The Daily Aztec

LEWIS’ LAW: Long keeps commitment to academics a priority

by Staff

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The response from Chuck Long wasn’t definitive enough to believe it was true.

The San Diego State football team head coach’s one word answer, “No,” just lacked a certain emphasis.

There just wasn’t enough force and truthfulness behind his claim that recruiting athletes based on their ability to succeed in the classroom wasn’t hurting his team’s play.

But it’s the way Long coaches, and it’s that kind of style that likely earned him his job as head coach in the first place.

“I’m a big believer in what you do off the field and what you do on the field are very similar,” Long said. “If you’re taking care of business off the field then you’re taking care of business on the field. And that’s what we’re teaching here.”

It’s a way of coaching that has probably cost Long several key recruits and, most notably, several wins.

But it’s also one that has garnered him respect.

Since Long arrived at SDSU, the number of Scholar-Athletes has increased from 10 in 2004, to 24 in 2007. Long has also seen his player graduation rates increase to 70 percent, including 79 and 77 percent in the two most recent years. In addition to his graduation rates ranking second in the Mountain West Conference, his team’s 2008 grade-point average ranks second highest ever by an Aztec football team.

“There’s been a lot of attrition here over the years,” Long said. “Take our senior class, for example, there’s only seven left out of 26. But now we’re starting to keep guys in our program and let them grow through the program and that was our master plan.”

So far, the program is working well. Out of the classes Long has recruited, 42 out of the 43 players are still at SDSU. And while he may have sacrificed talent for brains, he still has fielded a team full of great athletes.

Long rattled off seven starters, and probably could have gone on longer, who have made an impact both on and off the field in their careers. Athletes such as defensive end B.J. Williams, captains Russell Allen and Mike Schmidt and even running back Brandon Sullivan were included in his list of Scholar-Athletes.

“My belief is if you look hard enough and recruit well and you’re diligent about it,” Long said, “you’re going to find those kids that are academically sound and good athletes and good football players.”

So while Long’s teams may have lost twice in three years to Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) Cal Poly, at least he’s going about fielding a team the right way.

And you have to respect that.

-Edward Lewis is a journalism sophomore.

-This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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