Portland State head coach Nigel Burton said he and Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh talk all the time.
Walsh, the sixth-year head coach at Cal Poly has been a mentor to Burton, the fifth-year head coach of the Vikings, since Burton was an assistant under Walsh during Walsh’s 14-year stretch as the head coach at Portland State.
Just scratching the surface of the Mustangs program’s ties to the Vikings is to risk falling down a rabbit hole that could consume an entire afternoon.
Walsh has constructed nearly an entire coaching staff of former players he coached as Vikings or, as in the case of running backs coach Aristotle Thompson, a Portland-area high school legend.
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When the teams meet again at 6:05 p.m. today, it will be the third time Walsh and Co. will have faced the program that gave many of them their starts.
Walsh guided Portland State from 1993 to 2006. Cal Poly receivers coach Jim Craft, who joined the Mustangs prior to last season, was one of the few assistants who remained with the Vikings after Walsh left to join Army in 2007.
Craft, who played under Walsh at Portland State and spent nine seasons as an assistant coach, sees value in the game for the play on the field as much as the emotion on the sideline.
That’s what will determine whether Walsh can improve to 3-0 against his old program.
“Really what makes rivalries, especially newer rivalries, is competition and enthusiasm, the way the teams play each other,” Craft said. “These teams both play hard. That’s kind of been their M.O. since coach Walsh was there back in the old days and even before that.”