Former Cal Poly offensive line coach and running game coordinator Paul Wulff was elevated to Cal Poly’s head coach on Dec. 6, 2002. The move came after former head coach Beau Baldwin resigned as head coach and accepted an offensive coordinator role at Arizona State after the 2022 season.
“It was a no-brainer for a number of reasons,” Baldwin told Zach McKinnell of The Bluebloods about accepting the head coaching job this offseason. “Just knowing the potential of this place, the location, the school that it offers and being at other institutions in the Big Sky and seeing teams at the national level… It felt like if this place gets committed, which it is now, and we put forth the financial investment that is needed, you can do special things here.”
Wulff was previously the head coach at Eastern Washington from 2000-07. He won two Big Sky championships (2004, 2005) and was a three-time Big Sky Coach of the Year (2001, 2004, 2005). He is confident in his ability to replicate that success at Cal Poly, but spoke about the level of competitiveness that the Big Sky has developed from top to bottom.
“I felt like at Eastern Washington, we were always in a challenging spot financially. But we were able to get that thing in a national competitive level and felt that there’s just so much more here at this university to offer.”
“The conference has definitely changed from what’s on the football field,” Wulff continued about the level of competition in the Big Sky. “I think now, just top to bottom, the teams are bigger, stronger, and way more physical and committed to running the football than they used to be. It was known years ago for spreading out and throwing the ball all over the place, but the teams have changed that philosophy, so there’s just not as much of that passing game.”
Wulff left Eastern Washington after the 2007 season to become the head coach at Washington State. He coached for the Cougars for four seasons before becoming an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.
“I think the biggest thing is just when you come into a program you just never know what you’re walking into,” Wulff said about his learning experiences from his time at Washington State. “At Washington State, I had some insiders there before I accepted the job that warned me it was in a really tough spot, just the internal pieces of the program and the quality of talent at that time, but you never know until you get there. We did a good job rebuilding it and bringing in great young players, but just didn’t have the time to see it through.”
One of the biggest transfer portal additions in the country was former five-star Washington quarterback Sam Huard announcing his commitment to Cal Poly. Wulff spoke about Huard’s relationship with new offensive coordinator Sheldon Cross and why Huard was the right fit for the Mustangs.
“Sheldon is a great addition for us, but Sam was never in the discussion because he was still at the University of Washington,” Wulff stated about Cross and Huard coming to Cal Poly. “We all figured Michael Pennix Jr. was going to move into the draft and I think Sam thought the same thing. Then he made the decision that I need to put myself in a situation where I can play immediately.
“There’s no guarantee he’s going to play here immediately either because we have some great young players at the quarterback spot,” Wulff continued. “Obviously he’s in a position to play and that’s when the decision came in and he had reached out and we were like heck yeah we’ll do this. We’d love to have him here and that’s how it went. We weren’t seeking him and we weren’t looking for the transfer quarterback, but this was just one we felt like we couldn’t pass up.”
As Paul Wulff enters his third stint as a collegiate head coach, he wants to change the narrative surrounding Cal Poly football. He wants to make sure teams across the Big Sky feel the presence of the Mustangs this season, which is something that he felt was missing last season.
“I think we were youthful and injured the last year or two and we really got pushed around at the line of scrimmage and all over the place to be honest,” Wulff said about what he wants to change this season for the Mustangs. “I think just getting this football team in a position where we can physically match up week in and week out… We have got to get in that situation.”
“We just felt everyone’s presence on the field last year and I don’t know that anyone really felt ours,” Wulff continued. “It’s time to change that narrative and put ourselves in a position to get bigger and stronger and to be a more physical football team. I think if we do just that you’re going to see a dramatic change in our win-loss column.”
The Paul Wulff era at Cal Poly begins on Sep. 2 against San Diego at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.