Explaining why San Diego State loathes BYU

It was no secret that the Brigham Young Cougars would play in the Poinsettia Bowl this year. Once San Diego State became bowl eligible, it was no secret that bowl organizers were going to invite the hometown Aztecs to be BYU’s bowl opponent. San Diego State and its fans don’t make their feelings about BYU a secret: they don’t just hate BYU, they loathe the Cougars.

This deep hatred was manifest when BYU announced its move to independence. San Diego State was possibly the most vocal Mountain West Conference school criticizing BYU for the move.

The root of this loathing is less well known than the loathing itself, but I think I have figured out why.

BYU has become accustom to opposing fan bases hating them. There are many cultural aspects that make BYU an easy target for animosity. There are also many on the field reasons (cough, losing to BYU, cough). When it comes to losing to BYU, San Diego State just might be the best at it.

It all started around 1978 when the Aztecs joined the Western Athletic Conference and started playing BYU annually. Before joining the WAC, San Diego State was a powerhouse in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA). Between 1969 and 1975, the Aztecs won five PCAA titles. They won eight games or more every year but one during that span. They never had a losing record. In 1976 and 1977, San Diego State was 10-1 each year as an independent.

BYU was the school that gave the Aztecs their only loss in 1976; an 8-0 shutout. You can be sure that that loss was fresh in San Diego State’s mind when they joined the BYU in the WAC just two years later.

The Aztecs were used to being a big fish in a little pond. At the time, the WAC was a bigger pond than the PCAA, but not by much. San Diego State didn’t expect to struggle in their new home.

That first year in the WAC, San Diego State finished 4-7. Included in those seven losses was a 21-3 defeat to eventual WAC Champion BYU. The reward for winning the conference was a berth in the inaugural Holiday Bowl. The site for this new bowl was San Diego State’s home stadium.

Year two in the WAC (1979) went much better for San Diego State. Going into the final week of the season, the Aztecs were 8-2 with just one loss in conference play. All they had to do was win their regular season finale at home, and they would be conference champs and represent the WAC in the Holiday Bowl. The opponent was BYU.

The Cougars were 10-0, which made for a compelling enough match up that ABC broadcasted the game nationally. BYU embarrassed San Diego State on national television. BYU scored with ease. The Cougars' first three possessions totaled six plays, but BYU scored three touchdowns. It was 21-0, and the game was barely eight minutes old. The final score was 63-14.

After that game, San Diego State football was never the same. They had their second losing season (4-8) in 1980. It became a good year if the Aztecs had a winning record. It was a really good year if they won eight games. San Diego State had won nine games in a single season six times in the nine years before they joined the WAC. They wouldn’t win nine games again until 2010.  

It may have happened before the 1979 fiasco, but definitely after that game, San Diego State must have made a conscious decision to do whatever it took to beat BYU. That became the number one objective in San Diego State football. The Aztecs were 0-3 against BYU in the last four years, and they had been outscored 92-17 in those games. If San Diego State was going to be the powerhouse it once was, then they absolutely must beat BYU.

After falling to BYU 35-11 to start that forgettable 1980 season, San Diego State went after the mastermind behind the BYU offense: Doug Scovil. Scovil was hired to be the Aztecs’ head football coach in 1981.

The results didn’t change.

1981: L, 27-7
1982: L, 58-8
1983: L, 47-12
1984: L, 34-3
1985: L, 28-0

The man who had pinned nearly 100 points on the Aztecs in two games could only muster 30 in five years while on the other sideline. To make matters worse, the 1982 and 1983 blowouts were administered by a BYU quarterback that Scovil had scorned in 1980 while he was still in Provo.

The ushering out of Scovil ushered in San Diego State’s most successful era against BYU. On November 29, 1986, San Diego State finally beat BYU, 10-3. Not only was it the Aztecs first win over BYU since the “glory days” (1970), the win officially ended BYU’s 10 year run as WAC champs and gave San Diego State its first WAC Championship.   

BYU would beat San Diego State the next year, 38-21, but, in that game, Aztec quarterback Todd Santos broke the NCAA record for most passing yards in a career. The game was in Provo, and BYU did not stop the game to recognize Santos

San Diego State would beat BYU the next year in 1988, 27-15, to give the Aztecs a 2-1 record from 1986-88. It is the only three year stretch that San Diego State can boast a winning record against BYU. As bad as BYU was during the three losing seasons under Gary Crowton, BYU was still 4-0 versus San Diego State in his tenure. The three seasons that NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk played for the Aztecs, the series record was 1-1-1. That tie was as good as a loss.

In 1991, San Diego State jumped out to a 45-17 third quarter lead only to see Ty Detmer bring BYU back to tie the game 52-52 in the final minute of the game. Earlier that season, Detmer had broken Santos’ NCAA record for passing yards in a career. Against San Diego State, Detmer broke three of Santos’ other NCAA records. By tying, San Diego State lost an opportunity to win the WAC and go back to the Holiday Bowl.

Getting back to Faulk, he was just one of many NFL players who passed through the San Diego State system from 1978-2010 (the last year these two teams met). In total, 75 San Diego State Aztecs have been drafted by the NFL since the 1979 draft. Webster Slaughter, Dan McGwire, and Az-Zahir Hakim all played for San Diego State during the decades BYU dominated the Aztecs. McGwire was a quarterback drafted in the first round, but the Cougars still crushed San Diego State 62-34 his senior season.

It’s not like San Diego State didn’t have talent. The Aztecs always have talented, NFL caliber players. When it comes to helping them beat BYU, all that pro talent has been nearly meaningless.

Since 1976 when BYU and San Diego State started playing regularly, BYU holds a 26-5-1 advantage. San Diego State has never won two in a row. The Aztecs tried every trick in the book, but nothing has brought sustained success.

BYU’s Holiday Bowl run of seven straight and 11 in 15 years compounds the negative feelings.

It was poetic justice that after San Diego State made such a stink about the Cougars leaving the MWC, a 1-4 BYU team that couldn’t beat its way out of a wet paper bag (at that point in the season) beat a 3-1 San Diego State team, 24-21, in a game that had a controversial call go in BYU’s favor. The 2010 season was San Diego State’s most successful season since 1977, but rather than enjoy the season they could not let go of that one play early in October.

For over 30 years, BYU has constantly been a nemesis for San Diego State, and that is why they loathe the Cougars.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com


  1. Interesting read. Didn't know all of that before the controversial game. Thanks for the context

    1. About Aztec Year Two in the WAC, and the 63-14 drubbing. Coach Gilbert announced well in advance that he planned to use multiple blitz attack schemes. That must've made then-BYU Off Coord Scovil's his mouth water.

      BYU's offensive line held long enough to complete plenty of long passes. Enough said.

  2. Kind of like how BYU loathes University of Utah.

    1. Not exactly the same thing, but things are getting bad with the U. BYU needs wins against Utah very soon.

  3. Too bad you didn't cover the little incident where a SDSU plant on the BYU sidelines was running around yelling racist things, so SDSU could create some narrative about BYU, and how the plot was exposed for what it was. I'm sure that egg on the face added a little to the hate.

  4. As an Aztec fan its painful to acknowledge how true all of this is. But, just to get a jab in, you forgot to mention how we beat you guys in Provo in 2000. I played for that team...and it sure was fun seeing all those fans go quiet. While we're on the topic, I had a number of pretty ugly things yelled at me from the stands and heard some racist comments as well directed towards my teammates. Pretty sure that's an honor code violation.

    See you on December 20th!

    1. I am sorry to hear about how the fans treated you and your teammates. That behavior is inexcusable.

      That 2000 game is a particularly tough loss.

  5. History is just that. It will be interesting to see if YBU has made any upward progress since they left the MWC.

  6. Nobody likes to lose so often, but there are other teams that have beaten us (like UCLA) where we don't have the negative feelings that do for BYU. We feel that BYU has an unfair advantage using players two years older. We feel that BYU minimized the ethical behavior on the video replay (honor code?). We feel that playing for a tie by kicking a PAT instead of going for the win with a try for two, was just to keep us out of the holiday bowl.

    We feel your fans are self righteous and not like the LDS members we meet in life.

    I think your premise that we do not like you because you have won so many games is a complete misunderstanding.

    1. You have misunderstood my premise. All the reasons you mentioned are what I meant when I said "There are many cultural aspects that make BYU an easy target for animosity."

      I understand that there are other reasons.

      It is not about winning so many games. That is only half of it.

      My premise was that BYU has won so many games ...

      1. Despite equal, if not superior, talent on the SDSU sideline (read future NFL players)
      2. Despite SDSU hiring the mastermind of the BYU offense, SDSU did not become more competitive with BYU.
      3. Almost all of the big moments in the series went in BYU's favor.

      Not all WAC/MWC schools can say the same thing.

      I think we have to admit, there is a very unique set of dynamics between BYU and SDSU that isn't present with other schools, and since the series has been so lopsided it has resulted in such negative feelings on the SDSU side.

    2. Hiring Doug Scovil was a good choice. Aztec football had lost lost its way. San Diego without air power? Our Navy learned to fly here. Top Gun. Charles Lindbergh. Scovil returned Aztec air power to respectability. Scovil built our championship team (another fact you omitted). HIs incompetent replacement set us back 10 yrs.

      Scovil's air attacks were awesome. I still mourn his loss. Scovil could not recruit like our Savior. He never had time to build things his way.

      I watched a BYU quarterback during a game here when SDSU won the championship. Protected by the front, he was good. But pressured, flushed, if throwing downfield, he was inaccurate, weak armed, and very vulnerable. Twice in one game Aztecs drove him and his replacement off the field. Edwards ended up switching them back & forth.

      This BYU team also hosted Percecet defensive line. The star of that line has 13 labels here attributed to him. Ask him re that. It took two tackles to keep him away from Santos.

      Each school is stacked with tradition; each is loved equally by alumni.

      I'm gonna email you directly.

      What really steams me is Replaygate; addressed below. Having LDS officials "help" BYU win is like inviting death to serve communion. It's a reputation killer you can't explain away.

      Your readers deserve to know how others view BYU because of things like that.

  7. While touting BYU's reputation you omitted facts. Nothing against LDS religion as I that as I too worship Jesus Christ. BYU has the older player advantage. Post-missionary players are in better shape. While riding 10-speeds, muscles, endurance and size increase, while avoiding football pounding. Tell me this isn't a huge advantage. I've watched these guys run like the wind. They become USMC material.

    There's the pathetically pathetic WAC referees. Then those blind mice getting hired by MWAC to continue "questionable" calls. Had there been video challenges back then, these games would not have been lopsided. You can bet your laptop on less wins too. The 52-52 tie included bad calls. These "impartial" refs enabled BYU to dominate games. Yellow flags dictated BYU ball control. Don't get me started on BYU cheap shots either. Like watching defamed NHL'er Sean Avery style play.

    How about the Percocet-fueled defensive line? That team brought publicity BYU wanted to bury like scoreboard lights going out after Aztec victories. That team was highjacking prescriptions but only busted post-season. Remembering BYU's perfection, how they buried other teams with prejudice. I wonder how the coaching staff never became suspicious. NO team cannot feel pain. How many 'scripts were diverted; how many pills, kept that line going play after play? Anybody monitoring those players' livers for acetaminophen damage?

    BYU is also hated by many other teams and their fans besides the Aztecs. Perhaps you might think, and consider your school's LDS Faith and what The Good Book says about gloating. LaVelle Edwards never could stop himself from running up a score. Was it owning all the records? Pride & Proud? Explain why BYU teams of his era HAD to score two, three, four times in the final two minutes when already ahead by 21+ points and accumulating double stats in all categories? With Faith comes Honor. Did Edwards & his team get a buzz like sneaking away from campus for a triple espresso at Provo's altitude? That sarcasm is meant so you can feel what I felt watching those games. NOT as a personal dig against BYU's Code Of Conduct.

    I admire your school for many things. It takes real guts for a BYU coach to bench a player for breaking Code Rules when the season hangs in the balance. That Code also exists in another form. It's the respect a winning team shows when it pounds its opponent into the field. When the games all but over, and just the fan shouting remains, REAL teams don't go about lifting their legs & marking their wins like BYU has so many times. Not only here in "Sun" Diego, but wherever BYU has dominated in its win. Why do you really think other teams BYU embarrasses want BYU to lose so much that they've encouraged SDSU to beat BYU?

    If it were as personal as you write it, then nobody here would've supported BYU in all those Holiday Bowl victories. That isn't it. Look back at your scores, but from a Community College micro economics level than the macro score says. The past is the present, in black and white. Hopefully on December 20, 2012, history won't repeat itself. SDSU deserves a win to make up for all those blown calls, for Edwards bad karma. Instead, I'd simply prefer we earn the win. If even by a single point. In a clean game with few flags and no injuries. I don't like loathing, no matter what the reason nor how justified as in this case it is.

    1. First, missions are not an advantage. Plain and simple. If you disagree, then convince the SDSU coaching staff to start recruiting more LDS players who will serve missions.

      "LaVelle Edwards never could stop himself from running up a score."

      This is a false statement. I saw many games that BYU could have scored many more points, but Edwards called off the dogs.

      I am looking forward to a good game and hope there are no controversies either way.

    2. Hello, I was looking forward to reading your comments.

      La Velle Edwards NEVER stopped himself from running up scores on Aztec games. He may have called off the dogs against other teams, but not SDSU. Not while on national tv when there's an impressionable audience. A high school kid wants to belong to a winning college. A winning college which rubs it in the way Edwards did makes a very strong statement. "You come with us, you win big. You go with them, you will lose HUGE. On national tv. Now make up your mind..." Easy choice to make. LDS or otherwise.

      As for the missions. They are an advantage, and I'm by far not the only one saying so. Listen to SDSU announcers talk about this when they see a BYU kid fly down the field. They look at the press kit, then read off that he "just completed his mission" before continuing his education at BYU. Come on...

      Likewise, it's impossible for SDSU to recruit those same LDS kids. A guy has to be very disenchanted with his LDS Faith to turn down BYU at that point. Or perhaps would the rare choice be made that SDSU offers a higher academic advantage or scholarship he can't get at BYU? Doubtful.

      I wish you'd responded to my other points; er, facts. LIke the cheap shots that were never called. Somebody has to teach the finesse for most a team to do this w/o getting noticed by any official on the field. This was tolerated. Now or then, expected. But en masse? Or how far the Percocet team season went.

      Wherever you go, Mr Editor, you're gonna do well.

    3. What about this OMISSION? When Brady Hoke coached the Aztecs, YBU won 24-21. This included a (deliberately) botched tv review which resulted in a MWC suspension to one Chad Bunn. Bunn is a BYU grad, and was working booth review along with Provo resident Rob Moon (BYU grad?).

      The refs ruled against a fumble. This should've been overturned by Hoke's challenge. However (cough), the field ruling was confirmed. BYU scored, then added a field goal.

      This 4th quarter error tipped the game to BYU. What now, your Code say somewhere to win at any cost--not just win if you can?

      No excuse for you omitting this fact. I gave you the chance to look into my review and catch more fish to balance the scale. You want reasons for animosity?

      You really owe it to your readers to provide a more truthful editorial.

      What is more "loathsome" in our sport, moreso, than cheating?

      Note: SDSU peeps aren't allowed to officiate in the booth; aka the rules.

  8. I had a lot more to say, but your system limited my words. Much had to be edited out. What your excellent analysis of SDSU football missed was the other cause of Aztec pigskin decline. CA budget cuts #1. This allowed every program to harvest local & State cream away SDSU would otherwise have.

    The Glory Days also starred Coach Don Coryell. Brilliance, honor, a gift from God. Coryell's offensive genius is still NFL's MO for air war victory. Nobody did it like him.

    Personally, I wish I could finish my degree. To research and write as you do would be reaching a pinnacle I dream of attaining.

    Hopefully I'll be at the game. I'm looking for tickets.

  9. Why would SDSU loath BYU leaving MWAC? This is an easy answer.

    Our "West" schools desperately deserve recognition for what they are. Our region contributes talent to every "good old conference" and onward to NFL probably moreso than the "Eastern" folks ever want to admit. We've got the natural open space for kids to play & learn the game. We have the climate to play year-round etc.

    MWAC should have an automatic bowl berth when our top tier teams can beat many of the legacy teams born to bowls & easy big money any Saturday.

    When BYU left, a good chunk of MWAC respect followed suit.

    SDSU is growing in stature. There's a lot of private local funding flowing in. Our hockey team has uniforms!!! Our other team sports are winning with regularity. Mens basketball was recently rated #15.

    When BYU hit #1 football in 1984, we were in the trunk, but still along for the ride. Now it's time for BYU to support the conference it thrived in. Was being independent more fun w/o all those rivalries?

  10. Excellent post. Please keep them coming.

    1. Are you coming to the game? Got an extra ticket? How would we meet pre-game? You guys gonna find an old MD-80 to fly out on for old times sake?

      Are you the editor? This thread has occupied my time quite a bit. I just wish it were more balanced. The BYU-SDSU thing has churned every concrete crack between Jack Murphy stadium (prefer that to "Q") through Provo.

      I'll check back later.

    2. Ryan,

      Not sure yet if I'll have tickets or not. However, what say you about chatting the old-time way? A safe way to contact each would be to leave numbers at a local LDS temple. In San Diego, there's one in La Jolla, it has an 858 area code. Know anybody there? If so, I can contact the person or receptionist and leave info that you'll be able to figure out comes from me. My wife's name is Jayne btw.

      What next? BYU is going to practice at a high school close where we live. And I know where you're staying. Nice place; but it shakes like a paint mixer when there's an earthquake. You like coffee? Are LDS allowed that?


Post a Comment