With a little more than two months since being named head coach of Cal Poly Football, Beau Baldwin said he is ready to lead the Mustangs to the elusive Big Sky title and a national championship. Baldwin’s plan to raise Cal Poly to prominence includes what he calls “the climb,” which focusses on the process it takes to win games.
“Our climb is our vision, our rise and it’s like climbing a mountain. It’s not like you just get to the top. You have to climb. The climb is going to create the culture,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin was announced as the 17th head coach of Cal Poly Football Wednesday, Dec. 11 after the departure of prior head coach Tim Walsh. Baldwin was the head coach of Eastern Washington from 2008-16 before taking the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach positions at Cal from 2017-19.
“Im excited to be a part of this,” Baldwin said. “When [the administration] is investing the way they are investing and seeing you as a leader of this program in this fine university and this area, it’s humbling,”
At Cal, Baldwin helped lead the Golden Bears to their most successful season since 2015 with an 8-5 record in the 2019 season, which was capped off with a 35-20 Redbox Bowl victory in Santa Clara. Over his three seasons as the offensive coordinator, the Golden Bears won 19 of 37 games.
“I learned a lot of things at Cal,” Baldwin said. “I learned different ways of how to win games, engage with the players during the week and things that can take a team over a hump.”
As the head coach of Eastern Washington, Baldwin compiled a 58-14 Big West conference record and an 85-32 overall record from 2008-16. Baldwin’s 85 victories are tied for fifth all-time in the Big Sky and his 58 conference victories are fourth all-time.
In addition, Baldwin earned five Big Sky titles, six FCS playoff berths and a national championship in 2010. Baldwin was also named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2013. With his return to the Big Sky Conference, Baldwin becomes one of four current FCS coaches that have won a national championship.
“To get a guy like that back in the Big Sky is amazing,” Cal Poly Athletic Director Don Oberhelman said. “Talking to my fellow athletic directors in the Big Sky, everyone is a little concerned about what we are doing here right now.”
Baldwin said the sky can be the limit in terms of what Cal Poly’s program can do athletically along with its strong academic foundation. The new head coach said he is excited to do everything he can to put together a great product “not only only on the field, but day-to-day with how we do things, how our guys treat people and everything that encompasses that.”
“It’s not putting ‘family’ on a t-shirt or ‘culture’ on a t-shirt, it is living it every day. And that’s the hard part,” Baldwin said. “Everyone around the country is saying “we’re a family.” Everyone around the country is overusing the world “culture.” It just gets thrown around so much now that that’s part of the issue. It’s who is actually living it day-to-day, developing it day-to-day.”
To Baldwin, the climb includes executing little things, such as wearing the same clothes in the weight room or showing up to practice early. According to Baldwin, those are the things that will ultimately help the Mustangs build a winning mindset.
“It’s finding little ways within our strong foundation where we can take it up a notch … the littlest things are big,” Baldwin said. “It all matters. You start adding those little things up, it becomes big and it might be the difference between that trust or edge that is built to get over the hump.”
Another aspect of Baldwin’s plan that will change the program’s trajectory is his move from the triple-option offense to a more traditional-style spread offense. According to Baldwin, the Mustangs plan to use more two or three tight end sets — a position Cal Poly lacks on the roster.
“I know schematically it will look like a 180 change [on offense], but not in terms of how we play the game or the physicality or the intelligence level,” Baldwin said.
The Mustangs have struggled the past few years as they had three consecutive losing seasons under Walsh. Cal Poly’s last winning season came in 2016, when they went 7-5 and had a first-round exit in the FCS playoffs. According to Oberhelman, the team was in a great place socially and academically, but lacked confidence in the expectation of winning.
“I think [Baldwin] is going to fix that,” Oberhelman said. “I think the fresh change is exciting and the players have already embraced it, even though they have not practiced yet.”
Baldwin has already won the approval of several Cal Poly administrators and student-athletes due to his character. Baldwin has taken the time to schedule 15-minute meetings with each individual player on the 105-man roster — something he said he is the most excited about now that the transition has settled in.
“A lot of coaches do not do that,” sophomore quarterback Jalen Hamler said. “Coming into it, he made everybody feel welcomed. Even sitting down and talking to everyone on the team, everybody felt welcomed and wanted to be here. I felt like he had a very good first impression.”
“He is a very down-to-earth, humble guy and he does not think that he is better than everybody else,” Oberhelman said.
Cal Poly Football is currently in the process of their climb. And while this is just the start, Baldwin said he not putting a ceiling on what the team can or can’t accomplish in the coming years. Sitting atop the mountain is Baldwin’s goal for the program — a Big Sky title and a national championship.
“We’re going to go after a Big Sky title, we are going to put the work in and do the step by steps to do exactly that, that’s going to be the mindset,” Baldwin said. “And that will never change around here.”