February 14, 2009 in Sports

Sniffing around

With EWU seniors free to go, Huskies inquire
By The Spokesman-Review

Aaron Boyce, left, is second on EWU’s career receptions list with 183 catches. He caught 63 pass for 917 yards and 10 TDs last fall.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The hidden price of NCAA sanctions is beginning to emerge at Eastern Washington University.

Eastern’s football program was put on three years’ probation and hit with a one-year ban from postseason play on Wednesday as part of penalties for repeated violations of NCAA rules from 2003-07. In addition, former head coach Paul Wulff was prohibited from having any contact with his current team at Washington State during the first three days of preseason drills next August.

Now his successor at EWU, Beau Baldwin, is sweating out not only the penalties but a potential side effect.

NCAA rules allow players in programs that have been hit with a postseason ban to transfer and be immediately eligible to play at another university, providing their years of remaining eligibility do not exceed the duration of the postseason ban. In Eastern’s case, that includes 18 seniors-to-be.

And the first shopper has already come sniffing around.

Baldwin confirmed Friday that representatives of the University of Washington athletic department contacted EWU associate athletic director Don Ross, the department’s NCAA compliance officer, regarding the possible recruitment of Eagles wide receivers Aaron Boyce and Brynsen Brown.

While acknowledging that “we all know it’s within the rules,” Baldwin is unhappy with UW’s approach.

“Especially with our situation, I’m not sure I would be handling it in the same way if I was in the position of the Pac-10 school,” he said.

EWU has a 15-day window to appeal the penalties. Since it self-imposed the bulk of the sanctions prior to the NCAA’s announcement Wednesday, only the postseason ban is likely to be appealed.

“I’ve talked with (athletic director) Bill Chaves over the last couple of days,” Baldwin said. “I haven’t received a call from a (UW) coach and Bill has not received a call from their athletic director. It’s enough for us to deal with the penalties, let alone this.”

An All-American his sophomore year, Boyce is second on Eastern’s career receptions list with 183 after catching 63 for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Brown caught 50 passes for 733 yards in 2008 to up his career total to 137 receptions.

Though they return all their receivers, the Huskies only had one – sophomore D’Andre Goodwin – who caught more than 20 passes last season.

Neither Boyce nor Brown was available for comment Friday. Baldwin said he had talked to many of the seniors individually after the news came down Wednesday.

“Look, it’s an extreme compliment that someone in the Pac-10 wants to reach out to these players,” he said. “At the same time, what we have to have in mind is what’s in their best interests.

“Eastern Washington has cared for these seniors for four years now, and I’m not confident that the next place they might go or talk to about going is automatically going to care for them as much as we have. All I’ve asked from them is to think big picture and in terms of what their best interests are for next year. To a man, every senior I’ve talked to seems excited about the idea of staying here and finishing with the guys he came in with. It’s been a real positive response, and I don’t know of one player who’s decided otherwise.”

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