This article originally appeared on Examiner.com.
On San Diego State's official athletic Web site, a series of ads promoting the upcoming football season has been dubbed "Hoke Rules."
The ads are intended to introduce Aztec fans to new head coach Brady Hoke’s philosophy and his motivational techniques in an effort to raise the putrid program from the dead.
One such rule, Hoke Rule No. 61, simply states: “Believe.”
Uh, Brady, I wish it could be that easy.
Aztec fans are a jilted breed, designed to get excited about the basketball team, and not much else (until Stephen Strasburg came to prominence, Tony Gwynn Stadium was just a nice—but solitary—building).
Oh, don’t get them wrong, they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and been sold on false messiahs in the past.
Why, State’s most recent head coach, Chuck Long? He was supposed to lead them to the promised land after running Oklahoma’s high powered offense earlier this decade and after becoming a finalist for the top assistant coach award in the nation.
Long ran the program (into the ground) for three seasons, finishing with a 9-27 record and leading the school to its first 10-loss season of its history. Bowl games? What are those?
Before that? They had Tom Craft. He did so well at State that his next job was offensive coordinator at Mt. San Antonio Junior College. I guess gym teacher at the local junior high was already filled.
Long gone are the days of Don Coryell and Claude Gilbert. Aztec football has been more conquered than conquistador this past decade, so excuse us for not jumping for joy at the arrival of our next coach.
Hoke’s unimpressive 34-38 career record at Ball State is somewhat obscured by his last season, in which the Cardinals went 12-1, were ranked no. 22 in the BCS and went on to the 2009 GMAC Bowl.
SDSU Athletic Director Jeff Schemmel’s obvious intent is for Hoke to work the same magic he worked at Ball State, where he went from 2-9 to the aforementioned near-perfect run in just five years.
However, keeping in mind Hoke did face inferior conference opposition in his latter seasons at Ball State (the Cardinal’s inclusion in the 2008 MAC Championship Game was the first time since 2003 that a ranked team played in the title match) than he will in the Mountain West.
In 2008, five MWC teams played in bowl games, and conference champ Utah was ranked #2 by the AP en route to a perfect 13-0 finish and a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
TCU (ranked no. 11 by the BCS); on the other hand, defeated previously unbeaten Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl—held at Qualcomm Stadium, mind you—and BYU (ranked no. 16 in the BCS) fell to Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.
And they’re not going away anytime soon. Utah and TCU, especially, look like forces to be reckoned with for years. BYU is a perennial contender, and Air Force’s season was no fluke, either.
The question for San Diego State is how much time they are willing to give Hoke, who has proven able to reverse a sagging program’s failures.
Recruitment needs to be tuned up, the running game needs fixing, and the defense is downright horrid.
To that tune, Hoke Rule No. 59 states: Unbelievable effort isn’t unbelievable. It’s expected.
The head coach’s insistence on believing and enforcing that mantra may very well result in those cynical, scalded fans eventually embracing it.
That, like the Aztecs’ projected turnaround, should also take a long time.
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