SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State football coach Rocky Long was at his bank a few days ago when he suddenly had an opportunity to promote the only remaining major football team in town. The five tellers, he said, had been Chargers fans, and the NFL team had just announced it was moving to Los Angeles after 56 seasons in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State football coach Rocky Long was at his bank a few days ago when he suddenly had an opportunity to promote the only remaining major football team in town.
The five tellers, he said, had been Chargers fans, and the NFL team had just announced it was moving to Los Angeles after 56 seasons in San Diego.
"They asked me what they were going to do now," Long said Thursday, when he agreed to a five-year contract extension through 2021. "I said, 'That's simple. You come watch us play.' They said, 'We don't know how to do that.' I said, "OK, the first game I'm bringing you five tickets. I'm going to tell you how to get there, where to park and what to do, and after you have a good time, which you will, you'll have to buy our tickets.' And they all agreed to that deal."
Long's extension was announced exactly a week after the Chargers announced they were moving, leaving a huge hole in the city's psyche and sports landscape.
The Aztecs hope they can fill that void with a team coming off consecutive 11-3 seasons and a No. 25 ranking in the final Associated Press poll for the first time in 30 years.
New athletic director John David Wicker said extending Long "was the easiest decision I've ever made."
Long, 66, said the extension gives stability to the recruiting process.
Both men said the Aztecs need to win over the fans spurned by the Chargers.
"It's a sad deal to see the Chargers leave," Long said. "I think that kind of puts a hole in things as far as the community goes and the way people look at football, but then again I also look at it as an opportunity. There are a lot of really good football fans in this town who maybe don't want to drive four or five hours to see a football game when they can see a pretty good product right here at home and maybe they'll become fans of our team. I think college football has a lot of things to offer that pro football does not. And it's still a high-caliber of football.
"We are the only show in town right now for all those people who love to watch football and we plan on that helping us be better than we have been in the past."
The Chargers and their surrogates have tried to promote L.A. as being "only" a two-hour drive, which most San Diegans know is virtually impossible. Long said he had just met with someone who had spent five hours on the freeway from Los Angeles because heavy rain had snarled traffic.
Long is 54-26 in six seasons and has led the Aztecs to a bowl game each year. The Aztecs have won consecutive Mountain West titles and a share of a third title during his tenure.
SDSU was a secondary tenant at aging Qualcomm Stadium, where the Chargers got the revenue from premium seating and advertising. With the Chargers gone, the Aztecs will now benefit from that revenue for their games. The Chargers tried unsuccessfully for years to get a large public subsidy for a new stadium.
Wicker said the Aztecs have two years remaining on their lease with the city and are working on a two-year extension.. There has been talk of SDSU and an MLS ownership group combining to build a new, smaller stadium at the site of the 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium.
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