I thought of former San Diego State football coach Chuck Long on Saturday night when I found out at a college basketball game that the Heisman Trophy balloting between winner Mark Ingram of Alabama and runner-up Toby Gerhart of Stanford was the closest margin (28 points) in history.

Instantly, I remembered how Lisa Long (Chuck’s classy wife) told me in the summer of 2006 that the family always checks for the margin between the winner and the runner-up shortly after the Heisman announcement.

You see, up until Gerhart’s close loss on Saturday night, Long was the closest second-place finisher for college football’s most-coveted honor. Long, a star quarterback at Iowa, lost by 45 points to the immortal Bo Jackson of Auburn in the 1985 balloting.

I certainly didn’t anticipate thinking about Long again on Sunday. But here I am because he’ll be back in football this fall as the new offensive coordinator at Kansas.

Though Long was a disaster as San Diego State’s head coach — the Aztecs went 9-27 during this three seasons — he had a terrific run as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator. I’ll never forget 2003 Heisman winner Jason White telling me about how his college career would’ve been over because of two bad knees if not for Long’s willingness to change the offense (Oklahoma began taking every snap out of the shotgun) so he could continue playing.

New Kansas coach Turner Gill hired Long to run the Jayhawks offense and it will be interesting to see the results. The Jayhawks have been a good program in recent seasons under Mark Mangino and Gill is an intriguing coach after changing Buffalo from a laughingstock to a competitive program.

Long is as classy a guy that I’ve ever dealt with in terms of the coach/journalist dynamic and I’m glad to see him back in football coaching after he spent last season as campus errand boy after being fired with two seasons remaining on his San Diego State contract.

But I do wonder if he and his wife will still be checking for the Heisman winner’s margin of victory when the 2010 winner is announced.


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