Scovil's 5-Year Plan Running Short on Time and Victories

Times Staff Writer

Doug Scovil does not have political aspirations, but there is a little bit of a politician within him.

He tends to talk about the future, but, when the future arrives, it is not always as rosy as the picture that was painted.

Scovil came to San Diego State in 1981 with a five-year plan revolving around freshman recruiting. Yet, as Scovil nears the end of his fifth season with the Aztecs, the freshman recruiting program is not exactly being compared to a Rembrandt.

This was supposed to be the year Scovil's five-year plan at SDSU came to fruition. But the Aztecs are far from bearing fruit at the moment.

They have lost five straight games, including last week's 41-20 loss to a Wyoming team that had suspended nine players before the game and fired its coach two days later. If the folks in Laramie, Wyo., think their program is down, they can take solace by looking at SDSU.

The Aztecs had 17 straight winning seasons from 1961 to 1977 but have been losers in four of seven since. Unless SDSU wins its last three games in 1985, Scovil will become the first Aztec coach since Paul Governali in 1960 to have suffered through three consecutive losing seasons.

This is what the five-year freshman recruiting plan was all about? "Everybody says this is the fifth year, but it really isn't," Scovil said. "By the time I got the job here, coached BYU in the Holiday Bowl and got the staff together, it was after New Year's. We had no freshmen recruiting files to go on. We were so late on high school kids that by the time we got back to them after JC recruiting, there wasn't much left. The beginning of our true five-year program will be next year."

Next season, the freshmen of 1982 will be fifth-year seniors. It will also be the season when Scovil's contract expires. If, indeed, next year is when the five-year plan becomes reality, one must analyze what has happened in previous years.

In retrospect, the 1981 through 1983 freshmen classes are the key to SDSU's current season. Here's a breakdown of the freshman recruits from each year:

1981--Only three of 13 recruits remain. All are starters.

1982--Sixteen of 21 recruits remain. Three are starters, eight are second-string, four are not on the two-deep chart, and one has missed the season with a broken leg.

1983--Fifteen of 23 recruits remain. Five are starters, five are second string and five are not on the two-deep chart.

In last week's game against Wyoming, 11 of SDSU's 22 starters were from the classes of 1981 through 1983. Six were junior college transfers, four were walk-ons and one was from the freshman class of 1984.

Scovil was hired at SDSU on Dec. 8, 1980. He was BYU's offensive coordinator then, so his BYU obligation was not fulfilled until the Holiday Bowl 2 1/2 weeks later.

SDSU had records of 6-5 and 7-5 during Scovil's first two seasons with teams consisting primarily of junior college transfers. The Aztecs were 2-9-1 and 4-7-1 the next two seasons, and they are 3-6 this season with three games remaining.

"You couldn't have told me when I came here that we wouldn't have won a couple of championships by now," said junior reserve safety Bryan Hailey, a 1982 redshirt freshman. "In my opinion, the problem has to be something abstract. We seem to lose something each year, then we lose more of that something year after year. Maybe it's tradition here. I expected a tradition like USC or Ohio State where we would win at all costs. Our term is almost over and we haven't won."

Early on in the Scovil era, Hailey's thinking mirrored that of the coaching staff.

In 1983, Scovil said, "In two years, if you ask if we will win the championship, I will say, 'Yes, if we stay healthy."'

The Aztecs lost defensive lineman Duane Pettitt for the season with a broken leg. And defensive lineman Levi Esene has been out since the second game with a dislocated elbow. Still, their injuries are not the entire cause for SDSU's predicament.

Lack of depth and tougher scheduling are the two most common reasons given for the Aztecs' failure to win in the Scovil era.

SDSU still has only 87 players on scholarship, eight under the NCAA limit. Scovil said he expects to reach the NCAA maximum next season. In the past, JC recruiting had caused SDSU to be short on numbers because JC transfers are only eligible for two years.

In addition, the schedule is tougher than during the Don Coryell and Claude Gilbert eras. The Cal Poly Pomonas and Los Angeles States have been replaced by the UCLAs and Stanfords.

"It's a lot different now than playing Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton and San Jose State," Scovil said. "You'd get a few wins and not get beat up as much playing those teams. The main reasons we went to freshman recruiting were that the kids would be here longer and you could build depth. I had hoped to be winning sooner. When you talk about five years, our fifth year is really next year."

Scovil said SDSU is not winning this year because of breaks, which is supported statistically. SDSU has committed 19 turnovers in the last three games, 17 more than the opposition. The Aztecs have committed 32 turnovers overall, 21 more than the opposition.

"Our record doesn't show it, but we can play with anybody," running back Casey Brown said. "We have size and experience now. I remember when we played Washington (in 1982) when it was ranked No. 1. We played tough the first half, then we realized they had the depth we didn't have. We played for a while and got tired, then we couldn't play anymore."

Though the Aztecs have more depth now, they don't have the record to show for it. All they have is the five-year plan that evidently has been put off for another season.

Tom Ables, a long-time Aztec football supporter, wrote a letter to media members two years ago commending Scovil for switching from JC to freshman recruiting. Ables said that despite the team's record, he still supports the five-year plan.

"Maybe Doug built himself a trap with a five-year plan that didn't pay off like a slot machine," Ables said. "I don't want to throw rocks at what happened before, but there is no comparison to now and when Doug took over. The overall quality and depth of the team are much better.

"Like everybody, I'm disappointed we don't have a better won-lost record. Fundamentally, I still feel very positive about the way they are building the program. We never had the type of athletes and organized recruiting efforts that we have now. I can't help but feel we are so close to achieving what we want."

Jeff Cotton, who expects to graduate in pre-law next spring at SDSU, is among the freshmen of 1981 no longer with the program. He said lack of communication was a major reason for SDSU's downfall. "To tell you the truth, there's no rapport between players and coaches," Cotton said. "The coaches are smart at what they do, and Coach Scovil would make a good offensive coordinator. As a head coach, I don't think he has the motivational factor to get players ready to play and to get the most out of them."

Privately, some current Aztecs have agreed with Cotton's analysis, but they feared retribution if they were named.

Within the community, apathy best describes reaction to SDSU's football team. The Aztecs drew just 15,432 against Oregon of the Pacific 10 in their last home game, Oct. 26. When SDSU plays host to Texas El Paso and New Mexico in the next two weeks, it may not average 10,000 a game. "The only thing I can say is that when I first came here, people said they would be glad to have UCLA, Oregon and Stanford on our schedule," Scovil said. "People said they didn't care whether we won; they just wanted to see good games. That's not true. They don't show when you don't win."

As is customary, patience is again the key word at SDSU.

"When you start a program like this, people say it's great," Scovil said. "When you don't have success, people forget you said it was a five-year program. With the schedule we have, it's tough to win. That's the price you have to pay. We haven't cheated or bought players. Personally, I don't have the money to buy them with."

For now, Scovil and his assistants are attempting to sell their players on the premise that things are bound to get better.

In recent weeks, players and coaches have said that practices have been spirited. When the spirit is lost from the practice field to the playing field, players have been taking responsibility for what happens . . . at least on-the-record.

"I think the coaches are doing a good job," said backup wide receiver Kenny Moore, who was in the 1982 freshman class. "The players win and the players lose. The coaches get credit for what happens, but they're not on the field playing."

This week, there have been numerous heart-to-heart talks among coaches and players. Scovil said he spent much of Sunday talking to defensive tackle Mike Stevens, a member of the 1982 freshman class.

Stevens was the only player from 1982 who was not a redshirt. His eligibility expires in three games.

"When you look at teams like BYU, you see that BYU wins everything," Stevens said. "Not many teams are like that. Here, you learn each year from winning and losing seasons. My expectations have been met because I am doing all I can to win. All around me, people are doing their part. You can never look down on what you get."

Those words were spoken like a true politician, a trait that seems to be rubbing off on the SDSU football team.

CLASS OF 1981 Players: Where They Are Now Kelley Boyd, defensive back, Transferred to Texas. Casey Brown, running back, Has started since his sophomore season. Jeff Cotton, wide receiver,No longer playing because of injuries but expects to be a pre-law graduate in the spring. Jack Eaton, linebacker, Has started since his freshman season. Robbie Harrison, running back, Transferred to College of the Redwoods last year and now plays for Sacramento State. Ward Kollar, tight end, Works for his father in construction. Scott Martin, offensive tackle, Broke both legs in traffic accident freshman year and no longer plays football. Ronnie Monaco, linebacker, Originally transferred to Vanderbilt and now plays for South Carolina. Scott Nuanez, offensive tackle, Still attends SDSU but knee injury ended football career. Leo Ramos, defensive back, Attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo but no longer plays football. Tom Tatum, linebacker, Transferred to Cal State Fullerton last year. Jim Tutwiler, quarterback, No longer plays football but is a student at Utah. Vince Warren, wide receiver, Was an off-and-on starter for two seasons before earning permanent starting role this season. CLASS OF 1982 Players: Where They Are Now Mike Ariey, offensive tackle, Came to SDSU as a defensive lineman now second-string offensive tackle. Doug Aronson, offensive guard, Has been a starter the past two seasons. Kirk Belcher, linebacker, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Brett Blanchard, wide receiver, Backs up Vince Warren at flanker. Phil Grider, offensive tackle, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Bryan Hailey, defensive back, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart.

Mike Harris, defensive tackle, No longer plays football but still a student at SDSU. Chris Kilby, defensive lineman,Was moved from linebacker when team had depth problems and started occasionally. David Lewis, offensive tackle, Transferred to College of Sequoias before ever playing for SDSU and now plays for Illinois State. Mark Mathis, defensive back, Transferred to Illinois before ever playing for SDSU. John Minor, offensive guard, Backs up walk-on Dan Audick at right guard. Kenny Moore, wide receiver, Backs up Webster Slaughter at split end. Seelin Naidoo, placekicker, No longer plays football but still a student at SDSU. John O'Callaghan, tight end, Transferred to Cal State Long Beach and is a redshirt this season. Duane Pettitt, defensive lineman, Was expected to start in 1985 but missed season with a broken leg. Jim Plum, quarterback, Has started two games in his SDSU career and now backs up Todd Santos. Ellis Powers, defensive back, Has started at free safety this season. David Price, defensive back, Backs up freshman Mario Mitchell at left cornerback. Bob Reisinger, offensive tackle, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Mike Stevens, defensive lineman, Was named second-team All-Western Athletic Conference in 1984 but has been slowed by injuries this season. Greg Williamson, defensive lineman, Was switched from the offensive line now a second-string defensive end. CLASS OF 1983 Players: Where They Are Now Richard Brown, linebacker, Backs up Steve Svitenko at inside linebacker. Stuart Busbee, linebacker, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Dave DesRochers, offensive tackle, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Sean Dimick, center, No longer plays football but is still a student at SDSU.

Brett Faryniarz, linebacker, Started earlier this season when linebackers were hurt by injuries but now a back up. Curtis Gillis, wide receiver, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Corey Gilmore, running back, Was starting this season until sidelined by a pulled hamstring the past two games. Chris Hardy, running back, Has started most of this season. Mike Hooper, defensive lineman, Has started this season at right end. Jeff Hunt, defensive lineman, Left SDSU after becoming academically ineligible. John Kutsuris, defensive lineman, Has recently become the back up at nose tackle. Mike Matson, offensive tackle, Now plays for Golden West College. Ricky Maynard, wide receiver, Left the team before this season. Ken Moore, running back, Left SDSU after becoming academically ineligible. Chuck Nixon, defensive back, Was on the two-deep chart until SDSU's game at Air Force two weeks ago. Clarence Nunn, defensive back, Has started at cornerback in 1983 and 1985 but missed 1984 with a knee injury.

Troy Reed, defensive back, Still with team but has yet to make the two-deep chart. Todd Santos, quarterback, Has started all but two games the past two seasons. Craig Skaggs, defensive lineman, Backs up Mike Stevens at left end. Tal Tamamasui, defensive lineman, Has become starter at nose tackle in recent weeks. Steve Washbon, tight end, Never played for SDSU. Scott Webb, placekicker, Left the team before this season. Rich Wright, offensive tackle, No longer plays football but still a student at SDSU.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World