Rocky Long retires as Aztecs’ head coach, Brady Hoke to take over

Long retires as the second-winningest head coach in program history (most wins in Mountain West history), along with winning three MW championships and two MW Coach of the Year honors on the Mesa.


Kareem Jones

Rocky Long gives his final interviews to the media as head coach of San Diego State football on Jan. 8.

by Aaron Tolentino, Sports Editor

After 11 seasons at San Diego State and nine as Aztecs football head coach, Rocky Long announced Wednesday he is retiring.

Defensive line coach Brady Hoke will replace Long as the football program’s head coach, Athletic Director J.D. Wicker said.

“I want to thank everyone at this university and this community that has allowed us to be successful,” Long said. “I’ve been a head coach for 20 years. It’s time. I love coaching, but I don’t love everything that head coaches have to do. It’s time for me to leave.”

Wednesday’s press conference was probably the closest the public will get to seeing a guy like Long get emotional and almost shed a tear.

Those who’ve played for Long at SDSU took to social media in reaction to the news.


Long said the best part of the program has been the great young men he was able to coach.

“Because they’re not in school, I would have rather done it in person. I sent out a personal text to all of them today,” Long said. “They know where I’m coming from. Some people don’t understand this: a coach and player, we have a special bond and a special relationship that no one else needs to know about.”

The process and how Long reached the decision to retire

With The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweeting Wednesday morning there was disagreement between Long and administration about making staff changes, it is interesting Long would make the decision to retire now.

Long, who guided the Aztecs to a program-record of nine straight bowl appearances (one of five coaches nationally to accomplish such feat), told Wicker he was pondering the decision even before the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 21.

After coming back from Christmas vacation, Long told Wicker he was going to retire. Once he mentioned he was retiring from SDSU to his friends who were college coaches, Long received phone calls about a coaching job elsewhere.

There were reports that Long was in contact with other schools about defensive coordinator jobs, so Long has not ruled out the possibility of coming back to coach – just not as head coach.

Long said he listened to those coaches inquiring about those jobs and even visited a couple of those schools. That’s where the tweet from Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports on Monday saying Long visited Syracuse stems from.

What are the chances Long returns to coaching at a different program?

“As of this point, I’m retired, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to listen to anything they have to say,” Long said. “I’m tired of being the head coach, but I love coaching. The most fun I’ve had coaching was when I coached the DBs and coaching the secondary and coaching the defense for Brady Hoke.”

Don’t rule out the possibility of Long returning as a defensive coordinator or positional coach on the defense.

Brady Hoke gives his first interviews as SDSU’s head coach.

Brady Hoke is SDSU’s 17th and 19th head coach

Wicker wasn’t sure whether to call him the 17th or 19th head coach of the Aztecs since this is Hoke’s second stint at the position.

Either way, Hoke was the Aztecs’ head coach from 2009 to 2010 and compiled a 13-12 record before leaving to be Michigan’s head coach. That’s when Long took over as head coach at the Mesa.

After stints at Oregon, Tennessee and most recently in the NFL as the Panthers’ defensive line coach, Long brought back Hoke for the same position in 2019. Nine years later, Hoke returned to SDSU.

After one season coaching SDSU’s defensive line, Hoke was named head coach after assuming the same position 10 years earlier.

Number one, I want to thank you coach Long. It was fun for me this year,” he said. “It was fun 10 years ago when Rocky was calling the defense. I want to thank him for the opportunity to come back. It was probably one of the (most fun) years I’ve had in coaching.”

Hoke and Long’s friendship dates back to the early 1990s while the two were at Oregon State.

It shows.

“It’s time for a new face – even though it’s not a pretty face – and a new voice,” Long said with a bit of fun about Hoke taking over the program.

Hoke does inherit a staff of coaches that have been a part of the recent winning culture under Long when the program notched four 10-win seasons in the last five years. The program only had eight 10-win seasons in the last 50 years, and Long was responsible for half of them.

Questions surround what Hoke’s plans are moving forward in regards to the current coaching staff.

“We’ll meet tomorrow and talk about where we’re at and what direction we want to go. I was taught a long time ago that a leader has to choose their team,” Hoke said. “I think the (coaches) here, the guys I’ve had a privilege to work with, are good men. I’m excited about those meetings tomorrow.”