San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Hiring of Sean Lewis signals a major shift, refinement for Aztecs football

The former offensive coordinator at Colorado and head coach at Kent State has helmed some of the most dynamic offenses in the country
Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State
Image courtesy of SDSU Athletics. (Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State)

In an era of college football characterized by uptempo play and wide-open offense, San Diego State has had success in playing a style straight out of black-and-white television.

The gritty, grinding running game, coupled with crushing defenses under head coaches Brady Hoke and Rocky Long made for 13-straight seasons of bowl eligibility and three Mountain West titles. For all that success, Hoke’s recent retirement created a chance to evolve the program.

With the hiring of Sean Lewis as the program’s 19th football coach, the Aztecs are adding more than a splash of color, they’re jumping into 4K.

“I’m looking forward to bringing that excitement, that brand of football where we’re lighting up the scoreboard — where we’re being fast, where we’re being balanced — but there’s a brand and an energy to what we bring day-in and day-out,” said Lewis at his introductory press conference on Wednesday morning at Snapdragon Stadium.

His speaking tone and pace seemed to perfectly match up with the style of offenses he’s guided.

Lewis comes to the Mesa after most recently serving as offensive coordinator at Colorado. Before that, he had a five-year stint as head coach at Kent State and served as play-caller and quarterbacks coach at Syracuse.

In each of those stops, he was responsible for amongst the most dynamic offenses in the nation — ones which not only broke program records but completely rewrote their record books.

“I’m a big believer in knowing who you are, clearly defining that so we can establish the culture that we’re going to chase,” Lewis said.

Take his time at Kent State, a program with just eight winning seasons before his arrival and only two bowl berths (both losses) over 56 years at the DI level. With Lewis in charge, the Golden Flashes won the 2019 Frisco Bowl and qualified for the 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

How they succeeded — an offense known as FlashFAST, under which they set program records for plays, total yards, passing yards, rushing yards and first downs in a season in 2021. That came on the heels of leading the nation in yards (606.5) and points (49.75) per game in the shortened 2020 season.

Since 2000, SDSU has had six seasons where they averaged more than 400 yards a game and have not averaged over 300 yards passing per game since the 2002 season.

With Lewis having the success he did at a program with no history of it at Kent State, coming into SDSU will be more a matter of refining culture.

Director of Athletics John David Wicker noted the Aztecs football program has been very focused on defense for the past 13-15 years. He heard the calls for more offense, more excitement and saw the perfect fit in Lewis.

“During our discussions with Sean, it was clear his vision of how to establish a program and culture will fit well within our athletic department,” Wicker said at the press conference. “A culture built around hard work, caring for each other and dedication to the holistic development of the student-athlete.”

Also of note was how well-versed Lewis was in the tradition of SDSU football. In addition to specifically shouting out the peak years of the “Dark Side” defense, he also referenced the historical impact that Don “Air” Coryell had on passing the football.

Lewis has the opportunity to be a similar kind of transformational coach on the Mesa.

As USC and UCLA depart for the Big Ten next season, SDSU will be the lone FBS program in Southern California that competes in a primarily Western conference. With how high caliber the local high school football scene is, it’s easy to envision the newer, uptempo Aztecs as a destination for recruits who want to stay and play closer to home.

There’s also the matter of the coming expansion to a 12-team College Football Playoff, which will open more doors for Group of 5 teams like SDSU to get a shot. Both Lewis and Wicker stated it as more than a possibility, but amongst the competitive goals for the program.

“We’re excited to build on this wonderful tradition and take it to new heights by refining it and making it our own in this AztecFAST style of play so that we can go and have a lot of fun in the process of doing it,” Lewis said.

Like a San Diego morning, the hiring of Sean Lewis looks picture-perfect.

About the Contributor
Eric Evelhoch
Eric Evelhoch, '23-24 Sports Editor
Eric Evelhoch (he/him/his) is a senior media studies major who was born outside of Detroit, Michigan, and lived in Ventura County, California, for a decade-plus. He is a returning college student and transfer from Santa Barbara City College, where he served as Sports Editor for The Channels. Evelhoch is also a Sports Director for KCR College Radio, where he restarted play-by-play coverage post-pandemic. Currently, he serves as the play-by-play broadcaster for the SDSU ACHA DI hockey team and has filled in on the call for Aztecs sports on the Mountain West Network. His prior freelance experience includes print, digital, online video and audio-only, and broadcast radio formats covering football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and volleyball.