Here’s a novel take on homecoming: An old home comes to you.
For several in the Cal Poly football program, that’s exactly what’s happening when Portland State visits Alex G. Spanos Stadium at 6:05 Saturday night for the Mustangs’ homecoming game.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Andre Broadous will be playing against his hometown team, one he was also recruited by coming out of Grant High in Portland, Ore.
Co-offensive coordinator Saga Tuitele and receivers coach Juston Wood — both in their fourth seasons with Cal Poly — were all-Big Sky Conference selections as players at Portland State. First-year defensive backs coach Neil Fendall was also a standout player with the Vikings.
Though he hasn’t played or coached at Portland State, fourth-year Mustangs running backs coach Aristotle Thompson was a Gatorade Player of the Year and all-state running back at Jesuit High in Portland.
None have the same emotional tie to Portland State, however, as fourth-year Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh, who spent 14 years as the head coach of the Vikings program, leading it through a transition from Division II to the FCS in the mid-1990s.
Meeting his old program on the field, it turns out, isn’t so novel for Walsh.
The former UC Riverside quarterback was the head coach at Sonoma State from 1989 to 1992, and Walsh-led Vikings teams handed Sonoma State 52-0 and 25-7 losses in 1995 and 1996.
“It was all about the fact that it’s about the teams that you have now,” Walsh said about those meetings with Sonoma State. “After the game, there were friendships. I saw all the coaches from the other team. We met afterwards, and it’s great to see people that you know, but when we’ve got to go from 6:05 to 9:05, it’s about 2012 and 2012.”
Walsh certainly knows third-year Portland State head coach Nigel Burton. Walsh gave Burton his second college coaching job in 2001, bringing the former Washington safety on as a defensive backs coach.
As for personnel, the roster is less familiar.
When Walsh left in 2007 to become the offensive coordinator at Army, his imprint was still felt for a few seasons. But just as this is the last season any Rich Ellerson signees will be on the Cal Poly roster, Walsh’s influence is no longer felt on the Vikings’ depth chart.
“When I first left, a lot of the guys I left behind were guys that I recruited, so there was a connection there,” Walsh said. “Now, not so much.”
The years following Walsh’s departure were not so bright for Portland State. The Vikings had winning seasons four of Walsh’s last five seasons, but when former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville took over in 2007, those records got much worse.
Glanville, then coming off a stint as the defensive coordinator at Hawaii, had just a 9-24 record before resigning after 2009’s 2-9 campaign, the program’s worst since 1982.
Walsh said the challenge of maintaining a program in Portland is unique.
Considering the lack of a college-town atmosphere, the relative apathy of the student body toward the athletic department and the fact that most of the 3.8 million people in the state are either aligned with Oregon or Oregon State football, it takes a tailored plan to foster success.
“I know Nigel, and I think he’s doing a great job,” Walsh said. “Nothing against Jerry Glanville, but I don’t think he understood what he was getting into.
“When they hired Nigel ... Nigel has the experience of being there. So, he gets what Portland State is kind of about, and I think he’s done some really good things there. He’s done a really good job of recruiting, recruiting the state of Oregon, and I’m happy for him. I told him last week, I’ll say ‘Go Viks’ one time, but it won’t happen next Saturday.”