Lauren Rabaino

The Cal Poly football team will take a step up in competition this year when it plays two Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams. But don’t expect the Mustangs to move up to the FBS permanently – at least not yet.

Responding to a recent comment Fresno State head coach Pat Hill made to the Fresno Bee suggesting Cal Poly would eventually belong to the Western Athletic Conference, Cal Poly athletic director Alison Cone said such a move is unlikely to take place in the near future.

“We have no immediate plans other than to continue to upgrade our football situation,” Cone said.

She said Cal Poly and Fresno State have been in contact about playing a game at Bulldog Stadium in 2010, but the arrangement has not been finalized.

Messages left Tuesday afternoon for WAC officials were not returned by press time.

While Cone does not see the Mustangs making a move anytime soon to the WAC, which plays its football at the FBS level, she sees several possibilities for the future growth of the football program, perhaps culminating in a move up to the FBS.

“I think there are a lot of different scenarios and Division I-A would be one of them,” Cone added.

There are potential roadblocks for a move from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the FBS, including a clause stating that attendance must periodically average more than 15,000 in five home games once out of every two years.

In last year’s home opener against Weber State, Cal Poly set an attendance record with 11,075 filing into Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Cone said that with future renovation to the stadium, Cal Poly could achieve the required attendance numbers.

Community and financial support would also be necessities for making the step up.

“There are a lot of things that go into those kinds of decisions,” Cone said. “We would certainly need the support of the fan base and the boosters. People have to think it’s a great idea.”

One issue that Cal Poly has had to deal with is finding FCS teams in the geographic vicinity to play, which may be in part why the Mustangs will play at Wisconsin to close out the year instead of facing another non-conference opponent from the FCS ranks.

“There are only three other FCS teams in California (UC Davis, Sacramento State and San Diego), and one of them won’t play us,” Cone said, alluding to Sacramento State, which played Cal Poly 24 years in a row beginning in 1983 but stopped in 2007.

There are numerous teams at the FBS level in California and the surrounding area that might find Cal Poly more appealing if they were to make the transition from the FCS.

Cal Poly, which is a member of the Big West Conference in 17 of its 20 sports, currently is one of five teams playing football in the Great West Conference. The Big West dropped football in 2000.

“We’re in a very good conference in the Big West in all of our sports,” Cone said. “The conference is great for us. It services everybody, but it leaves football hanging out there. Our football program has been extremely strong, and we have such a rich history. We’d like to have a more stable situation for our football program.”

Whether that situation is with the WAC or anywhere else in the FBS remains to be seen.

“We’re just trying to make sure we position ourselves to adapt to the changing climate of NCAA football,” Cone said.

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