The bar was already high, but Eastern Washington football coach Beau Baldwin raised it further this season.
After leading the Eagles to their first undisputed Big Sky Conference title in 16 years, Baldwin was named Wednesday as the conference Coach of the Year.
After going 7-1 in league play a year ago, Baldwin guided the Eagles to an 8-0 conference record and a 10-2 regular season. The Eagles won the outright Big Sky Championship, becoming the first team other than Montana to finish perfect in league play since Nevada in 1991.
Eastern will take the No. 3 overall seed and a No. 3 national ranking into the Division I Championship. Eastern Washington received a first-round bye, and will play at home on Saturday, Dec. 7
“I am humbled very much,'' said Baldwin. “Especially in the sport of football, a coach of the year award is more accurately stated as a coaching staff of the year award. So much of it is because of what the assistant coaches do every year.
” I'm lucky to not only have great football guys, but great teachers and men on this staff. This type of award is a tribute to them. And no staff ever wins a coach of the year award without talented players, great leadership and outstanding character in the locker room. Our players exemplify that.''
Baldwin and the Eagles opened the season with a bang, stunning No. 25 Oregon State of the Pac-12 49-46, becoming just the fourth FCS team ever to upset a ranked FBS opponent. The Eagles suffered back-to-back losses on the road to FBS Toledo and national FCS power Sam Houston State, but rebounded to win their final eight games of the regular season.
Eastern Washington's high-powered offense was led by sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams, who was named the Big Sky Offensive MVP on Monday. The Walter Payton Award candidate leads the nation in passing efficiency and total offense, and set a Big Sky single-season record with 46 touchdown passes. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Cooper Kupp was named the Freshman of the Year, and is a leading candidate to win the Jerry Rice Award as the nation's top freshman.