last two weeks raising more than $1 million in private money to help buy out the remaining two years of Chuck Long's contract.
His bosses, president Stephen Weber and athletic director Jeff Schemmel, spent the last two weeks working behind Long's back to raise just more than $1 million in private money to help buy out the remaining two years of his contract.
Once the money was secured, Long was gone. The school announced Sunday that Long was fired; the coach was informed of the move by athletic director Jeff Schemmel on Saturday morning, several hours before the Aztecs' surprising 42-21 win over UNLV. San Diego State finished 2-10, the school's first 10-loss season.
ESPN.com's Joe Schad first reported the firing early Sunday.
Hired in December 2005 with no previous head coaching experience, Long was 9-27 in three seasons.
Long didn't return several calls seeking comment.
Schemmel was hospitalized with a hip infection, the school said, and did not attend a news conference Sunday afternoon.
Despite Schemmel's glowing vote of confidence a few days after a 70-7 loss to New Mexico on Oct. 18, Weber said he and the AD spent the last two weeks calling boosters to see if they could raise the money needed to buy out Long and pay for other transition costs, such as hiring a search firm.
Long is owed approximately $1.4 million. That amount would be defrayed by whatever amount Long makes if he lands another coaching job.
"Jeff came to me about two weeks ago saying, 'You know, I think we're going to need to make a change,'" Weber said. "And then the next question was, 'Do we have the option to make a change? Do we have the financial option to make a change?'
"Once we found out that that was a real option, then Jeff proceeded to make the decision and notify Chuck."
The president wouldn't identify any of the donors.
"We were raising this money as late a a couple of days ago. I haven't got any permission from any of them to release their names. ... I don't think you're going to be able to find that out."
Weber defended working behind the coach's back even though Schemmel had said Long would be back.
"We do not want to handle this on the state side. We need to find out if we can find other money. If we could not have, we wouldn't have been able to move forward."
Weber said no state money will be used to pay for the transition.
Before coming to San Diego State, Long spent six seasons on Oklahoma's staff. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up for Iowa to Bo Jackson in 1985.
Long came in with great promise, saying: "We're going to win championships now."
Instead, the Aztecs were 3-9, 4-8 and 2-10 under the former Iowa quarterback.
Sad-sack San Diego State hasn't been to a bowl game in 10 years.
Weber and Don Oberhelman, the senior associate athletic director, praised Long for improving the football program's academics.
"But we also need to win football games and do better every year than we have in the past," Weber said.
In mid-October, days after the Aztecs were embarrassed at New Mexico, Schemmel said he had no plans to fire Long.
Noting a number of injuries and an inherited academic problem that cost the team scholarships, Schemmel said: "We asked him to step into that hole and he's finally digging out of it. ... I'm going to hold him accountable, but, to be fair, I need to hold him accountable when he's got a full plate."
Asked about Schemmel's comments, Weber said: "Well, things change. The fact is that was the middle of the season, that was a time when the season still had some potential bright spots in it. We're now at 2-10. At that time it was still possible we would have an improvement over last year. Obviously that's not where we ended up."
Weber said it was Schemmel's decision to fire Long, "but I support it completely."
The president also said it wasn't a mistake by Schemmel to hire Long in the first place.
"If you look back on that, I think Chuck was a great hire. He had wonderful credentials. There was every reason to believe he could be successful. Now it didn't turn out that he was but no, I don't think it was a mistake at all."
Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.