San Diego State is one of only three Division I-A teams in talent-rich Southern California, yet top-flight players can't wait to leave America's Finest City. Heisman winners Marcus Allen (USC, 1981) Rashaan Salaam (Colorado, 1994), Ricky Williams (Texas, 1998) and Reggie Bush (USC, 2005) grew up within a 15-mile radius of San Diego State, but none even gave the Aztecs a look.
A bad economy combined with fielding a consistent loser has put a drain on the athletic department, forcing San Diego State to take the cheap route in hiring Hoke, who is drawing an annual salary of $675,000, which ranks seventh in the nine-team Mountain West Conference. Chuck Long, Hoke's predecessor, was given an annual salary of $700,000 when hired in 2005.
San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa is already giving Hoke a mixed review after learning of the coach's plan to keep the media at arm's length. Canepa wrote this last Wednesday: "Hoke will send the Aztecs through their first round of spring drills starting today and will do so in isolation, as if he's running Area 51. He has closed all but the first 35 minutes of all practice sessions — including this spring's — to the area media horde (which basically amounts to one reporter a day) that might disrupt his team's concentration.
"My first impressions of Brady Hoke are beyond favorable. He has that effect on people. 'I'm down with that guy,' says Padres GM Kevin Towers, who played golf with the affable coach not long ago.
"But this isn't a good start. This is a mistake."
Canepa continued: "Me, I can't stand football practice. But at this point in time, when Hoke's taking over a beleaguered program that hasn't had a winning season or been to a bowl game in more than 10 years, it would seem the school can use some pub if it hopes to recruit and remain alive as a Division I-A football school.
"USC has a fair football program. Want to watch the Trojans practice? Go right ahead. Pete Carroll doesn't close the gates. You can walk right in. The media isn't going to get SC beat. ... In 1977, Claude Gilbert's Aztecs finished nationally ranked. We didn't just watch practices; we sat in on coaches' meetings. Maybe that's why they were 10-1 instead of 11-0."
Thanks to Mike.