San Diego State happy to rinse off the sports stink

Tue, Dec 21

These days it's good to be an Aztec. But it hasn't always been that way.

While Steve Fisher's undefeated San Diego State basketball has jumped into the Top 10 for the first time ever -- SDSU had never even appeared in the Top 25 before this season -- and the football team Thursday will play in its first bowl game since 1998, things have mostly been black for the Red & Black for a long, long time. SDSU, which had been referred to as a "sleeping giant" for years, was more like a comatose gnome, churning through coaches and losing seasons. Consider:

• After Cal lost to SDSU 22-20 in 1994, a distraught Golden Bears quarterback Dave Barr said: "How do you deal with this? I mean, we lost to San Diego Stinkin' State."

• After his football team had outscored New Mexico 21-17 in the second half -- en route to losing 47-24 in 2005 -- coach Tom Craft proudly declared: "We won the second half."

• Indeed, the Aztecs have endured many heartbreaking losses during a star-crossed recent history on the gridiron.

• In 1991-92, the basketball team lost its final 21 games in a 2-26 season, one of 13 losing seasons in 14 years before Fisher's arrival. In the final pre-Fisher season of 1998-99, the Aztecs were 4-22 and averaged 3,189 fans per game.

• The coach for the last seven games of that 1991-92 season was Jim Harrick Jr. Yes, that Jim Harrick Jr.

• On the day Fisher was hired in 1999, the Associated Press reported Fisher was taking over "at lowly San Diego State." At the news conference that day, SDSU athletic director Rick Bay looked at the media and said, "This is more people than we normally have at basketball games."

So, pardon the Aztecs if they toot their own horn. After all, the aroma of a Poinsettia Bowl berth and a No. 7 basketball ranking is much sweeter than the "stink" of years past.