Sunday morning’s gathering lacked the drama of the night before, and that was just fine with Eastern Washington football players, coaches and fans.
About 100 of them gathered at Tawanka Commons on the Eastern campus for the televised unveiling of the Football Championship Subdivision bracket, which has the Eagles as the third seed in the upcoming 24-team playoff.
Thanks to an exhilarating 42-41 win over Portland State the night before, the Big Sky Conference champion Eagles earned a first-round bye and will host either Northern Arizona or South Dakota State in a second-round game at 1 p.m. on Dec. 7.
“It’s really nice that we put ourselves in a position where we can just sit down and watch the selection show,” said Eastern coach Beau Baldwin, whose team earned the overall third seed.
That means that if the Eagles (10-2 overall, 8-0 in the Big Sky) win on Dec. 7, they also will host a quarterfinal game on the weekend of Dec. 13-14.
“We had a pretty good idea … that’s what people were saying, and it’s perfect and it’s exciting for the kids,” Baldwin said.
Two-time defending national champion North Dakota State is the top overall seed, followed by Eastern Illinois, Eastern and Southeast Louisiana. Should form hold in its half of the bracket, the Eagles would visit Eastern Illinois for a semifinal game on Dec. 20 of Dec. 21.
The Eagles were one of four Big Sky Conference teams to earn bids. Montana is the No. 8 overall seed, while Southern Utah earned an at-large bid and will play this weekend at Sam Houston State.
“It’s a credit to all the Big Sky schools, we’ve represented really well getting four teams in this thing,” said Baldwin, whose team earned the school’s first outright Big Sky title since 1997.
Normally, the NCAA avoids pairing teams from the same conference in the first or second rounds, but that restriction is waived if the teams didn’t meet in the regular season.
If NAU (10-2 overall, 7-1 Big Sky) gets past South Dakota State, they would face the Eagles for the first time in three years. “We thought that was a possibility,” Baldwin said of a prospective matchup with the Lumberjacks.