Rocky Long, the second-winningest coach in the Mountain West Conference, has been named the 18th head coach in San Diego State football history, Aztec director of athletics Jim Sterk announced Wednesday.
Long has 37 years of coaching experience, with 11 as the head coach at University of New Mexico from 1998-2008. He has coached in seven bowl games, including SDSU’s 35-14 win over Navy in last month’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Excitement for a bright future
“We are very excited about the hiring of Rocky Long as our head football coach,” Sterk said. “In the past two years, coach Long has been an integral part of this program’s dramatic rise. We see only a bright future for San Diego State under his direction and will continue to produce student-athletes of strong character.”
Long has served the past two years as the defensive coordinator at San Diego State and has been instrumental in its drastic improvement in the defense. Prior to his arrival, the Aztecs ranked 112th in pass efficiency defense, 113th in total defense and scoring defense, and 118th in rushing defense. In two short seasons, Long brought SDSU into the top 60 in all four defensive categories, highlighted by a No. 20 spot in pass efficiency defense in 2010.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Rocky Long has accepted our offer to become the Aztecs next head coach,” said SDSU President Stephen L. Weber. “He has played a key role in the program’s transformation and is exactly the right person to take us to the next level of success.
“Over the past two years, the SDSU football program has recaptured the Aztec spirit. We owe much of the credit for this to Brady Hoke. We offer Brady Hoke our thanks and our best wishes at Michigan. He has helped turn around our football program around in two years, and it is now on a firm foundation for the future.”
Long helped San Diego State finish with a 9-4 record in 2010, the school’s most wins in a campaign since the 1977 squad went 10-1. The Aztecs posted their first winning season in 12 years and won their first bowl game since 1969.
In his two years at SDSU, Long has coached six players to all-MWC honors, including 2010 first-team selections junior Miles Burris and sophomore Leon McFadden.
At New Mexico, Long compiled a school-record 65 victories and led the Lobos to five bowl game appearances in his final seven seasons, despite inheriting a team that had three winning seasons the previous 15 years. His teams were bowl eligible in seven of his final eight campaigns.
Long, the 2002 Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year, has earned a national reputation for producing one of the nation’s stingiest defensive units. In his final nine seasons in Albuquerque, Long’s defensive units ranked among the top 30 in fewest yards allowed six times and among the top 40 nationally against the rush every year. In addition, six times his units were among the top 26 in fewest rushing yards allowed per game, including fifth-place finishes in both 2001 and 2003.
While at New Mexico, he coached 10 players selected in the NFL draft, 10 players who earned All-America honors since 2001 and 34 first-team all-conference selections since 2003. He’s been on the winning side of the San Diego State-New Mexico series for 10 consecutive seasons (eight with New Mexico, two with SDSU).
Prior to accepting the head coaching position at New Mexico, Long served as defensive coordinator for 12 seasons at three different schools. He was the defensive coordinator for two years under Bob Toledo at University of California Los Angeles in 1996-97, for five seasons at Oregon State University from 1991-95, and for five campaigns at University of Wyoming from 1981-85.
He also served as an assistant coach at Texas Christian University, with the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia team and started his career at New Mexico as a graduate assistant coach in 1972.
More about Long
Originally a defensive back, Long became a three-year starter at quarterback for the Lobos from 1969-71. He earned team MVP honors three times and was the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year as a senior. He is a 1974 graduate of New Mexico and was awarded an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
Long and his wife, Debby, have two daughters, Roxanne and Hannah.