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AZTEC TRADITIONS/SPIRIT

How It Began - 1921
A formal varsity athletic program evolved at the same time as the merger of the San Diego State Normal School and junior college in 1921, spurred on by President Edward Hardy. The central athletic figure at San Diego State at the time was Charles E. Peterson. He had originally been appointed in 1916 as a physical education instructor. After serving in World War I, President Hardy prevailed upon him to return and oversee the school's athletics program. Initially, Peterson taught all the men's physical education classes and coached all the intercollegiate teams.

San Diego State became a member of the Junior College Conference in 1921 and Peterson coached the first varsity football squad to a 4-6 record. The season results were as follows:

Cheerleader Photo
Army-Navy Academy J.C.  W   6-0
Reserve Destroyers      L   0-3
U.S.S. Birmingham       L   0-14
Naval Air               L   7-12
U.S.S. Birmingham       W  14-6
Army-Navy Academy       W  12-0
at Santa Ana J.C.       L   0-26
at Fullerton J.C.       L   0-20
Chaffey J.C.            W  14-0
at Riverside J.C.       L   7-19

After the athletic teams were established in 1921, media referred to the teams as "Staters" or "professors". The school newspaper tried to encourage "Wampus Cats" during its coverage of the 1923-24 school year. In the fall of 1924, Athletic Director C.E. Peterson urged the students to select a nickname and the school newspaper, The Paper Lantern, invited suggestions. Over the next few issues, names such as Panthers, Balboans and Thoroughbreds were suggested and submitted to a committee of Dean Al Peterson, C.E. Peterson and a student. In 1925, student leaders chose the nickname "Aztecs" over such other suggestions as "Balboans". They felt the terminology was more representative of a southwest image and the selection met with no dissent. In February of 1925, President Hardy gave his formal approval to the "Aztec" nickname and teams adopted that identity within a week.

Cheer For The Purple and Gold?
In 1898, San Diego Normal School colors were white and gold while the junior college colors were blue and gold. In 1921, the Normal School and Junior College merged to form San Diego State College and thus, white, gold and blue became the official school colors. Purple and gold were adopted for the 1922-23 term but this became a problem because the colors were the same as St. Augustine High School. It didn't go over very well when one couldn't tell the difference between an Aztec letterman's sweater and a high school sweater. Also, purple and gold were the colors of Whittier College, a fierce conference rival at the time. Not to mention the fact that manufacturers of Aztec merchandise in that era refused to guarantee the color fastness of San Diego State's purple hues.

Associated Students president Terrence Geddis led the movement for a change and, after pushing for reconsideration of school colors, students finally got a chance to vote on the matter in December of 1927. Under consideration were:

Green and Gray
Orange and Grey
Scarlet and Black
Black and Gold

That was followed by two days of voting the following month where students were to decide between Scarlet and Black and the previous colors, Purple and Gold. On January 19, 1928 the tally was 346-201 in favor of Scarlet and Black and it has remained that ever since. The new colors made their athletic debut at the January 28, 1928 basketball game at Pomona College.

Night Time Football
The first night football game of any kind in San Diego took place on September 25, 1930, when the Aztecs smashed the San Diego Marine's second team 39-0 before 5,000 fans at what is best remembered as Lane Field. On that night, San Diego State fans were treated to a fireworks show as part of the inaugural night event. Since then, nearly 75% of all Aztec games, home or away have been played under the lights.

Basic Black
One of San Diego State's most honored traditions is the all-black uniform the Aztecs wear when playing at home. The "look" has become as much a part of Aztec football as the forward pass. In fact, the concept was the brainchild of the man who brought the modern passing game not only to San Diego State, but to college football - Don Coryell.

Coryell became head coach at San Diego State in 1961. At the time, the Aztecs sported a black jersey with silver numerals, silver pants and a silver helmet - a la the Oakland Raiders. Coryell had first seen a one-color uniform while coaching Wenatchee Junior College in Washington. He felt the all-black uniform, at night, would be not only unique, but would convey a threatening, ominous image to the opposition and boost his players' psyche as well. The Aztecs first took the field in all-black uniforms on October 12, 1963. The team faced Long Beach State that night and before a sellout crowd in Aztec Bowl, won the game 33-8.

The uniform has been a tradition ever since with rare exception. In 1980, the SDSU team began the season in red jerseys, a black helmet and white pants. After struggling to a 1-8 start, the squad returned to its all-black attire winning its last three games, the final two coming at home. In 1983, San Diego State switched from its traditional nighttime home football games to a daytime schedule in San Diego Stadium. In deference to the daytime heat, the Aztecs switched to white pants, although the jerseys remained black. However, SDSU won only one home game that season. The following year, the team returned to nighttime football and all black uniforms.

Montezuma (The Aztec Warrior) | SDSU Mascot Through the Ages Photo Gallery
It has been six decades since Montezuma, the first Aztec Warrior figure associated with the university, initially appeared at a San Diego State athletic event. Art Munzig played the original role in a skit during halftime at the San Diego State-Pomona football game kicking off the 1941 football season. The school's Rally Committee came up with the idea based on the ruler of the Aztec empire in the early 1500's, Montezuma II. The character, affectionately known as "Monty" to generations of SDSU alumni, evolved through the years to become emblematic of San Diego State's athletic teams.

For decades the role was filled mostly by students, who inspired enthusiasm and school spirit during football and basketball games. In 1983, however, Director of Athletics Mary Hill directed Montezuma to adopt a more dignified persona. During that football season, Monty sat atop a pyramid among his attendants on the sidelines at Jack Murphy Stadium. That lasted one year. The next season Montezuma resumed his more traditional role of involvement and encouragement of Aztec football fans.

Beginning in 2000, some student groups began to propose the university alter its Aztec identity. The new mascot made his first public appearance February 23, 2004 to reveal some costume changes and the modified moniker, "Aztec Warrior." For all but a very few years from the early 1990s through 2006, Carlos Gutierrez took over the role of mascot, raising the position's profile and expanding public appearances throughout the San Diego community. In April 2006, the SDSU Alumni Association sponsored student auditions for a new Aztec Warrior.

The Fight Song
In 1936, University President Walter R. Hepner approached Frank J. Losey, a junior in the music department at San Diego State, to become band director and also, to compose a new school march. Since 1931, Losey had been pulling together "pick-up" bands to play at the Aztec football games. He accepted the offer and for the next two years, was the volunteer director of bands.

On a Sunday, September 18, 1936, Losey sat down at the dining room table in his parents' home and penned the music and lyrics for the original version of the "Aztec Fight Song". The composition made its debut at the Frosh Prom the following evening at the Mission Beach ballroom. Its first use at an Aztec football game occurred at the dedication of Aztec Bowl on October 3, 1936.

In its initial form, the words to the fight song were as follows:

Band Photo

Fight on, fight on, ye Aztec men
Sons of Montezuma
We must win again
Never bow a knee
Keep your spirit high
Smashing, crashing,
Always smashing thru that line
Fight, fight, fight on and on
Down that field,
Red and Black must never yield
Then we can take
Our trophies honors to
Our home in San Diego town.

Over the years, the lyrics have evolved into the following verse which the Aztec football team sings in its locker room following every victory:

Fight on and on ye Aztec men
Sons of Montezuma
We will win again
Keep your spirits high
Never bow a knee
We will fight till victory

Fight on and on ye Aztec men
Proudly raise your banners high
For it's the Red and Black
Hail to our team
San Diego Aztecs fight!

In 1937, Frank Losey was honored by football coach Leo Calland with a varsity letter, the first ever given to a non-athlete. Losey went on to serve in the Navy during World War II and practiced dentistry in San Mateo, California for more than 40 years. He returned to SDSU for the homecoming game in 1987 when he directed the Marching Band in the playing of his fight song. Losey passed away in 1995.