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Scheduling Pac-12 teams gives EWU big boost

Thu., July 19, 2012, 6:47 p.m.

EWU receiver Nicholas Edwards said playing bigger school is a chance to showcase his talent. (Dan Pelle)
EWU receiver Nicholas Edwards said playing bigger school is a chance to showcase his talent. (Dan Pelle)

PARK CITY, Utah - Eastern Washington University Athletic Director Bill Chaves is taking his family to Disneyland this week, but not before working a little magic of his own.

Last week, he completed a football quadfecta of sorts, scheduling a football game at Oregon in 2015 that gives the Eagles a chance to play all four Northwest Pac-12 teams in as many years. The Eagles will get a $450,000 payoff to play the Ducks, bringing the payout to exactly $2 million for five games against Pac-12 teams.

“We’ve been in contact with just about all the Pac-12 schools,” Chaves said this week at the annual Big Sky Conference Summer Kickoff. “With our budget, we need to play some of these games …”

All those dollars make a lot of sense, but the bottom line isn’t measured in cash.

Even before the Eagles play at Washington State on Sept. 8, the game is already a win-win. EWU gets $325,000 for a game in the next county, and the players get a chance for a big win on the field.

“I love to play against the bigger schools, because we get to showcase our talents,” said EWU wide receiver Nicholas Edwards, who grew up in Tacoma. “Most of us were on the fence about getting a scholarship to the bigger school.”

Even head coach Beau Baldwin, who grew up in Tacoma, couldn’t shake the excitement of playing in Husky Stadium last year.

“It was exciting,” said Baldwin, who grew up going to games at Husky Stadium

. And even though Eastern lost a 30-27 heartbreaker, Baldwin said “it was amazing, the difference in the way people looked at your program, even more so than coming off a national title.

“It had a bigger impact on some people’s opinion of your program.”

This year, the Eagles get two chances to do that: the season opener Aug. 30 at Idaho (which is paying $150,000) and Sept. 8 at WSU. Fans also get two easy road trips.

“It’s also really good for our fans,” Chaves said. “Our fans and our student-athletes enjoy going into those environments.”

Especially the athletes. “It becomes a tremendous memory for them,” Chaves said. “They may play 50 to 60 games in their career here, but 15 to 20 years from now, they’re going to remember those games. Those memories are indelible.”

Now if only the Eagles can make it a win-win-win.

“That’s our mentality, that we can beat whoever we’re facing,” Edwards said. “We’re ready.”

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