After two consecutive losses, including a triple overtime thriller against Eastern Washington in the Cal Poly’s final home game on Nov. 12, the Cal Poly football team’s chances of making a postseason bowl game have ended.
With winter quarter and spring workouts looming, it is time for the program to start looking to the future.
If departing the Great West for the Big Sky was not enough for fans to be excited about, Cal Poly has agreed to pay Yale $150,000 to come to Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Oct. 5, 2013.
It will be Cal Poly’s first-ever game against an Ivy League opponent, and only Yale’s third trip to California in the 137-year history of the football program.
“It’s going to be, probably, one of the biggest events that’s been on this campus,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said.
Over the years, Cal Poly has lost a number of recruits due to its high academic standards and the fact that the Great West is not an automatic qualifying conference for the playoffs, Walsh said.
However, Georgia Tech associate athletics director Ryan Bamford, who was Yale’s senior associate athletics director during the time the deal was made, said these two factors helped Cal Poly be chosen in the end. He said Yale looked for “FCS schools that have a good history.” ”
The coaches at Yale and the administration there were excited to have, obviously, a great match from a football standpoint, but also from an academic standpoint as well,” he said.
With all the things that go into scheduling a football game two to three years in advance, Bamford said the negotiation process with Cal Poly seemed to fit perfectly.
They also had their eyes set on coming to the West because of the vast recruiting opportunities it presents, Bamford said.
“For the next two years, with any of those California kids that we were recruiting at Yale, we could tell them, ‘Hey, were going to play back in your home state,’” Bamford said. “That was a nice draw.”
While Yale may be encouraging this, Walsh said he will be trying to convince prospective students otherwise, prior to the 2013 matchup.
“We tell our recruits all the time that you don’t have to go 3,000 miles away to get an Ivy League education,” Walsh said. “You can get one right here in California. I think that Cal Poly’s reputation as an institution probably had something to do with the making of the game.”
According to Bamford, Yale also considered Sacramento State, Portland State, UC Davis and San Diego State before accepting a deal from Cal Poly.
Although other universities such as Stanford and Cal might have matched up more evenly with Yale academically, Walsh said both Yale and Cal Poly would be asking themselves to fill a tall order to compete with the Pac-12’s elite. Instead, Cal Poly is lucky enough to schedule one of his most desired opponents.
“If we could highlight a school that we would like to play, it would be Harvard, Princeton or Yale,” Walsh said. “I would love to play an Ivy League school a year. I think that’s a great opportunity, and I would be more than willing to go back there and play. What a historical trip that would be for your football team.”
Athletics director Don Oberhelman echoed Walsh’s sentiments, but also acknowledged its impossibility.
“We have a lot in common with those institutions,” Oberhelman said. “The only problem is they’re three time zones away. It is a long, long haul to get from one to the other, but I couldn’t agree more (with Walsh).”
In order to cover their transportation costs, Cal Poly signed a guarantee of $150,000. This will essentially cover Yale’s traveling, lodging and eating expenses.
In the past, Cal Poly has received $500,000 to play at Wisconsin, but never has Cal Poly spent more to host a school than Yale.
“I think it helps our profile, it helps out marketing, it helps promotions, it helps everything we want to do as a university,” Oberhelman said. “Any time we can associate with an Ivy Group institution, it’s a good thing.’”
However, assuming that hosting one of the best universities in the country in a football game will help Cal Poly academically is a bit of a stretch, Oberhelman said.
“I’m hesitant to ever say a single football game is going to have some sort of dramatic impact on the university, let alone just the football program,” Oberhelman said. “This is all bigger than one game. This is an important thing, but it’s not going to make or break us.”
Even though the game is not until 2013, the date has been saved by the Big Sky Conference and will not be changed. Both Cal Poly and Yale supporters are expected to show up in large numbers, Oberhelman said.
“I think it’s great with all the history and tradition that they have,” Oberhelman said. “I think our fans recognize Yale for what it is.”
How is this right? Granted, the Athletic Department may have the money (and, yes, I know that it is not state funds) but as word gets out that Cal Poly is paying $150K to bring Yale west people are going to be quite critical. Cal Poly is not doing a good job managing perceptions — athletics pay money to football opponents yet students are paying higher tuition/fees and faculty are get squeezed every which way. Maybe another marketing person will be hired to improve the situation (using private donations, of course –maybe private donations could sponsor a couple of extra lecturers)!
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