UCLA’s famed Pauley Pavilion has hosted its share of basketball games and holds many memories for fans around the world.
Still, no memory of Cal Poly at the legendary arena exists — yet.
The Cal Poly athletic department unveiled its 2010-11 men’s basketball schedule Thursday, headlined by a Dec. 11 game at UCLA.
“One of my goals as coach putting the schedule together is to try to schedule one or two games away that have a national appeal,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “With John Wooden passing away, the history and tradition behind UCLA and for anybody that’s grown up around Pauley Pavilion, that was very special. We think it helps with our community and builds fan interest.”
The Mustangs will embark on what is arguably the toughest three-game road stretch in program history beginning with the game in Westwood.
Two days later, Cal Poly will play Mountain West Conference Tournament champion San Diego State before a Dec. 18 game at Cal. The Aztecs narrowly missed out on a first round NCAA Tournament upset, losing 62-59 to Tennessee. Cal fell to eventual national champion Duke 68-53 in the second round.
“We’re talking about a national power, an NCAA Tournament team that won 20-plus games and the defending Pac-10 champs,” Callero said. “It could be the toughest three games we’ve ever played.”
Cal Poly hasn’t played against the 11-time national champion Bruins since 1955, losing 84-55, more than 10 years before UCLA began playing at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA and Cal Poly played four times between 1949 and 1955, with the Bruins winning each meeting.
Despite its failures against UCLA, Cal Poly has split its only two games with Cal, beating the Golden Bears 63-62 in the 2003-04 season opener in Berkeley. Cal won the other meeting in 1996.
The Mustangs will host just three nonconference home games, including one against Division II Cal State Monterey Bay on Nov. 18.
“It’s hard for anybody of our quote-unquote level, meaning we don’t buy games, to bring people in,” Callero said. “If you want to add a UCLA, a Cal or a San Diego State you’ve got to realize how much money that they’re willing to pay us.”
Callero said that the cost of bringing in a Division II school like Cal State Monterey Bay was miniscule in comparison to the price of bringing a larger school, let alone traveling to play at major school like UCLA.
“Also, our players want to play the best players,” Callero added. “They know how much it helps them prepare for the Big West. Attention aside from your own team, it is good basketball. Not great résumé building, but I think overall program building, it’s intelligent to look at. It’s definitely going to help.”
Loyola Marymount will visit San Luis Obispo on Nov. 24 while Hawaii will complete the nonconference home schedule on Dec. 1 in a return game from last season’s ESPN Bracketbuster contest.
It was previously reported that Cal Poly would host St. Mary’s in a return game from last year. The Gaels advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season.
Callero said that game would likely be moved to the 2011-12 season after the schools couldn’t negotiate a date that worked for both teams.
“Based upon our schedule, a lot of times it’s regarding academics,” Callero said. “They wanted us to move (the date) but we were unable and unwilling to drop UCLA or Cal. Those are premium pay and time games for us. We couldn’t miss those, couldn’t change those. Those are the days they had available. But we still have a commitment from them to give us a return game.”
The Mustangs (12-19, 7-9 Big West Conference) finished last season going 1-1 at the conference tournament.
Cal Poly will host an exhibition against Cal State East Bay on Nov. 6 before opening its season on the road against Callero’s former school, Seattle, on Nov. 14.