Musical Coaches: Rocky Long Retires, Brady Hoke Replaces Man who Replaced him As San Diego State Head Coach

Tracy Ringolsby

SAN DIEGO - Nine seasons ago, Rocky Long, a one-time assistant coach to Paul Roach at Wyoming, was promoted from an assistant's job at San Diego State to the head coach, replacing Brady Hoke. Hoke had resigned to become the head coach at Michigan.

On Thursday, the Aztec coaching evolution came full circle.

Long announced his retirement, and San Diego State announced that Hoke will return to the school, replacing Long as the head coach. Hoke had returned to the Aztecs as the defensive line coach the past season.

Rocky Long is the all-time winningest coach in the Mountain West, having compiled a 146-107 record between his nine seasons as the Aztecs head coach and a previous 11-year stint as the head coach at New Mexico. With an 81-38 record at San Diego State, he is the second-winningest coach in Aztec history, trailing only Don Coryell, who was 104-19 from 1961-72.

Long resigned as the head coach at New Mexico after the 1998 season and spent the next two years as the defensive coordinator for Hoke at San Diego State.

"Obviously I've decided to retire from coaching at this point, and I want to thank everybody at this university and in this community that have allowed us to be successful," Long said. "Everybody knows that nobody does it alone and the people in the athletic department as well as the university do everything to support our athletes in order for our athletes to be successful. The culture at this school and in this athletic department is something special.

"Being able to be part of that for the last 11 years, for all those things that that seems like a long time. I've been a head coach for 20 years. It's time. It's time. I love coaching, but I don't necessarily love all the things that head coaches do."

Long was one of four active coaches to lead their current team to a bowl game in each of the last nine seasons, joining Alabama's Nick Saban, Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, and one of five overall to lead a team to a bowl game from 2011-19 (also James Franklin, Vanderbilt/Penn State).

Since Long took over as the defensive coordinator in 2009, San Diego State ranks 11th in rush defense (129.6) and interceptions (163), 14th in total defense (340.4), 20th in scoring defense (22.2), 22nd in turnovers caused (255) and 26th in defensive pass efficiency (122.0).

In Long's final season, the Aztecs finished 10-3, capped by a 48-11 win over Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl. SDSU, which lost its three games by a combined 13 points, is one of 10 schools to win at least 10 games in four of the last five seasons.

Prior to assuming head coaching duties at New Mexico in 1998, Long had coaching stints at UCLA (1996-97), Oregon State (1991-95), TCU (1988-90), CFL's British Columbia Lions (1986-87), Wyoming (1981-85) and New Mexico (1972-73, 1978-80).

Hoke, 61, brings 35 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including 12 seasons as a FBS head coach at Michigan (2011-14), San Diego State (2009-10) and Ball State (2003-08).

"It's a great opportunity." he said. "You never get to do something twice that you really want to do in life. I was very fortunate, Coach Long bringing me back and being back here at San Diego State. I can assure you, we are going to keep going in the direction that we are going, and we always want to be better every day, and that's what we're going to try and do.

"Obviously the hallmarks of San Diego State football is toughness and the effort that we're going to play where, that we're going to go to class with and how we're going to treat each other within our building and on campus, and I think that is important and that's something that Coach Long has done a great job with when you look at the accountability, the commitment, the respect and trust that we all have within this football program."

In his first stint as head coach of the Aztecs, Hoke took over a program that was 9-27 in its previous three seasons (2006-08) and went 13-12 in his two years at San Diego State. In 2010, SDSU finished with a 9-4 record, defeating Navy, 35-14, in the Poinsettia Bowl. It was the Aztecs' first bowl game since 1998 and started a current stretch of 10 straight bowl games for the Aztecs, which is tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the country. As a result, Hoke was named the 2010 Mountain West Coach of the Year.

"As I began the search for our next coach, I knew continuity and the core values and culture of our program were a priority," SDSU director of athletics John David Wicker said. "The foundation built by Rocky and his staff the last nine years, the major factors for our success, the opportunity to get to know Brady over the last year and for him to have a season coaching in the program were key factors leading me to the decision today. Brady believes in the same values that I do. We are here for the total student-athlete experience. Winning on the field, winning in the classroom and ensuring that when young men leave our program, they do so with a degree and the opportunity to be successful in life."

Following his time at SDSU, Hoke served as the head coach at Michigan from 2011-14, leading the Wolverines to a 31-20 record. Hoke, who became Michigan's first head coach to go undefeated at home in his first two seasons since 1901-02, directed the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and a victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in his first year in 2011. For his efforts, Hoke was named the Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year and the George Munger Award Coach of the Year, and was a finalist for three other Coach of the Year honors. Additionally, Hoke was chosen as the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year by both the media and head coaches.

Hoke earned his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Ball State, where he coached for six years, culminating with a 12-1 campaign in 2008 and an undefeated mark in Mid-American Conference play. That season, he led the Cardinals to their first Associated Press top 25 ranking and he was named the 2008 MAC Coach of the Year.

Prior to rejoining the Aztecs in 2019, Hoke served stints with the NFL's Carolina Panthers (defensive line in 2018), and Power 5 programs Tennessee (defensive line in 2017, interim head coach for two games) and Oregon (defensive coordinator in 2016).

Hoke was also Michigan's defensive line coach from 1995-02 and was a part of three Big Ten champion teams (1997, 1998, 2000), including the 1997 national champion and Rose Bowl-winning squad, before his promotion to associate head coach in 2002.

In addition, Hoke had collegiate stints at Oregon State (1989-94), Toledo (1987-88), Western Michigan (1984-86) and Grand Valley State (1983). He began his coaching career as an assistant at Yorktown (Ind.) High School in 1981.

As a student-athlete, Hoke was a defensive standout for Ball State, lettering four times from 1977-80, and serving as team captain his senior season. As a sophomore, he ranked third on the team in tackles and helped the Cardinals to the 1978 MAC championship with an 8-0 record, the only other time Ball State finished a league campaign undefeated prior to 2008. He posted 95 tackles as a junior and a team-high 150 stops as a senior en route to earning second-team all-MAC honors. Hoke earned his bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Ball State in 1982.

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