Aztec coach didn’t tell players he was fired before UNLV win
SAN DIEGO ” Chuck Long coached San Diego State to a rare victory on Saturday night while keeping it a secret that he’d been fired hours earlier.
While disappointed for himself, Long didn’t want to spoil the moment for his players, who surprised UNLV 42-21 to finish 2-10.
“I have good focus,” Long said on Monday, a day after the school announced his firing. “I knew I had to set that aside because I had a team and staff that was dependent on me to coach to the best of my ability.
“I did not tell the team after the victory,” said Long, who was 9-27 in three seasons and had two years left on his contract. “I wanted them to enjoy that night. For me to tell them that after the game, that would have been a letdown and a downer that they didn’t need. I just wanted them to have their moment of victory and enjoy that night and have some fun. I just felt that would have been selfish of me if I would had taken that away from them.”
Long said he was told Saturday morning by athletic director Jeff Schemmel that he wouldn’t be back. Not quite five weeks earlier, Schemmel had given Long a glowing vote of confidence, saying the coach would be back through 2009.
As disappointed as he was, Long said it was even tougher because of the way the Aztecs played Saturday night.
“They played very well. I know in my heart that we were on the right path and the next two years will bear that out,” he said.
It didn’t get any easier on Sunday. Long watched the online broadcast of the news conference during which SDSU president Stephen Weber detailed how he and Schemmel had spent the previous two weeks working quietly raising just more than $1 million from boosters to help pay off the approximately $1.4 million Long is still owed.
“All I want to say is it was tough to listen to,” Long said.
Asked if he felt as if he’d been stabbed in the back, Long paused, then said: “I’d rather not answer. All I want to say is it was a tough day yesterday. There are all sorts of business decisions that are made in any profession. Ours just happens to be public. It’s a business decision that they made and that’s their prerogative.”
Long, hired in December 2005 with no previous head coaching experience, said he felt the program was heading in right direction despite the lack of wins. He was restoring the Aztecs’ shaky academic standing, which had cost the program some scholarships before his arrival, and was trying to rebuild the right way rather than go for the quick fix.
But he felt he needed more than three years to restore a program that hasn’t been to a bowl game in 10 seasons.
“I knew we needed time,” said Long, the former Iowa quarterback who was runner-up to Bo Jackson in the 1985 Heisman Trophy voting. “I misjudged how fast the city and the school wanted it done. … I ran out of time.”
Schemmel didn’t return calls seeking comment. School officials said Schemmel was in the hospital Sunday with a hip infection.
Long said he’ll check out all job possibilities, whether in a college program or even the NFL.
“I don’t have the ego that says I have to go be a head coach right now or even a coordinator,” said Long, who was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator before being hired by SDSU. “I don’t mind being a position coach if that’s what it is. I don’t have that kind of ego. I love the profession, I love coaching kids. Titles are insignificant to me because I like the profession so much. What I care about is who I’m working for and where I’m going to be.”