Craft fired by SDSU after 5-7 season

Updated: December 6, 2005, 2:41 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press