John Madden Football Center in the works for Cal Poly football

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Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo’s football program unveiled plans Saturday night for the John Madden Football Center, named after its most famous alumnus who went on to become a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach with the Raiders and an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster.

Announcing the $30 million, 30,000-square-foot project at halftime of Cal Poly’s game Saturday night against Sacramento State were Madden’s wife, Virginia, their sons, Mike and Joe, and grandson Jack, a Cal Poly nutrition major.  Before passing away last December at age 85, Madden worked extensively with Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong and football coach Beau Baldwin to sketch out the new team headquarters, that will be built beyond the south end zone at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Madden, who grew up in Daly City, played football and baseball at Cal Poly in the late 1950s. After a career-ending knee injury in the Philadelphia Eagles’ camp his rookie year, Madden returned to Cal Poly to get his master’s degree in education, and to dive into coaching.

“We had an alumni game (at Cal Poly) that same spring. I coached the alumni against the varsity and we beat them,” Madden recalled in a 2006 interview with this news organization.”I’m coaching the (San Luis Obispo) high school team, the (Cal Poly) alumni and I’m not getting paid for any of it. I told my wife, ‘Someday I’m going to make money coaching.’ She just laughed.”

John Madden played both offense and defense for Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. 

“We are certain the John Madden Football Center will be a transformative facility that elevates every aspect of Mustang football,” Mike Madden said in a statement through Cal Poly. “It will be a centralized home for the entire football community — a state-of-the-art facility for current and future Mustangs, designed to develop their physical and mental skills and provide a place to gather with teammates to study or relax. Further, it will afford coaches regular interaction with current Mustangs, while also being an attraction to help recruit the best future players.”

It will include a locker room, strength and conditioning facilities, a nutrition center, a lounge, offices, training rooms, a hall of champions, and a team-meeting theater that can seat 125 players.

“Cal Poly Athletics, and specifically the Football Program, is the front porch of Cal Poly. Investing in the program where alumni and the local community can be proud of their achievements will lead to a deeper engagement and nurture a pride that provides alumni more reasons to come back to Cal Poly,” Armstrong said. “And as we planned the facility, Coach Madden was focused first and foremost on the health, well-being and overall experience of football players. This will be a facility for our student-athletes, designed and planned by the best coaches.”

Broadcaster and former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden poses with his bust after enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Broadcaster and former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden poses with his bust after enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) 

The Madden Center will front Mustang Memorial Plaza, which honors 16 members of the 1960 team who perished in an Ohio plane crash, many of whom were Madden’s friends.

While the Madden family led the donation effort for the center, Cal Poly is still seeking to raise an additional $6 million. The Madden family is also funding multiple scholarships to Cal Poly for East Bay youths.

“This amazing commitment from the Madden Family will help lead the charge for our entire Cal Poly community to get behind this project, and support championship football here on the Central Coast,” Mustang director of athletics Don Oberhelman said.

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