Cal Poly

Coaching connection brings extra intrigue

It’s been nearly a decade since Tim Walsh’s coaching tenure at Portland State ended.

The longtime Vikings coach – now in his seventh season at Cal Poly – spent 14 years building Portland State into a Big Sky Conference contender. From 1999 to 2006, the Vikings finished second in the conference standings four times behind a string of talented running backs in the West Coast offense.

By the time Walsh left the City of Roses in 2007 to become the offensive coordinator at Army, he won more games (90) than any of the 11 previous coaches in school history. Over the next eight seasons, Portland State went 21-45 under Jerry Glanville (2007-09) and Nigel Burton (2010-14).

Burton was fired following the Vikings’ 3-9 campaign a year ago, and his offensive coordinator, Bruce Barnum, was promoted to interim head coach. Playing an inspired brand of football under Barnum — which the players call “Barny Ball” — Portland State has already surpassed last year’s win total. The positive results led to Barnum accepting a five-year contract earlier this month to stay on as the permanent head coach.

“I’m really happy for the program,” Walsh said. “… Not only for football, but for their whole entire athletic department. I think what they’re doing right now is pretty uplifting for their program.”

During the annual Big Sky Conference preseason meeting in Park City, Utah, Walsh and Barnum played golf in a foursome with Portland State associated athletics director Mike Lund and Cal Poly athletics director Don Oberhelman.

There’s a mutual respect between the two coaches, though that’s not at the forefront of either team’s preparations this week.

Barnum said he was offered Cal Poly’s offensive coordinator position when Walsh was hired back in 2009. With no interest in learning the triple option, Barnum declined and spent the next six seasons leading the Vikings offense.

“Can’t learn it, don’t know it, not my world,” Barnum said. “I don’t fly fish, I bass fish.”

The Vikings (5-1, 2-1 Big Sky) are coming off a victory against Montana State last week, and the team plays three of its final five games on the road. Portland State still has to play Montana and three-time defending conference champion Eastern Washington.

“We’re not overlooking anybody,” said Barnum, who played middle linebacker at Eastern Washington in the late 1980s.

Walsh is 4-1 all-time against Portland State, including a 3-0 mark since taking over at Cal Poly.

A win Saturday night could go a long way for a Mustangs team that is 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky with five weeks remaining to make a potential postseason push.