San Diego State is scheduled to begin in its coronavirus-delayed football season Saturday evening against UNLV at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, its home for this season and next as SDCCU Stadium is demolished and Aztec Stadium is built.
San Diego State initially planned to make 2020 its final season at SDCCU Stadium, where it had played since 1967, but being able to expedite its demolition and construction of Aztec Stadium and the stadium’s condition when the university took ownership of it from the city prompted a change of plans, according to athletic director John David Wicker.
“The building was not in very good condition when we took it over,” Wicker said at a Sept. 15 news conference announcing the decision. “The amount of effort and dollars to get it up to speed to have people able to come in was somewhat challenging.”
The university considered a site in San Diego to play its games until the planned opening of Aztec Stadium in 2022, “but when you think about a Division 1 football experience and all of the different things that go along with that there wasn’t a venue in town that was going to be consistently available for us to play in,” Wicker said.
“We just didn’t think there were any venues in San Diego that could satisfy what we wanted to present for our student-athletes and also our fans,” Wicker said.
“As you think about some of the things around the game, our television partners and having the ability to come in and set up and do the television experience we want to put out led us to where we are today.”
Fans will not be allowed to attend Saturday’s game because of state health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. It is unlikely they will be able to attend the Aztecs’ three other games in 2020 at the 27,000-seat stadium, best known in the San Diego area as the home to the Los Angeles Chargers from 2017-19.
The game marks the start of Brady Hoke’s second stint as San Diego State’s coach. He succeeds Rocky Long, who retired on Jan. 8, then on Jan. 27 was hired as New Mexico’s defensive coordinator on his 70th birthday.
Hoke coached San Diego State to a 13-12 record in 2009 and 2010, including a 35-14 victory over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, the Aztecs’ first bowl game since 1998.
Hoke then coached Michigan from 2011-14, getting fired in 2014 after the Wolverines were 7-6 and 5-7 in his final two seasons. They were 11-2 and 8- 5 in his first two.
Hoke returned to San Diego State in 2019 as the defensive line coach.
The Aztecs return seven starters on offense and eight on defense from a team that went 10-3 in 2019, including a 48-11 victory over Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Carson Baker is set to make his second career start for the Aztecs. He completed 19 of 24 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown in a 13-3 victory over Brigham Young in the regular-season finale.
The game also marks Marcus Arroyo’s debut as UNLV’s coach. Arroyo succeeds Tony Sanchez, who was fired after posting a 20-40 record over six seasons, including 4-8 records each of his final two seasons.
Sanchez was Oregon’s assistant head coach and offensive coordinator in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
–City News Service