NCAA sanctions, conference championships, the end of a coaching dynasty, national recognition for several individuals and an annual dose of NCAA tournament snubs – the 2005-06 Cal Poly athletic calendar saw monumental success and near catastrophe.
The Mustang Daily has compiled a list of the top-10 events that might be viewed in years to come as stories of precedence, events and individuals that Cal Poly students and alumni will remember as the newsmakers of 2005-06.
Cal Poly football beats Montana
The headline was simple: Cal Poly 35, Montana 21. No headline could’ve done the win justice.
Cal Poly’s win over Montana in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs was by far the biggest win in the program’s history. Here’s how the opening paragraphs read: “The Cal Poly football team traveled through four states, broke two school records, saw weather from sun to snow and won its first ever Division I-AA playoff game all in 36 hours this weekend.
“The Mustangs beat the Montana Grizzlies 35-21 on Saturday advancing to the quarterfinals of the playoffs against Texas State. This game marks the first time Cal Poly has ever beaten Montana, who the Mustangs lost to earlier this season.”
It was Montana’s 13th trip to the playoffs. The program has two national championships to its name – 2001 and 1995. In 2004, the Grizzlies lost 31-21 to James Madison in the championship.
The game put one of the top programs in Div. I-AA history against a playoff novice.
The Mustangs would lose the following week, 14-7, to Texas State, but a trip to the quarterfinals was enough for Cal Poly to leave its mark as an elite team.
Although the win is hardly a blip in Div. I-AA playoff history, the 2005 Mustangs will forever be remembered in San Luis Obispo as the first Cal Poly football team to make the playoffs, the first to win a playoff game and the first to beat the Grizzlies.
Gocong is Philly Bound
As the football program continues to blossom, players being selected in the NFL Draft might become more routine and less significant in the news.
Chris Gocong became the second Cal Poly player selected in the NFL Draft and the second to win the Buck Buchanan Award. He will play professional ball with the Philadelphia Eagles next season.
Last year it was Jordan Beck going to the Falcons after winning the Buck Buchanan Award that made headlines – this year it’s Gocong.
A quiet and reserved individual off the field, Gocong was a fierce and tenacious pass rusher for the Mustangs on the field. He leaves Cal Poly as the record holder for sacks in a season (23.5) and the highest drafted player as well as Male Athlete of the Year.
Bertoni fourth on NCAA all-time wins list
There weren’t many golf stories making headlines this year – they were an underrepresented team in the media. However, that doesn’t mean their accomplishments went unnoticed.
Travis Bertoni moved to fourth on the NCAA all-time wins list this season with victories at the Anteater Invitational, Drake Invitational and Cuesta Title Invitational this season.
On top of those achievements, Bertoni notched a spot on the PING All-Pacific Region team, one of 17 golfers to land a spot on the squad.
He also led the Mustangs to their first-ever men’s golf Big West Championship.
Stevenson turns volleyball program around
To put it bluntly, the 2004 Cal Poly volleyball team was awful. The Mustangs went 5-24, several players quit the team and it seemed like the program would be in turmoil for years.
Steve Schlick resigned as coach and was replaced by Jon Stevenson, a former assistant for USA Volleyball and the coach of a blossoming collegiate powerhouse in St. Mary’s University.
With a new coach in place, the best player in San Luis Obispo not wearing a Cal Poly uniform in 2004, Vanessa Gilliam, returned to the team.
The result: Stevenson’s emphasis on blocking – and overall coaching prowess – combined with Gilliam’s nearly-unstoppable spiking ability led to a complete turnaround.
The 2005 Mustangs were 19-6 and finished third in the Big West, falling just short of an NCAA tournament bid. Many felt the team was snubbed – the headline in the Mustang Daily read: “Cinderella Story ends before midnight.”
The NCAA pointed to the team’s strength of schedule as the reason for the snub, a problem that couldn’t have been remedied by Stevenson as the schedule was the result of his predecessor.
Regardless of the untimely end to the team’s season, it was an amazing turnaround.
Women’s lacrosse nets sixth-straight title
The article read: “Lacrosse sticks all over the nation have once again crumbled to the Cal Poly women’s lacrosse team after it won a sixth-straight national title in the Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championship on Saturday.
“The Mustangs blew away No. 4 Michigan 12-7 in the championship game Saturday. Both teams stepped out onto Tom Kimbrough Stadium with hot sticks. Michigan was coming off of a 15-6 upset against No. 1 Colorado State, while No. 2 Cal Poly had the upper hand with five previous national titles and a win against Colorado 10-6 the day before.”
Success is a constant for the women’s lacrosse club. Div. I sport or not, the team has proved itself worthy of high levels of competition.
Men’s basketball receives NCAA sanctions
“The men’s basketball team will lose two scholarships as a result of the first academic progress report based on information collected from the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic years,” the article read as it broke in late January in the Mustang Daily.
APR is quickly becoming a buzzword in athletic departments across the nation as the new method for measuring academic success unveiled its first victims.
Who would’ve guessed that Cal Poly, an academic powerhouse in the state college system, would receive poor marks for its academic success.
The team improved this season – up to 10-19 overall from 5-22 in 2004-05. However, 10-19 isn’t a winning record and neither was the APR for the previous two years.
Nevertheless, coach Kevin Bromley remained adamant that the sanctions were not reflective of the 2005-06 players and that the team would see better results in years to come.
Softball snubbed … again
A year ago, the softball team finished second in the Big West with a 35-16 overall record and a 15-6 conference showing, yet it was third place Cal State Fullerton at 30-21 and 14-7 receiving a bid.
This year was much the same as the Mustangs beefed up their schedule and went 27-23 overall and 11-7 in Big West play to finish third, but it wasn’t enough. Instead, the selection committee chose UC Santa Barbara, the fourth-place finisher, to play in the NCAA tournament. The Mustangs beat the Gauchos in two of three games this year and had a better conference record – the Gauchos couldn’t even manage a .500 Big West record, finishing a less-than-tournament-worthy 8-10.
Had the Mustangs and Gauchos both been left out of the playoff picture, the story wouldn’t be nearly as significant. However, after seeing the Mustangs snubbed for teams behind them in the conference standings two years in a row is quite perplexing.
It’s easy to point to the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) as the reason for the demise of the Mustangs – the Gauchos stood at No. 59 compared to Cal Poly’s No. 70. However, computer ratings aren’t perfect and neither is the selection committee’s method.
Gartner done as soccer coach
Wolfgang Gartner was the men’s soccer coach at Cal Poly since before most current students were born. He coached his 26th season with the Mustangs in 2005, but incumbency wasn’t enough to keep his job.
Gartner amassed a slightly above .500 record in his tenure – 223-221-55. He led the program to just one NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years at the Div. I level.
His best stretch of coaching came with 11 straight winning seasons from 1985-95. The program hasn’t posted a winning record since 1998.
Paul Holocher, formerly the coach of Div. II powerhouse UC Santa Cruz, will attempt to pick up the pieces of a broken program an return to the glory days once enjoyed by Gartner.
Women’s soccer not in playoffs
Seeing the women’s soccer team succeed has been about as regular as “Rolling Thunder” at all times of the day – and night. The Mustangs haven’t finished worse than fourth since joining the Big West in 1996.
This year was a different story as the team struggled in conference play, finishing a lowly seventh with a 2-4-1 Big West record. The team was 10-5-4 overall, but couldn’t garner enough support for an NCAA tournament bid.
Volleyball great hospitalized
Carol Daniel was an All-American at Cal Poly and played for the two best teams in the program’s history. However, her life took a tragic turn when a hit-and-run driver struck her while she was jogging with three friends along the Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.
Daniel tops the Cal Poly list for all-time solo blocks in a season and for her career and left her name on many other top-10 lists.
Most importantly, however, she is married and a mother of three. As she continues to recover, family, friends and former teammates have shown tremendous support.
A fund raiser headed by Cal Poly volleyball coach Jon Stevenson and best friend/former teammate Claudia Trudeau raised more than $10,000 to help pay for Daniel’s medical expenses.