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 Tim Walsh, who began his tenure in 2009.

Cal Poly Mustangs football
2019 Cal Poly Mustangs football team
First season1915
Athletic directorDon Oberhelman
Head coachTim Walsh
11th season, 58–63 (.479)
StadiumAlex G. Spanos Stadium
(Capacity: 11,075)
Field surfaceNatural Grass
LocationSan Luis Obispo, California
ConferenceBig Sky Conference
All-time record50440820 (.552)
Bowl record01 (.000)
Claimed nat'l titlesDivision II: 1 (1980)
Conference titles5
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 1940s

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 to a halt 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 decade, future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, John Madden played for the Green and Gold and was known as a bruising tackle. Upon graduation, Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. Joining Madden on the Cal Poly squad was quarterback and defensive back Bobby Beathard, who would later gain NFL fame 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 crash

Main article: Cal Poly football team C-46 crash

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 coach Andre Patterson at the helm. The Mustangs would see instant success posting a 7–4 record. 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 3 3–8 seasons.

Rich Ellerson era (2001–2008)

In 2001, first-year coach Rich Ellerson led the Mustangs to a 6–5 season. Coach Ellerson would emphasize defense and in 2004, linebacker Jordan Beck won the Buck Buchanan Award for best defensive player of the year in the NCAA Division I Football Championship. During the next two years, Cal Poly would experience another NCAA first as two more players would win the award: Chris Gocong in 2005 and Kyle Shotwell in 2006. In 2005, the Mustangs saw their first FCS playoff berth and a 35–21 win over Montana. 2008 would prove to be another exciting season for the Mustangs as they had one of the most productive offenses in the country. They went on to beat FBS San Diego State as well as experience a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison 36–35. The 2008 Mustangs made the playoffs and but lost a shootout in the first round against Weber State. Wide receiver Ramses Barden was drafted by the New York Giants. After the season, coach Rich Ellerson accepted a coaching offer to become the head coach of the Army Black Knights.

Affiliation history


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

Conference memberships

Head coaches

No. Coach Tenure Seasons Record Pct. Bowls/Playoffs
1D.W. Schlosser1915–191734–3–1.5630
2H. Hess1919–192024–4.5000
3Al Agosti1921–19321132–44–5.4250
4Howie O'Daniels1933–1941, 1946–19471156–33–6.6210
5Bob Dakan194214–3.5710
6Ron Henderson194511–5–1.1670
7Chuck Pavelko1948–194927–11.3890
8LeRoy Hughes1950–19611272–38–1.6470
9Sheldon Harden1962–1967617–42.2880
10Joe Harper1968–19811496–43–4.6622
11Jim Sanderson1982–1986526–27.4910
12Lyle Setencich1987–1993741–29–2.5831
13Andre Patterson1994–1996317–16.5150
14Larry Welsh1997-2000419–25.4320
15Rich Ellerson2001–2008856–34.6222
16Tim Walsh2009–present1158–63.4792

Bowl games

Date Bowl Coach Opponent Result
December 9, 1972Camellia BowlJoe HarperNorth DakotaL 21–38

Division I-AA/FCS Playoffs results

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

Year Round Opponent Result
2005First Round
Texas State
W 35–31
L 7–14
2008First RoundWeber StateL 35–49
2012Second RoundSam Houston StateL 16–18
2016First RoundSan DiegoL 21–35

Division II Playoffs results

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
1978QuarterfinalsWinston–Salem StateL 10–17
National Championship Game
Jacksonville State
Santa Clara
Eastern Illinois
W 15–0
W 38–14
W 21–13
1990First Round
Cal State Northridge
North Dakota State
W 14–7
L 0–47

Notable alumni

Current NFL Players

Current CFL Players

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

Other Notable Players


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