Two San Diego State Universities: The Power of Winning

I’m new to State. I moved into the College Area in 2008 and quickly adopted them. I’m not an alumni. I didn’t grow up in San Diego. They are just the school that’s near my house and I enjoy going to football and basketball games.

At the same time, living so close to campus, I regularly interact with current students. And I’m on campus several times weekly.

Post-WWII – 2009

SDSU’s identity was marked by a commuter campus and feel. Academically, it was just like a lot of the schools in the state system. But locally, SDSU was a distant 3rd place in people’s minds behind University of San Diego and UCSD. Those places were seen as places of excellence and SDSU was the practical, workmanlike place to go.

These times were known for middle of the road academics with some bright spots. Certain departments won major awards, things like that.

State has long been him to a diverse student population which carried and even found an identity in the party school label. Not nearly as wild as Chico State but probably comparable to Fresno State, San Jose State, etc. Talk to any alumni of this time and they’ll quickly tell you State was an easy place to get into and a lot of fun if you were into that.

Athletically, there was lots of success years long ago, people who are regularly celebrated at halftime today. And the alumni base from those want to relive the glory days. They’d love to see the teams get to that level again, but have settled themselves to expect less.

In more recent years the storyline seemed to be football and basketball teams that were always coming up just short of the big upset. I’d sit near alumni at games who would reminisce about almost beating Ohio State or UCLA. Any time they are close against a big opponent you can see and hear alumni of this era fretting. They are simply convinced State will find a way to lose.

Fans of this era really like to whine and worry. They are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Brady Hoke left for Michigan and they were certain they’d quickly go back to 0-11. It was inconceivable that Rocky Long could go 8-4, and 9-3 in his first two seasons. And now that he has they are worried he’ll leave or retire or something else. The basketball team has been the best on the west coast for the past several years and they are quick to point to Steve Fisher’s age.

These people love State. They truly do. But their State identity always struggles with negativity. They want to believe State is somehow different. But there is a certain Eeyore effect in their DNA which pulls them back. Everything is a bother… even present day winning.

2009 – Present

The fun part of this post is that if you were to walk around SDSU today you wouldn’t see any of what I just talked about.

Since 2009, State has gone through a massive transition. Walk around and you’d see lots and lots of construction. New academic and housing buildings are popping up all over campus.

Talk to freshmen and sophomores and they’ll tell you State was really hard to get into. Lots of their friends tried to get in but got rejected. In fact, State got more applications for 2012 than any other school in the country, with only UCLA topping them. SDSU is no longer a party school. Sure there are parties but the parties are markedly smaller. Things like Rush are more subdued as the frats have less impact on the feel of the campus.

Athletically, few schools have a better record than SDSU’s major sports teams in the past 3 years. Football is 26-12 since 2010. Basketball is 92-21 since 2009. (Soccer, volleyball, and baseball have been great during this period, as well) As much as the alumni lament about almost beating the big guys… in the past 3 years the sports teams have beaten lots and lots of big guys. The basketball team has 25 consecutive wins against California opponents including 11 straight wins versus PAC-12 teams.

Winning changes everything

The students chant before a game, “I believe that we will win.” At the same time all these students have ever done is win. They expect to win, they are winners, and the lovable loser past of SDSU just doesn’t make sense to them.

Change happens fast

In my world, church leaders often doubt change can happen fast. The notion is that the best way to see change in an institution is very slowly and patiently work change into what you are already doing. This leads to a pessimistic attitude towards real, foundational change. A church could be crumbling, the staff could all hate their jobs, and they could be in a deep financial hole. But they’d only come up with incremental, small changes as a fix.

It’s simply a false notion that change within a church can only happen slowly. But that doesn’t matter because people believe it to be true.

Just like at SDSU, you could be a present day winner but the people in power could be Eeyore’s.

I know change can happen very quickly. Just like a 100+ years old university can change its attitude about itself and see academic success as the result, a church can do the same thing.

So what’s the formula? Winning.



, ,



2 responses to “Two San Diego State Universities: The Power of Winning”

  1. Byron Espinoza Avatar
    Byron Espinoza

    Great posting! I’m Class of 1997, and I’m definitely guilty of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  2. […] With that said, the current SDSU point system is struggling to adapt to an exploding fan base. Starting in about 2009, the football and basketball programs have gone on a tear, moving from regional doormat to a blossoming national awareness. The net effect has been that there are two different San Diego State fan bases. […]

Leave a Reply