Hundreds of Eagles fans flocked to downtown Spokane Saturday to continue celebrating Eastern Washington University’s NCAA Division I national football title.
The rally included a parade from Washington Street and Main Avenue to River Park Square. It was held in celebration of Eastern’s 20-19 triumph over Delaware on Jan. 7 in the championship game in Frisco, Texas, which capped a 13-2 season full of fourth-quarter wins.
After the parade, city officials congratulated and thanked the coaches and players, who were surrounded by fans.
Among those who spoke at the rally were Mayor Mary Verner, and Spokane County commissioners Al French, Todd Mielke and Mark Richard.
“We are all just so proud,” Verner told the team.
At the rally, the county commissioners proclaimed February as EWU Eagles Month.
Coach Beau Baldwin spoke to the large crowd of fans, thanking them for their support in both Eastern Washington and on the road in Texas. Baldwin said that when the team arrived in Frisco, they were awestruck by what they saw – a sea of fans wearing red and black that had followed their team to Texas to cheer them on in the championship game.
“It gave us a feeling I don’t think we ever had as a team,” he said.
Baldwin said the Eagles have a history of winning; they’ve had winning records 13 of the last 15 seasons and made the FCS playoffs five times.
“We love setting that bar high,” he said.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, linebacker J.C. Sherritt and others also thanked their fans for their support.
This year, Sherritt won the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding Division I FCS defensive player.
As Athletic Director Bill Chaves pointed out, the Eagles weren’t just winners on the field this year. They were in the classroom as well. Every senior is on track to graduate, he said, and the team boasts a combined grade point average of more than 3.0.
Brad Branson attended the parade to show his undying support for the team. He said he hopes Eastern will now get the accolades it deserves. But as an alumnus, employee and fan, Branson is not one to jump on the bandwagon during a winning season.
“Eastern Washington University is my alma mater and I believe in supporting the school through thick and thin,” he said. “I’ve been here from the very beginning, believe me. I’ll be here when they win. I’ll be here when they lose.”
Branson gave out 100 football game tickets to recruit new Eagles fans this year. He said everyone who sits in his vicinity during the games knows just how big a fan he is. And how loud he can yell.
“I rally our section,” he said. “I’m loud. I get people up.”
He said that despite a potentially deadly bomb being placed on the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March route, he had no second thoughts about continuing his rally cry at the Eagles parade.
“Spokane’s a tough city,” he said. “We’re not going to not come and support something like this. We can’t get scared that easy.
“We’re tough, just like the Eagles.”