San Diego State University

San Diego State University
Former names
San Diego Normal School (1897-1923)
San Diego State Teachers College (1923–1935)
San Diego State College (1935–1960)
San Diego State College (1960–1972)
California State University, San Diego (1972–1974)
Motto Leadership Starts Here
Type Public research university
Space Grant University
Established March 13, 1897 (1897-03-13)
Endowment $209.4 million (2015)[1]
Budget $721.3 million (2013)[2]
President Elliot Hirshman
Provost Chukuka S. Enwemeka
Academic staff
1,491 (Fall 2013)[3]
Administrative staff
1,591 (Fall 2013)[3]
Students 34,254 (Fall 2015)[4]
Undergraduates 29,234 (Fall 2015)[4]
Postgraduates 5,020 (Fall 2015)[4]
Location San Diego, California
Coordinates: 32°46′31″N 117°04′20″W / 32.77528°N 117.07222°W / 32.77528; -117.07222[5]
Campus 283 acres (1.15 km2) Urban
Colors Scarlet and Black[6]
Athletics Division IMWC
Nickname Aztecs
Mascot Aztec warrior
Affiliations California State University system
San Diego State College
Location 5500 Campanile Dr.,
San Diego, California
Area 10 acres (4.0 ha)
Architectural style Mission/spanish Revival
NRHP Reference # 97000924[7]
CHISL # 798
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 4, 1997
Designated CHISL 1964[8]

San Diego State University (SDSU, San Diego State) is a public research university in San Diego, California, and is the largest and oldest higher education institution in San Diego County. Founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School, it is the third-oldest university in the 23-member California State University (CSU). SDSU has a student body of more than 35,000[9] and an alumni base of more than 280,000.[10]

The Carnegie Foundation has designated San Diego State University a "Research University with high research activity," placing it among the top 200 higher education institutions in the country conducting research.[11] In the 2009–10 academic year, the university obtained $150 million for research, including $26 million from the National Institutes of Health.[12] The university soon expects to be classified as "Doctoral/Research-Extensive".[13] As reported by the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index released by the Academic Analytics organization of Stony Brook, New York, SDSU is the number one small research university in the United States for four academic years in a row.[14][15][16] SDSU sponsors the second highest number of Fulbright Scholars in the State of California, just behind UC Berkeley. Since 2005, the university has produced over 65 Fulbright student scholars.[17]

The university generates over $2.4 billion annually for the San Diego economy, while 60 percent of SDSU graduates remain in San Diego,[18] making SDSU a primary educator of the region's work force.[19] Committed to serving the diverse San Diego region, SDSU ranks among the top ten universities nationwide in terms of ethnic and racial diversity among its student body, as well as the number of bachelor's degrees conferred upon minority students.[18]

San Diego State University is a member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC),[20] the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and the Southwest Border Security Consortium.


Established on March 13, 1897, San Diego State University first began as the San Diego Normal School, meant to educate local women as elementary school teachers. It was located on a 17-acre (6.9 ha) campus on Park Boulevard in University Heights (now the headquarters of the San Diego Unified School District). It opened with seven faculty members and 91 students; the curriculum was initially limited to English, history and mathematics.[21] In 1923, the San Diego Normal School became San Diego State Teachers College, "a four-year public institution controlled by the state Board of Education".

The first graduating class of the opening year of the newly constructed San Diego Normal School.

By the 1930s the school had outgrown its original campus. In 1931 it moved to its current location on a mesa at what was then the eastern edge of San Diego. In 1935, the school expanded its offerings beyond teacher education and became San Diego State College.[22] In 1960, San Diego State College became a part of the California State Colleges system, now known as The California State University. Finally in 1972 San Diego State College became California State University, San Diego, and in 1974 San Diego State University (SDSU).

John F. Kennedy, then the President of the United States of America, gave the graduation commencement address at San Diego State University on June 6, 1963.[23][24] Kennedy was given an honorary doctorate degree in law at the ceremony, making SDSU the first California State College to award an honorary doctorate. In 1964, this event was registered as California Historical Landmark #798.[8]

As a nation, we have no deeper concern, no older commitment and no higher interest than a strong, sound and free system of education for all. In fulfilling this obligation to ourselves and our children, we provide for the future of our nation-and for the future of freedom.

John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America. Commencement address to San Diego State University, June 6, 1963, San Diego, California, USA.[25]

On May 29, 1964, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a near-capacity audience in the Open Air Theater. King discussed his vision for the future and called for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then being debated in the Senate.[26]

We must live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.

Martin Luther King Jr.. Public address to San Diego State University, May 29, 1964, San Diego, California, USA.[27]

. . . The idea that San Diego State College was a place of opportunity, a friendly place . . . where the individual student was the important, chief concern of the College.

Walter R. Hepner, explaining his purpose as President[28]

In April 2012, his Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama spoke at SDSU's Viejas Arena as part of his "Compassion Without Borders" tour.[29]

University presidents

SDSU's first president, Samuel T. Black in 1905
Stephen L. Weber, former SDSU president. Weber is lauded for his success in student preparation, graduation rates, and leading SDSU to become a research university[30]

SDSU has had 10 presidents, two of whom served in an acting capacity. Several structures on the campus are named in past presidents' honor, such as Hardy Tower, Hepner Hall (integrated in the university's logo), and the Malcolm A. Love Library.[30]


The university awards 189 bachelor's degrees, 91 master's degrees, 25 doctoral degrees including EdD, DPT, JD, AuD, DNP, and PhD programs in collaboration with other universities. SDSU also offers 26 different teaching credentials.[31] The university offers more doctoral degrees than any other campus in the entire California State University, while also enrolling the largest student body of doctoral students in the system.[32] In 2015, SDSU enrolled the most doctoral students in its entire history.[33]

Main Campus

Several buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:[34]

Aerial view of the campus, roughly from the south

Other buildings on campus include:

Storm Hall was named in honor of geography department professor Alvena Storm, who served as department chair, and on the faculty for over 40 years since 1926. Nasatir Hall was named for Abraham P. Nasatir, a professor emeritus of history who taught at SDSU for 46 years (1928–74) and was later internationally recognized for his research on California history, receiving four Fulbright Fellowships.[54]

Residence halls

Tenochca Hall (freshman dorms)
Chapultepec Hall (freshman dorms)

In 1937, Quetzal Hall, the first dormitory, opened for 40 women students and was located off campus.[40] In 1952, 50 college males conducted a panty raid at Quetzal Hall, causing $1,000 in damages. Police arrested 13 of the students and the young women later retaliated by attacking the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house.[55] In 1968, the coed dorm Zura Hall was built, and more rooms were added later.[56] Chapultepec Hall held 580 students when first built.[57]

Today, the university owns and operates housing for over 4,100 students in residence halls and student apartments, fraternity row, and language and honors housing. Approximately 63 percent of first-time freshman live in on-campus housing, while about 14 percent of the overall student body resides in on campus housing.[58] SDSU offers themed living communities in the freshman and upperclassman housing, such as "pathways for transfers", "gender-neutral housing", and "explore San Diego".

Off-campus facilities

Mount Laguna Observatory

Since 1968, SDSU's Astronomy Department has owned the Mount Laguna Observatory located in the Cleveland National Forest. It operates the observatory concurrently with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[59]

Biological field stations

Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory (CMIL)

The Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory (CMIL), formerly known as the Coastal Waters Laboratory, is an academic laboratory operated by the SDSU College of Sciences. It is located on a coastal site on the grounds of the old San Diego Naval Training Center (now part of Liberty Station).

Branch campuses

Imperial Valley Campus

SDSU operates a branch campus, the Imperial Valley Campus (IVC) located in Calexico, California, with an additional campus in Brawley, California. IVC includes a research park and related facilities. The campus originally served only upper division, teacher certification, and graduate students but now serves a selective cohort of freshmen and sophomores pursuing degrees in criminal justice, liberal studies, or psychology.[61]

SDSU–Georgia campus

SDSU-Georgia is a branch campus located in Tbilisi, Georgia, in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.[62] SDSU-Georgia is run in conjunction with three Georgian universities: Georgian Technical University (GTU), Ilia State University (ISU), and Tbilisi State University (TSU).[63] The SDSU-Georgia branch campus is offering courses leading to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees.[63]

Former branch campus locations

SDSU formerly operated a campus in North County (San Diego area), which was later converted into the larger California State University San Marcos. In the South Bay, SDSU operated a campus in National City, California. This campus shared facilities with Southwestern College. The South Bay Campus is now closed indefinitely.



Fall Freshman Statistics[64][65][66][67][68][69][70][71]

  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Applicants 58,815 56,921 54,323 51,364 45,027
Admits 20,121 19,625 20,183 16,092 14,805
% Admitted 34.2 34.5 37.2 31.3 32.9
Enrolled 5,144 4,976 4,671 4,139 3,970
Avg GPA 3.69 3.69 3.61 3.61 3.62
Avg ACT 25.0 24.5 24.1 23.7 23.7
Avg SAT* 1118 1115 1106 1087 1083
*(out of 1600)

San Diego State University is consistently one of the most applied-to universities in the United States, receiving over 80,000 undergraduate applications (including transfer and first time freshman) for the Fall 2015 semester and accepted nearly 24,000 for an admission rate of about 30 percent across the university.[72] For the fall 2016 semester, SDSU broke application records again receiving nearly 60,000 first-time freshman applications and nearly 84,000 total.[73]

Furthermore, SDSU received 21,767 applications for transfer admission (having 60 or more units) and accepted 4,207 for a transfer admission rate of 19.3 percent.[71]

SDSU is one of the most selective campuses in The California State University system. For fall 2010, SDSU had the lowest admission rate in the CSU system at 30 percent. In fall 2015, SDSU had the second-lowest admission rate in the CSU system at 34 percent.

Fall 2015 incoming freshman had an average high school GPA of 3.69, average ACT score of 25, and average SAT score of 1118 (out of 1600; the writing section is not considered).


SDSU Quick Facts (2014)[74][75]
Admitted High School GPA 3.82
Admitted SAT, ACT 1159, 25
Freshman Class Size 5,054
Number of Study Abroad Locations 335
Number of Greek organizations 50+
Academic Offerings 160 majors, 22 advanced professional programs (PhD, AuD, EdD, EdS, DNP, DPT)
Undergraduate Student-Faculty Ratio 20:1

The university reached its peak enrollment in 1987 with a student body of 35,945 FTES (Full-Time Equivalent Students), which made it at the time the largest university in California and the 10th largest university in the United States.[76] Due to the overwhelming number of students and lack of facilities and majors, The California State University Board of Trustees voted to cap enrollment for SDSU at 33,000. However, in 1993 enrollment dropped to 26,800 (the lowest since 1973) due to a financial crisis.[76] Nonetheless, enrollment has fluctuated through the years and rose back to nearly 35,000 (exceeding the cap) in 2008. For the spring 2015 semester, the university had a total enrollment of 28,473 FTES – approximately 25,000 undergraduate and 4,000 postgraduate – making it one of the largest research universities in the state of California.[77]

In fall 2013, SDSU had the most doctoral students enrolled in its history at 534 students,[32] also the highest amount of doctorate-seeking students enrolled across the 23-campus CSU system.[32]

Rankings and distinctions

University rankings
ARWU[78] 120-137
Forbes[79] 242
U.S. News & World Report[80] 146
Washington Monthly[81] 119
ARWU[82] 401–500
QS[83] 701+
Times[84] 301-350

USNWR graduate school rankings[85]

Education 69
Engineering 105

USNWR departmental rankings[86]

Audiology 30
Chemistry 131
Clinical Psychology 25
Fine Arts 59
Health Care Management 47
Nursing–Midwifery 28
Physical Therapy 79
Psychology 52
Public Affairs 86
Public Health 39
Rehabilitation Counseling 10
Social Work 58
Speech–Language Pathology 24
Business school rankings
U.S. News & World Report[87] 87
U.S. undergraduate
U.S. News & World Report[88] 73
SDSU rankings
Forbes Best Business Schools[89] 64
CMUP Research Universities[90] 154
USNWR National University[86] 149
  USNWR Business[86] 87
  USNWR Part-Time MBA[86] 109
  USNWR Education[86] 71
  USNWR Engineering[86] 140
  USNWR Public Affairs[86] 73
  USNWR Social Work[86] 60
  USNWR Undergraduate Business[91] 73

From 2006 to 2010, SDSU was ranked the No. 1 most productive research university among schools with 14 or fewer PhD programs based on the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index. The school has since exceeded the "small research" limit with 17 PhD programs, in addition to six professional doctorates. SDSU has been designated a "Research University" with high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. Since 2000, SDSU faculty and staff have attracted more than $1.5 billion in grants and contracts for research and program administration.[92] As a result, U.S. News & World Report classifies San Diego State University as a "National University", whereas all other 22 campuses in The California State University system are classified as "Regional Universities".[86]

SDSU is the highest enrolled university in the San Diego metropolitan area. One in seven adults in San Diego who holds a college degree attended SDSU. In 2013, SDSU was lauded for its comprehensive endowment campaign efforts, which raised over $400 million from 2007 to 2013. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education recognized SDSU for its overall performance in fundraising efforts.[93]

San Diego State was ranked the 28th top college in the United States by Payscale and CollegeNet's Social Mobility Index college rankings.[94]

Money Magazine ranked San Diego State 116th in the country out of over 1500 schools it evaluated for its 2015 Best Colleges ranking.[95]

The Daily Beast ranked San Diego State 75th in the country out of the nearly 2,000 schools it evaluated for its 2013 Best Colleges ranking.[96]

Arts & Letters Building

In Graduate School Rankings, QS Global 200 Business Schools Report ranks SDSU's business college the 80th best in all of North America.[97]

SDSU is also a top producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. SDSU has had more than 40 students receive Fulbright Scholarships since 2005.[98] The university ranks No. 30 as the nation's best universities for veterans, according to Military Times Edge.[99] SDSU ranks among the top universities for economic and campus ethnic diversity according to U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges 2012".[98] Nearly 45 percent of all SDSU graduates are the first in their family to receive a college degree.[100]

Internationally, SDSU offers 335 international education programs in 52 countries. Thirty-four SDSU programs now require international experience for graduation. SDSU ranks first in California among universities of its type in California and third among all universities in California for students studying abroad as part of their college experience. SDSU also ranks 22nd among universities nationwide for the number of students studying abroad (Institute of International Education). Since 2000, nearly 12,000 students have studied abroad: a 900 percent increase in that time. SDSU’s undergraduate international business program ranks eleventh in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s "America’s Best Colleges 2012". SDSU is ranked fifth in Sports Management; 23rd in the MBA/MA in Latin American Studies; and 46th in the MBA/Juris Doctor program by Eduniversal for each programs’ international outreach and reputation in 2011. SDSU and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Mexico offered the first transnational dual degree between the United States and Mexico, in 1994, through the MEXUS/International Business program. SDSU's international business program also runs transnational dual degree programs with Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Mexico. SDSU’s Language Acquisition Resource Center is one of nine sites selected by the U.S. Department of Education to serve as a National Language Resource Center.[98]

SDSU ranks second among universities of its type nationwide and first in California for students studying abroad as part of their college experience.[101]

SDSU is home to the first-ever MBA program in Global Entrepreneurship.[102] As part of the program, students study at four universities worldwide, including the United States, China, the Middle East, and India.[103] Corporate partners include Qualcomm, Invitrogen, Intel, Microsoft, and KPMG.[103] In 1970, SDSU founded the first women's studies program in the country.

Modern Healthcare ranked SDSU second for graduate schools for physician executives in relation to their Master in Public Health program.[104] SDSU is ranked No. 9 in Fortune Small Business's "America's Best Colleges For Entrepreneurs".[105] SDSU ranks 15th best in the nation for the top colleges for engineering majors, and sixth best in California.[106]

Rankings according to U.S. News & World Report:[86] USNWR in its 2016 rankings placed SDSU 78th among Top Public Schools and 136th for High School Counselor Rankings among all universities in the nation. SDSU's College of Business Administration is ranked 87th. Additionally, its Part-Time MBA program ranks 109th. SDSU's College of Education is ranked the 71st, and its College of Engineering ranks 140th. SDSU's Audiology and its Speech and Language Pathology programs rank 27th and 25th best. Its Chemistry program ranks 131st. SDSU is home to the 26th best Clinical Psychology and 52nd best Psychology programs. Its Fine Arts program ranks 72nd. Its Healthcare Management programs ranks 48th. Its Public Affairs and Public Health programs rank 73rd and 39th. Its Rehab Counseling ranks 10th best. Furthermore, SDSU's Social Work program ranks 60th best.

Organization and administration

Schools and colleges

A landmark architecture (Hepner Hall) featured in the school's logo

SDSU has two named schools established in the university by permanent endowments:

Additionally, SDSU has 11 focused schools:


Student Services building with clock tower
See also San Diego State University Research Foundation for additional information
Pedestrian bridge connecting various residence halls and parking structures to campus

The financial endowment of SDSU is valued at $209.4 million as of June 30, 2015.[1] The primary philanthropic arm of San Diego State University is The Campanile Foundation, controlled by the University Advancement division of the university. The San Diego State University Research Foundation, an auxiliary corporation owned and controlled by the university, is the manager and administrator of all philanthropic funds and external funding for the university and its affiliated and auxiliary foundations and corporations.

As of June 30, 2013, permanent assets of the SDSU Campanile Foundation totaled $229 million.[110]

For the 2004–2005 academic year, SDSU received over $157 million USD in external funding from grants and contracts, as well as an additional $57 million USD in donations and charitable giving.[111] For 2005–2006, SDSU received $152 million USD in grants and contracts to support research. This is followed by $47.7 million USD in donations, gifts and other charitable giving.[112]

An auxiliary to The Campanile Foundation is the Aztec Athletic Association, which primarily raises funds for the student athletes in the San Diego State University athletics programs (see discussion of Athletics below and at SDSU Aztecs).

Student body and Greek life

Demographics of Undergraduates Fall 2014[113]
African American 3.7%
Asian American 14.0%
White American 35.6%
Hispanic American 29.5%
Native American 0.3%
International 5.7%
Multiple Ethnicities 6.5%
Other/Not Stated 4.8%
Old Theta Chi House by Fraternity Row

The university currently recognizes 19 social fraternities, 17 social sororities, and 16 business/professional/service fraternities for a total of 52 Greek organizations on campus.[114]

On April 27, 1974, The Phi Beta Kappa Society established an SDSU chapter. It was the first in the CSU system as well as the San Diego area.[76] Other multidisciplinary national honor societies include Phi Kappa Phi, Mortar Board, Golden Key, and Phi Eta Sigma.

The first fraternity on campus was the Delta chapter of Epsilon Eta, which formed on October 25, 1921. By the end of the decade there were six other fraternities and eight sororities. The fraternities and sororities were all local and did not attain national status until after World War II.[115] In 1925, in order to encourage higher grades, the Inter-Fraternity Council and Inter-Sorority Council published the average grades of the fraternity and sorority members. On a 3.0 scale, the average GPA (grade point average) for all students was 1.49, for fraternities was 1.35, and sororities was 1.47.[115] By the mid-1930s there were eight fraternities and eleven sororities,[40] and later expanded to fifteen fraternities and twelve sororities in the 1940s.[116] The first fraternity to go national was Theta Chi and the first sorority was Alpha Xi Delta.[116]

During the 1960s and early 1970s, the Greek population had dwindled to 699, but gradually began to increase in the 1980s, reaching 2,900 in 1988. There were 20 fraternities and 13 sororities officially affiliated with the Inter Fraternity Council and Panhellenic Council as well as six independent fraternities/sororities. This made it one of the largest fraternity and sorority systems in the western U.S.[117] On April 6, 1978, Gamma Phi Beta sorority hired a plane to drop marshmallows on fraternity houses during Derby Week, but the plane crashed near Peterson Gym, injuring four students aboard.[118] After, a 1983 USA Today article reported that SDSU Greeks' GPAs were below the campus average, SDSU tightened restrictions and supervision, and by 1989 their grades had increased to slightly above the university average.[118] Between 1989 and 1991, several riots among the fraternities occurred, including one numbering 3,500 people and another requiring 34 police officers to end it.[119] The 2008 drug bust resulted in the suspension of several fraternities as well as the arrests of multiple fraternity members.[120] Currently there are over 50 social fraternities and sororities, including general, professional, and culturally based organizations represented by five governing councils.

The Panhellenic council sororities on campus include Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Phi, Alpha Gamma Delta, Delta Gamma, Delta Zeta, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Delta, and Pi Beta Phi.

The IFC council includes Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Upsilon, Kappa Alpha Order, Kappa Sigma, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Kappa Theta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Zeta Beta Tau.

The USFC council includes Alpha Phi Gamma Sorority, Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority, Alpha Psi Rho Fraternity, Beta Gamma Nu, Delta Lambda Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Psi Sorority, Gamma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, Gamma Rho Lambda, Gamma Zeta Alpha Fraternity, Lambda Sigma Gamma Sorority, Lambda Theta Alpha, Lambda Theta Phi Fraternity, Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Zeta Sorority, Sigma Lambda Beta Fraternity, Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority, Sigma Phi Omega Sorority, Sigma Theta Psi Sorority and Upsilon Kappa Delta Sorority.

The NPHC council includes Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, and Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

The Professional Fraternity Council (PFC) includes Alpha Kappa Psi, Alpha Phi Omega, Delta Sigma Pi and Phi Alpha Delta.

LGBT-Friendly campus

SDSU was recognized in 2014 as one of 20 of the most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender-friendly campuses in all of the U.S.[121][122] The university attains this recognition through its welcome week LGBT reception, Safe Zone ally training, Big Gay BBQs, participating in Aids Walk San Diego and Pride San Diego, hosting an LGBT college fair, and holding a Lavender Graduation ceremony and several lecture series. The university is one of the few campuses in California that is home to the gay social fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi. Additionally, SDSU was the first university in California to offer a major in LGBT studies, while also offering a minor and graduate degree in the discipline.[123] In 2014, SDSU opened a first-ever Pride Center at the former Student Organization Annex, with the mission to provide resources and help meet the needs and challenges of LGBT students.[124]


Media, newspapers, and magazines

The front entrance to Love Library

Students began publishing The White and Gold in 1902, which was a literary magazine and newspaper.[125] In 1913, a new newspaper was established entitled Normal News Weekly.[126] The school newspaper Paper Lantern (Normal News Weekly was renamed after the addition of the junior college) became The Aztec in September 1925.[127] It was later expanded to its current name, The Daily Aztec in fall 1959. The school's annual yearbook was named Del Sudoeste (Spanish for "of the southwest") in the early 1920s. The Koala, a comedy newspaper that is widely known around the San Diego State area, is also distributed monthly on campus but is not directly connected to the school at the moment.[127]

Exercise and Nutritional Sciences building houses one of the largest lecture halls (ENS 280) at 500 seats
SDSU media and publications
Official SDSU campus newspapers


The first major sport on campus was rowing, but it initially had no coaches or tournaments.[128] Other sports that developed early in the campus's history were tennis, basketball, golf, croquet, and baseball.[128] The school's football program had such a limited selection of players that faculty had to be used to fill the roster.[128] When the college merged with the junior college in 1921, the college became a member of the Junior College Conference. After the school won most of the conference titles in a variety of sports, the league requested that college leave out of fairness to the smaller schools. For its football program, the team outscored its opponents 249 to 52 in ten games, resulting in the first sales of season tickets in 1923.[129] From 1925 to 1926, the college played as an independent. It then joined the Southern California Conference in 1926, where it did not win a football conference championship until 1936. However, in other sports including tennis and basketball, it excelled.[129] The college remained with the conference until 1939, when it joined the California Collegiate Athletic Association.[130]

The basketball team reached and won multiple championships games during the 1930–1940s, including a conference title in 1931, 1934, 1937, and 1939. It reached the national championship in 1939 and 1940, losing in the final rounds. However, in 1941 the college returned and won the college's first national title.[130] In track, the team won conference titles in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, and 1939.[130] The football team won conference titles in 1936 and 1937, and the baseball team won three conference titles and placed second three times between 1935 and 1941.[130]

In 1955, the Aztec Club was established and raised $20,000 a year by 1957. The club worked in increasing athletic scholarships, hiring better coaches, and developing the college’s intercollegiate athletic programs. In 1956, students approved through a vote of allowing a mandatory student activity fee, with a portion going to athletics. By the end of the decade the budget had doubled to $40,000. The campus’s most successful sports program during the 1950s was cross-country, when the team won eight straight conference titles and AAU regional titles and placed high in national competitions. Basketball teams ranged from last in the conference to multiple conference, regional, and national appearances. The football program had its first undefeated team in 1951, but in the last part of the decade earned the worst records in the school’s football program under the direction of head coach Paul Governali.[131]

Under Governali, the campus’s football program suffered due to Governali’s policy of not recruiting players. To improve the program, Love hired in 1961 Don Coryell, who led the program win three consecutive championships (1966–68), and 104 wins, 19 losses, and 2 ties by the time he left SDSU. Coryell was assisted by John Madden, Joe Gibbs, and Rod Dowhower, among others. In Coryell’s first year, attendance at home games averaged 8,000 people, but by 1966 it had doubled to 16,000. This later jumped to 26,000–41,000 per game with the addition of the new San Diego Stadium. At some games, attendance was larger than at San Diego Chargers games. There were several undefeated seasons and many players broke records for most catches, touchdowns, and passing yards. In 1969, San Diego State College moved into NCAA Division I, leaving the California Collegiate Athletic Association. In 1972, Coyrell left to pursue coaching in the NFL.[132]

Basketball also did well, with the 1967–68 team being ranked the number one college-level team in the nation, although it did not win a national title. The Aztecs also won the 1960 CCAA baseball title and multiple national championships throughout the 1960s in track, cross country, and swimming.[132]

Marshall Faulk's game ball from the September 14, 1991, game when he ran for a NCAA record 386 yards (353 m) and scored 44 points

By 1970–71, the campus had 14 NCAA sports. The 1973 men’s volleyball team won the NCAA national championship which was the first NCAA national title since moving to Division I status.[133]

SDSU competes in NCAA Division I FBS. Its primary conference is the Mountain West Conference; its women's rowing team competes in the American Athletic Conference, its women's water polo team participates in the Golden Coast Conference, and its men's soccer team is a single-sport member of the Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12). The ice hockey team competes in the ACHA with other western region club teams ( The crew team's championship regatta is in the WIRA (Western International Rowing Association). The university colors are scarlet (red) and black, SDSU's athletic teams are called the "Aztecs", and its mascot is the Aztec Warrior, formerly referred to as "Monty Montezuma". In 2008, a San Diego Union-Tribune article noted that athletics revenues have been steadily decreasing from 2006-2008.[134]


The football team plays at Qualcomm Stadium (formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium).


Viejas Arena is used for the Aztec basketball games, speeches, convocations, and concerts

The basketball teams play at Viejas Arena on the SDSU campus.


The baseball team plays in Tony Gwynn Stadium on the SDSU campus, named after the SDSU baseball and basketball player and late head coach, Tony Gwynn.


The women's volleyball team plays in Peterson Gym on the SDSU campus. The men's volleyball team won the NCAA Championship in 1973, but the team has since been disbanded.


Both the men's and women's teams both play at the Sports Deck on the SDSU campus. The women compete in the Mountain West Conference while the men compete in the Pac-12 Conference.

Ice hockey

SDSU's ice hockey team participates in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Men's Division 2. They advanced to National Championship final game in 2008 for ACHA Men's Division 3, but lost 7–3 to California University of Pennsylvania.

Formula SAE

Aztec Racing is SDSU's Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) student chapter. Every year, SDSU engineering students design and construct an open wheel, open cockpit race car to Formula SAE (formerly Formula Society of Automotive Engineers) specifications. Aztec Racing then competes against other universities' Formula SAE teams in an annual competition event, where the cars are raced against each other and judged on design. Attendance at Formula SAE competition is international, with several hundreds of schools competing each year. Students from other majors participate as well, frequently in the areas of management, promotion and other aspects of the project.

Other sports


Initial clubs that were first started on campus including the Debating Club, the Associated Student Body, YWCA, and in 1906, An Alumni Association.[125] The oldest club on campus was The Rowing Association.[115]


Courtyard looking towards Hepner Hall

S mountain

On February 27, 1931, President Hardy permitted 500 students to paint rocks to form a 400-foot (120 m) white S on Cowles Mountain. The idea of "S Mountain" was created by the Council of Twelve and initially supported by Hardy. The giant S was lit at night for the opening football game of a season (performed by the freshman to build school spirit) along with pep rallies, and was repainted throughout its history.[35][135] At the time, it was the largest collegiate symbol in the world.[136] During World War II, the S was camouflaged to prevent it becoming a reference point for enemy bombing aircraft.[137] It was returned to its normal state in April 1944.[138] In the 1970s students stopped painting it and brush obstructed the symbol. After a 1988 brush fire it was exposed, and students repainted it. In fall 1997, a group of 100 volunteers climbed Cowles Mountain after dusk to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the school by using flashlights to once again outline the S on the side of the mountain. In 1990, a high school prank defaced the S to read as "91" in honor of their graduating class.[139]

School colors and mascot

The initial colors of the school were white and gold. When the junior college was added to the campus in 1921, its colors of blue and gold were merged, resulting in a blue, gold, and white color scheme. New colors were later chosen as gold and purple, until being replaced by scarlet and black on January 28, 1928.[140]

The school's prior nicknames for its mascot included "Normalites", "Professors", and "Wampus Cats". However, after a 1924 committee met to address the issue, the name "Aztecs" was decided on.[127] In 2003, the Aztec Warrior was approved by a student and alumni vote to become the official university mascot after the school's prior mascot, Monty Montezuma, was discontinued.[141]

SDSU Pedestrian Bridge at night
Film and television


SDSU was ranked as one of the most dangerous college campuses in the U.S. in 2012 by Business Insider. It placed San Diego State as the sixth most dangerous campus (of those having over 10,000 students and according to data from 2008 to 2011), due to 27 violent crimes and 575 property crimes per year.[142]

1996 campus shooting

The San Diego State University shooting occurred on August 15, 1996. A 36-year-old graduate engineering student, while apparently defending his thesis, shot and killed his three professors, Constantinos Lyrintzis, Cheng Liang, and D. Preston Lowrey III, at San Diego State University. The shooter, who was suffering from certain mental problems, was convicted on July 19, 1997, and was sentenced to life in prison. As a memorial, tables with a plaque with information about each victim have been placed adjacent to the College of Engineering building.

2008 student drug arrests
Main article: Operation Sudden Fall

On May 6, 2008, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced the arrest of 96 individuals, of whom 33 were San Diego State University students, on a variety of drug charges in a narcotics sting operation dubbed Operation Sudden Fall.[143] It was originally reported that 75 of the arrested were students, but the inflated number included students who had been arrested months earlier, in some cases for simple possession.[144] The bust, which was the largest in the history of San Diego County, drew a mixed reaction from the community.[145]

Sexual Assault

In 2015, SDSU began operation "It's on Us" to combat the sexual assault crisis the university was experiencing.[146] In the fall 2014 semester alone, there were 14 sexual assaults reported on or around the SDSU college area. Furthermore, SDSU was noted in early 2015 for falsely accusing a foreign-exchange student of sexual assault and allegedly not affording the student due-process. The student has since sued the university.[147]

Notable alumni and faculty

San Diego State University has over 260,000 alumni worldwide. The university is one of the top producers of U.S. Student Fulbright Scholars in the nation.[148]

As of August 1, 2016, the top three places where San Diego State alumni work are Qualcomm with 957+ alumni, San Diego Unified School District with 923+ alumni, and County of San Diego with 723+ alumni.[149]


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