Cal Poly

Cal Poly football team heads to South Dakota amid conference tumult

Ed Meierkort got admonished for theorizing why it was happening, but the dissolving of the Great West Conference’s football arm was finalized this week.

South Dakota (4-5, 1-2 Great West), which will host No. 19 Cal Poly (6-3, 1-1 Great West) today, announced this week that the university will follow through with plans to move to the Summit League while taking its football program to the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Coyotes were the last football team left in the Great West after the Mustangs and UC Davis announced their plans to move to the Big Sky in September and Southern Utah and North Dakota followed suit in late October.

Critical of several calls in South Dakota’s 17-13 loss to the Aggies on Oct. 9, Meierkort, the Coyotes head coach, was officially reprimanded by the Great West following his postgame comments.

“I can see why the Great West is disbanding,” Meierkort said at the time. “I don’t want to take any credit away from UC Davis, but I’ve never seen a team get homered like our team got homered. That was ridiculous.”

Happy to move his program into the Big Sky full-time in 2012, Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh sympathized somewhat with Meierkort and expressed a desire to institute some measure of instant replay.

But at the same time, Walsh acknowledged that the lights haven’t been completely turned off on the Great West.

“The conference is falling apart, that’s pretty obvious now,” Walsh said, “but we’re going to be a conference for another year and a half. So, the reprimand tells you that there’s still going to be rules that we have to follow.”

It was clear that South Dakota had to go somewhere, but it was surprising to many that the university elected to split from the rest of its Great West mates and away from the Big Sky.

However, the Coyotes will be reunited with in-state rival South Dakota State and will also play North Dakota State in the MVC.

South Dakota would have given the Big Sky 14 football teams and would have allowed the conference to potentially form two seven-team divisions within the conference.

Now, with only 13 teams, the idea of divisions becomes tougher to execute.

Cal Poly would want to be included with its closest travel partners, including in-state rivals UC Davis and Sacramento State and possibly nearby opponents Portland State and Northern Arizona.

“The interesting thing is going to be how they decide to split it up,” Walsh said. “If they split it up the way I hope they split it up, I’ll probably be a happy guy. There are going to be happy people, and there are going to be people wishing it was another way.”

Mustangs quarterback Andre Broadous, who could play today after spending the past two games out with a shoulder injury, would like to see Cal Poly end up playing Portland State.

A Portland native and a former Grant High standout, Broadous would be a senior in 2012, which could be the one year he would wish for a certain road game.

“I’m going to be excited if we play at Portland State,” Broadous said. “Walsh, he coached at Portland State, and we have a lot of Portland coaches. So, it would be a big game for us.”

Walsh said senior Tony Smith, 4-0 as a starter this season, is likely to start at quarterback against the Coyotes, but Broadous did take his first practice snaps this week since injuring his throwing shoulder on the final play from scrimmage in Cal Poly’s 20-7 loss at Southern Utah three weeks ago.

Broadous ran the triple option and threw mostly short passes Wednesday and hoped to begin working deep balls Thursday and Friday to see how much pain it caused.

“Tony’s done some good things for us while he has played,” Walsh said, “and we really appreciate all his efforts. I feel comfortable with where we are.

“If we decided to play them both, just for unspecified reasons, just to play them both, I think it will be a good mix.”

Against South Dakota, Cal Poly’s emphasis will more likely be on Coyotes quarterback Dante Warren, who accounted for 433 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in a 41-38 early-season win over Minnesota but hasn’t quite lived up to that feat since.

Warren seems to be heating up, passing for more than 200 yards in each of his past two games, the first time he has done that in consecutive games all season.

Walsh called South Dakota the best 4-5 team he’s ever coached against.

“When you beat a Big Ten school, you’re expectations kind of rise,” Walsh said. “It’s kind of like when Cal Poly played Wisconsin a couple years ago, gave them everything they could and they came back the next week and didn’t play as well. I think expectations rose tremendously for them.”