Cal Poly Mustangs football

The Cal Poly Mustangs are the football team representing California Polytechnic State University located in San Luis Obispo, California. The team plays its home games in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The current head coach is Beau Baldwin, who began his tenure in 2020.

Cal Poly Mustangs football
2021 Cal Poly Mustangs football team
First season1915
Athletic directorDon Oberhelman
Head coachBeau Baldwin
2nd season, 2–12 (.143)
StadiumAlex G. Spanos Stadium
(capacity: 11,075)
Field surfaceNatural Grass
LocationSan Luis Obispo, California
ConferenceBig Sky Conference
All-time record504–408–20 (.552)
Bowl record0–1 (.000)
Claimed national titlesDivision II: 1 (1980)
Conference titles20 (12 CCAA, 2 WFC, 1 AWC, 4 GWC, 1 Big Sky)
RivalriesUC Davis Aggies
ColorsForest green, Vegas gold, and copper[1]
Fight songRide High You Mustangs
MascotMusty the Mustang
Marching bandCal Poly Mustang Band


Football was first played on the Cal Poly campus in 1916. At that time, Cal Poly was a vocational school as it did not become a four-year college until 1941.

1915 Through the 1940sEdit

The California Polytechnic School played mostly high school teams and college freshmen teams for its first 16 seasons. In 1933, Mustangs enjoyed their first undefeated season under coach Howie O'Daniels. During the 1933 campaign, The Mustangs did not allow a single point during that season. Cal Poly officially became a four-year school in 1941 and posted a 5–3–1 record under Coach O'Daniels. Football was put on hold during World War II ('43 and '44) and resumed in 1945.


Under coach LeRoy Hughes, Cal Poly experienced its second undefeated season in 1953. In the decade of the 1950s, the Mustangs posted a record of 67–29–1. During this time, All American, Stan Sheriff, became Cal Poly's first player to join an NFL roster. Hughes' teams also included future Chicago Bears' running back, Perry Jeter and future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, John Madden who was known as a bruising tackle. Upon graduation, Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Joining Madden and Jeter on the Mustang roster was quarterback and defensive back Bobby Beathard, who would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 as the architect and general manager responsible for building the Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers respectively into Super Bowl-winning and contending teams.


1960 Cal Poly football team airline crashEdit

Tragedy struck in 1960 following a game at Bowling Green State University on Saturday, October 29, 1960 when a plane leaving Toledo Airport crashed killing 22 people. This included 16 Mustang football players and the team manager. The next seven seasons produced a 22–45 record. Joe Harper was hired in 1968 and produced a 7–3 and 6–4 season to end the decade.


Under head coach Joe Harper, Cal Poly produced an 8–0–1 record in 1972 and received a trip to the Camellia Bowl to play in the western regional championship game of the NCAA's College Division. They would end up losing to the University of North Dakota. In 1978, The Mustangs would make it to the NCAA Division II playoffs but lost to Winston-Salem State. Each of the ten Mustang football teams in the 1970s posted a winning season.


1980 would be one of the most memorable seasons for the Cal Poly Mustangs as they went on to win the NCAA Division II National Football Championship under coach Joe Harper. Cal Poly defeated Eastern Illinois in the championship game and would finish the season with a 10–3 record that included a win over D-IAA national champion, Boise State. Never before or since has a D-II team defeated the eventual D-IAA national champion and won a D-II national title in the same year.


The winning continued in the 90s and in 1990, coach Lyle Setencich would lead the Mustangs to another playoff appearance before losing in the second round to North Dakota State. In 1994, Cal Poly would make the jump to Division I-AA (now FCS) football with head coach Andre Patterson at the helm. The Mustangs would see moderate success posting a 7–4 record in Patterson's first year followed by two 5–6 seasons before Patterson departed for a position as an NFL line coach. In 1997, Larry Welsh took over the program and led the Mustangs to a 10–1 record and a national ranking of 16. However, the team was not extended an invitation to the national playoffs. Larry Welsh would follow that season with three 3–8 seasons and was terminated.

Rich Ellerson era (2001–2008)Edit

In 2001, first-year coach, Rich Ellerson, led the Mustangs to a 6–5 season. Coach Ellerson would emphasize defense and by 2004 not only did his 9-2 Mustangs secure their first of three Great West Conference football titles, but linebacker Jordan Beck would win the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation's best defensive player in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. During the next two years, Cal Poly would experience continued success on the field and another NCAA first as two more players would win the Buchanan Award: Chris Gocong in 2005 and Kyle Shotwell in 2006. In 2005, the 9-4 Mustangs also earned their first FCS playoff berth and victory with a 35–21 win over the University of Montana Grizzles. 2008 would prove to be another exciting season for the Mustangs as they had one of the most productive offenses in the country. Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, Mustang victories included a road win over FBS San Diego State as well as a heartbreaking 36–35 overtime loss to the bowl-bound Wisconsin Badgers in Madison. The 2008 Mustangs also made the playoffs but lost a shootout in the first round against Weber State. Wide receiver Ramses Barden, cornerback Courtney Brown, defensive end Chris Gocong, defensive back, David Richardson, defensive back Asa Jackson and linebacker Jordan Beck were all developed by Ellerson and his staff during the decade and all joined NFL rosters after being drafted or signed as free agents. At the conclusion of the 2008 season, with three conference titles, two postseason appearances, multiple All Americans developed and a record of 56–34, Rich Ellerson departed California's Central Coast as he accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Army Black Knights.

Tim Walsh era (2009–2019)Edit

In 2009, Tim Walsh, the offensive coordinator for the Army Black Knights during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, was hired as Cal Poly's 16th head coach. Upon his arrival, Walsh expressed his two primary goals for the program would be to teach the nationally ranked Mustangs how to win and to renew rivalries with Sacramento State and Portland State. With a fully intact defense from the previous year's nationally ranked playoff team but with an offense that had lost key weapons, Walsh's Mustangs struggled to a 4-7 finish. This was the team's first losing season in eight years. In 2010, however, Walsh returned the Mustangs to their winning ways finishing with a 7–4 record and a 3rd-place conference finish. After going 6–5 in 2011, Walsh led Cal Poly into its first year as a football-only member of the Big Sky Conference. Not only did 2012 prove to be the most successful of Walsh's coaching career in terms of wins and losses, his Mustangs finished 9–3, in a three-way tie for the Big Sky Conference football title and earned and an NCAA FCS playoff invitation. The years following the 2012 season proved less successful but the Mustangs did return to the playoffs in 2016 with a 7–4 record. They lost in the first round to the University of San Diego. Following the 2016 season, Walsh was awarded a five-year contract extension, however, after going 1-10, 5-6 and 3–8, Walsh elected to retire following the 2019 campaign with a 59–66 record while at Cal Poly.

Affiliation historyEdit


  • 1937–1972: NCAA College Division
  • 1973–1993: NCAA Division II
  • 1994–present: NCAA Division I–AA/FCS

Conference membershipsEdit


National championshipsEdit

Season Coach Selectors Record Bowl
1980 Joe Harper Division II 10–3 Won Division II Championship
National Championships 1

Conference championshipsEdit

Year Coach Conference Overall record Conference record
1952 LeRoy Hughes California Collegiate Athletic Association 7–3 4–0
1953 9–0 5–0
1969 Joe Harper 6–4 2–0
1970 8–2 3–0
1971 6–5 3–0
1972 8–1–1 3–0
1973 9–1 4–0
1976 7–1–1 2–0
1977 6–4 2–0
1978 7–3 2–0
1979 7–3 2–0
1980 10–3 2–0
1982 Jim Sanderson Western Football Conference 6–5 4–0
1990 Lyle Setencich 10–2 4–1
1994 Andre Patterson American West Conference 6–5 4–0
2004 Rich Ellerson Great West Football Conference 9–2 4–1
2005 9–4 4–1
2008 8–3 3–0
2011 Tim Walsh 6–5 3–1
2012 Big Sky Conference 9–3 7–1
Conference Championships 20

† Co-champions

Head coachesEdit

No. Coach Tenure Seasons Record Pct. Bowls/Playoffs Conference Titles
1 D.W. Schlosser 1915–1917 3 4–3–1 .563 0 0
2 H. Hess 1919–1920 2 4–4 .500 0 0
3 Al Agosti 1921–1932 11 32–44–5 .425 0 0
4 Howie O'Daniels 1933–1941, 1946–1947 11 56–33–6 .621 0 0
5 Bob Dakan 1942 1 4–3 .571 0 0
6 Ron Henderson 1945 1 1–5–1 .167 0 0
7 Chuck Pavelko 1948–1949 2 7–11 .389 0 0
8 LeRoy Hughes 1950–1961 12 72–38–1 .647 0 2 (1952, 1953)
9 Sheldon Harden 1962–1967 6 17–42 .288 0 0
10 Joe Harper 1968–1981 14 96–43–4 .662 2 (1978, 1980) 10 (1969–1973, 1976–1980)
11 Jim Sanderson 1982–1986 5 26–27 .491 0 1 (1982)
12 Lyle Setencich 1987–1993 7 41–29–2 .583 1 (1990) 1 (1990)
13 Andre Patterson 1994–1996 3 17–16 .515 0 1 (1994)
14 Larry Welsh 1997-2000 4 19–25 .432 0 0
15 Rich Ellerson 2001–2008 8 56–34 .622 2 (2005, 2008) 3 (2004, 2005, 2008)
16 Tim Walsh 2009–2019 11 59–66 .472 2 (2012, 2016) 2 (2011, 2012)
17 Beau Baldwin 2020–Present 2 1–11 .083 0 0

Bowl gamesEdit

Date Bowl Coach Opponent Result
December 9, 1972 Camellia Bowl Joe Harper North Dakota L 21–38

Division I-AA/FCS Playoffs resultsEdit

The Mustangs have appeared in the I-AA/FCS playoffs four times with an overall record of 1–4.

Year Round Opponent Result
2005 First Round
Texas State
W 35–31
L 7–14
2008 First Round Weber State L 35–49
2012 Second Round Sam Houston State L 16–18
2016 First Round San Diego L 21–35

Division II Playoffs resultsEdit

The Mustangs have appeared in the Division II playoffs three times with an overall record of 4–2. They were National Champions in 1980.

Year Round Opponent Result
1978 Quarterfinals Winston–Salem State L 10–17
1980 Quarterfinals
National Championship Game
Jacksonville State
Santa Clara
Eastern Illinois
W 15–0
W 38–14
W 21–13
1990 First Round
Cal State Northridge
North Dakota State
W 14–7
L 0–47

Notable alumniEdit

Current NFL playersEdit

Current CFL playersEdit

  • Mark RestelliLBFree Agent
  • Cameron Ontko – LBFree Agent
  • Burton DeKoning – LBFree Agent

Other notable playersEdit

In popular cultureEdit

In the 1983 film All the Right Moves, Ampipe high school football coach Burt Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson) accepts the position of Defensive Backfield Coach at Cal Poly and, after initially blackballing his star defensive back Stefan Djordjevic (Tom Cruise), he realizes the error of his ways and offers him a full four year football scholarship to play football at Cal Poly.[non-primary source needed]


  1. ^ "Cal Poly Athletics Brand and Graphics Guidelines" (PDF). Retrieved November 21, 2016.

Externally linksEdit