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Craft fired by SDSU after 5-7 season

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego State football coach Tom Craft was
fired Monday after failing to post a winning record in four
seasons, and athletic director Jeff Schemmel promised to hire a
replacement "who can excite the community."

Craft, who played quarterback for the Aztecs in the mid-1970s
and was their offensive coordinator a decade ago, was 19-29 in four
seasons as head coach. His best finish was 6-6 in 2003.

San Diego State lost 49-38 at Hawaii on Saturday night to finish
5-7.

"Give Tom a lot of credit. I think the program's better than it
was before," Schemmel said. "But I just thought it lacks some
positive energy, and certainly a positive energy that the community
can get excited about."

Craft had one season left on his contract. He's expected to be
reassigned within the athletic department at his base pay of
$148,000. He had been making $400,000 a year in total compensation.

"I took this job to resurrect the program," Craft said in a
statement released by the university. "I saw it through some of
the darkest days with pride and dignity. I'm only sorry that I
won't be allowed to see the sun break through. I'm confident that
we have accomplished the rebuilding process here. I'm an Aztec and
I will always want what is best for the program."

Schemmel hopes to hire a replacement by Christmas. He wouldn't
comment on possible candidates, but speculation ranged from Rick
Neuheisel, the former Washington and Colorado coach, to Bobby
Hauck, coach at Division I-AA Montana.

Schemmel used to work at Kansas State, so any disciple of
recently retired Bill Snyder might have a chance.

Neuheisel was fired by Washington for betting on the NCAA
basketball tournament and then sued the university and the NCAA,
winning a $4.5 million settlement. He's now the quarterbacks coach
of the Baltimore Ravens.

Neuheisel didn't return a call to his office.

Ravens head coach Brian Billick told reporters Monday that he
imagines Neuheisel's name "would be at the top of a lot of
people's lists.

"I have not heard from Rick on this regard," Billick said.
"If it were to come up, Rick and I will sit down, we'll put a
structure to it that allows him to do his job. I've been through
this with a couple other coaches, so I've got some familiarity how
we can get through that and satisfy everybody's needs."

Schemmel said university president Stephen L. Weber will allow
him to spend somewhere between $400,000 and $1.2 million a year on
a new coach, which is the range of salaries in the Mountain West
Conference. Craft was the league's lowest-paid coach.

Craft had never been a head coach at a four-year school when he
was hired from a local junior college to replace the fired Ted
Tollner in December 2001.

Schemmel said he believes San Diego State can become a top 10
program, based on "what we have in place here, what we can recruit
to here. We've seen what Utah did. They did it, and they have no
more assets than we do. And I would argue that we've got more."

"In this position, you have to ultimately ask yourself the
question of whether the person in charge could get you where you
wanted to go. I think it was time for a change," said Schemmel,
who was hired in July.

Last year, conference rival Utah became the first team from a
non-BCS conference to participate in the Bowl Championship Series,
winning the Fiesta Bowl to finish 12-0.

San Diego State hasn't had a winning season since 1998, when it
went 7-5 and played in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Aztecs have played
in only two bowls in the last 15 seasons.