From practice to team dinners to traveling for away contests and gameday, Cal Poly student-athletes spend an immeasurable amount of time with their fellow teammates. So it’s no wonder that when it comes to housing, one might find the Mustangs living in close quarters too.
Ranging from one’s true freshman season to his or her redshirt senior year, Cal Poly athletes are often surrounded by teammates and other student-athletes even when that “athlete” moniker takes a back seat to the “student” one.
Reese Morgan, a redshirt freshman guard on Cal Poly men’s basketball team, lives in Poly Canyon Village with fellow teammate and redshirt freshman Joel Awich along with friends they knew from the freshman dormitories last year.
“As an athlete, you understand the lifestyle of the other person even if it’s not one of your teammates,” Morgan said. “They understand the competition, how much you’re working. It’s a community I feel like. An automatic connection that you have with other athletes just based on the fact you’re competing at a Division I level.”
Living together has helped the duo become closer both on and off the basketball court, according to Morgan. And it has showed in the statistics so far this season.
Morgan, a top prospect out of high school, is shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range while Awich has seen significant minutes as a young big man up front for the Mustangs lately. Each has been rewarded with more playing time while the other is on the floor.
“It’s nice to have a relationship outside of the basketball setting,” Morgan said. “(Joel) is not just my teammate, but he’s also my friend … I think that allows us to be closer and be better teammates.”
All incoming freshmen on the team have similar specialty living situations arranged when they make their initial splash at Cal Poly. They are housed with fellow freshmen teammates in the dorms to build the bonds necessary for cohesive play on the court.
“It gets you respect from the other players in other sports and, of course, on your team,” Morgan said.
For Molly Schlemer, a junior center on the women’s basketball team, the biggest advantage to living with a teammate is sharing the heavily regimented schedule necessary to play sports while achieving success in school.
Schlemer and sophomore guard Kristen Ale live together in Poly Canyon as well. But in contrast to her men’s basketball counterparts, Schlemer didn’t live with a teammate her freshman season when she lived in Sierra Madre. Instead, she roomed with a friend from nearby Righetti High School in Santa Maria.
While she enjoyed it, the experience of living with a teammate is unparalleled, she said.
“From a practice point of view, you have rides,” Schlemer said. “There have been a couple of occasions where I’d sleep passed my alarm for 6 a.m. practice and my roommate would wake me up. … She understands the lifestyle.”
While student-athletes such as Morgan and Schlemer often seek out fellow teammates and athletes to live with both on and off campus, living with one’s quarterback, pitcher or other cohort on the field used to be much more common at Cal Poly.
Heron, Jespersen and Chase Halls on campus used to be dormitories reserved for incoming Cal Poly student-athletes, according to former Cal Poly football head coach and director of athletics Joe Harper.
Through a scholarship housing arrangement, the university housed student-athletes as well as other “student leaders” in these specialty residence halls near Alex G. Spanos Stadium from 1969 to 1980. But Cal Poly converted the three halls to make room for 168 faculty members that were forced to vacate their temporary office spaces in Tenaya Hall at the time, according to a transcription of former president Robert E. Kennedy’s Jan. 21, 1975 convocation speech.
Then, Cal Poly’s total enrollment was approximately 13,500 students versus today’s 18,762 — allowing for an excess of open dormitory rooms.
“They were surplus dorms on campus because new dorms had opened on campus,” Harper said. “(President Kennedy) gave us the go ahead to use (Heron, Jespersen and Chase Halls) for athletic housing. The athletic department was responsible for maintaining them and providing supervision.”
But after the buildings were deemed uninhabitable, Cal Poly’s student-athletes were displaced to traditional dormitory settings on campus, rendering athlete-specific housing a thing of the past.
Now it’s up to the athletes and their specific coaching staffs to decide with whom they live. But more often than not, one will find an athlete living with a fellow athlete.