Cal Poly unveils plans for construction of John Madden Football Facility

The John Madden Football Facility is coming to Cal Poly.

Madden’s family and the school unveiled plans Saturday for the construction of a $30 million football building that has been in the works for a few years, prior to the Pro Football Hall of Famer’s death in December. He was 85.

“He had a few swings and misses at college and Cal Poly came to him when he was a guy needing a third or a fourth chance,” said Madden’s son Mike. “I think he always felt a debt of gratitude to where Cal Poly was there when he needed somebody to be there for him and they were. He didn’t forget that.”

Madden attended three colleges before enrolling at Cal Poly in 1957, where he also played baseball. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university. The 30,000-square-foot building will be in the end zone of Alex G. Spanos Stadium and represents a significant modernization for the FCS programme. Cal Poly made the announcement during halftime of its game Saturday against Sacramento State.

“It shows that we’re not just an incredible university with a great academic history, but also that we’re committed to building a championship-level football program,” Cal Poly coach Beau Baldwin said in a statement. “We had the opportunity to watch a few football games with John, and it was amazing to listen to him talk about the game — after all those years as a commentator, deep down he was still a coach first. Ultimately as a coach you ‘re a teacher, and he wanted to do something special to really help our players develop.”

Fundraising for the facility is roughly 80% complete, the school said, with the Madden family providing a lead gift to initiate the process.

Cal Poly expects to break ground on the facility in the spring and complete construction in about two years.

Madden had long been a supporter of the football program. In the late 1980s, amid concerns the school might have to drop the sport, Madden launched a golf tournament in his name that for about a decade was an important fundraiser for the program.

For years, Madden had contemplated ways to cement his legacy with the school, Mike Madden told ESPN, before the idea for a football building came about a few years ago. Mike Madden said he and his son, Jesse, first discussed it while attending a Cal Poly game, before taking it to his father.

“He loved it,” Mike Madden said. “He always wanted to do something [significant] for Cal Poly football. And this was something that made a lot of sense.”

The entrance of the building will lead into Mustang Memorial Plaza, which was built to honor the 16 Cal Poly players and team manager who died in a plane crash in 1960, many of whom were friends with Madden.

Madden spent 10 seasons as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, recording a 103-32-7 record, the best winning percentage (.759) of any NFL coach with at least 100 games. After retiring from coaching at 42, Madden embarked upon a legendary broadcasting career and became the face of the iconic Madden NFL Football video game series.