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Posted on Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

San Diego State coaches try to trick and pay tribute to former colleagues

By Pete Cunningham

San Diego State coach Rocky Long shared a sideline with Michigan coach Brady Hoke for the past two season as Hoke's defensive coordinator for the Aztecs.

On Saturday, Long stood opposite his old friend, but was accompanied by him in another way.

On a large cardboard sign, Long had a picture of Hoke with his first name underneath.

The sign wasn't an inside joke nor a motivational ploy. It symbolized offensive and defensive packages he was trying to disguise from his former colleague.


San Diego State coach Rocky Long found a way to honor his former co-workers and hide signals from the Michigan football team.

Melanie Maxwell |

"They know our signals," Long said after the game, a 28-7 Michigan victory. "So we were trying to figure out a way to signal the defense for our defense without them knowing exactly what we were in, so we started making all these cards."

Long had signs made up for every former San Diego staff member who left with Hoke, including offensive coordinator Al Borges, special teams coordinator Dan Ferrigno, offensive line coach Darrell Funk, wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski, linebackers coach Mark Smith as well as administrators.

The sign marked "Brady" was used for goal-line plays and short-yardage situations.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and running back Vincent Smith said the signs did have an effect on the offense, but probably not in the way Long had envisioned.

"Everyone was in the huddle laughing, like, 'Look at this guy. They have the pictures of our coaches up there,' " Robinson said.

While mostly for strategic reason, Long admitted the signs were a way to pay tribute to his former colleagues.

"It was our way of telling them how much we miss them," Long said. "It was really a tribute to them because we’re all friends and we know they’re going to do a great job."

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Mon, Sep 26, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Disappointing that the BTN didnt pick p any of these Hoke signs during the game.... But then again they also never noticed Woolfolk was out of the game either...


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Good win by Michigan and I enjoyed watching two classy (and my #1 &amp; #2 alltime favorite teams) playing against each other again since 2004. Now I can understand why Hoke and the coaches didn't want to play SDSU that so soon out of respect for their former players and colleagues. TiM GO BLUE! GO AZTECS! (I grew up rooting for Santos, Hewitt, Slaughter, Faulk, McGwire and was thrilled when SDSU hired Hoke with full knowledge and confidence that Hoke will turn that program around which he did and now we have Hoke at the helm at Michigan, wooooo). Nothing new...what's his name is still making the rounds about missing Denard and more: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

I love the respect that both the coaches and players of both teams exuded before, during, and after the game. Both are class acts. I am so proud to be a Wolverine, and that feeling was absolutely heightened during this game. Seeing the respect on the field between these two teams really struck a chord with me. This was one of the highlights of the entire game. I wish much success for San Diego State and their coaches. GO BLUE!!!

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

I think the Aztecs were flat today, and this focus on Hoke is probably the reason. I feel bad for them, because it's a class organization. But you have to know at a mid-major that when you have an up-and-coming coach - especially one who has indicated his goal is to coach in a specific place - you're probably not going to keep him very long.


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

Yeah, that's just cool - and classy. We are very lucky to &quot;inherit&quot; part of Sand Diego State's coaching staff: they ALL behave like real men with real character. Seems that not a week has passed since Coach Hoke arrived last January without some new sign or some new confirmation that he and his staff are the Leaders and Best. So maybe the value of having sunk so low is more appreciated now that Michigan is on the way back up.


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

That's cool.


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

Who here thinks that WVU coaches (or fans) had similar signs after the former coach left? :-)