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Cowherd visits in support of alma mater

Offered a chance to be a part of a landmark football weekend at Eastern Washington University, Colin Cowherd didn’t hesitate.

“It makes me proud and it makes me smile,” the national sports radio personality said of an event that combines some of his biggest passions: college football and the Northwest, especially the school in Cheney that he credits for “providing the canvas to paint my future.”

Now the host of ESPN’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd,” Cowherd said he wants contribute to what he sees as a “tipping point” moment for an Eastern football program that is still attempting to attract donors for the Gateway Project, a $60 million upgrade of Roos Field.

For Cowherd, the weekend includes a book-signing and a pep rally in downtown Spokane, a dinner with the Eagle Athletic Fund – the school’s official booster organization – and a part in ESPN’s nationally televised game today between Eastern and Sam Houston State.

It won’t end there. A camera will shadow Cowherd during today’s game, and the footage will go back to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut, for a 2-minute “Colin goes back to his alma mater” segment that will air nationally for several months.

It’s all about timing, said Cowherd, adding that “this is not about me.”

“This is the ‘wow’ moment for Eastern football,” said the 50-year-old Cowherd, who’s followed the program closely since he was a student in the mid-1980s, just as Eastern made its leap from the NAIA ranks to the Big Sky Conference.

More than two decades later, he was a financial contributor to the red turf project at Roos Field; he sees more rewards ahead – and more work.

“This level of football, especially when it’s played like Eastern’s, is pretty good,” said Cowherd, who praised coach Beau Baldwin and his staff for their innovation and believes that on the field at least, the Eagles have surpassed traditional Big Sky Conference heavyweight Montana.

“The passion is here, the quality of coaching is here, but the facilities are fledgling,” a shortcoming that will be redressed only by a major upgrade such as the Gateway Project, Cowherd said.

“It’s a make or break, it’s the last big piece,” said Cowherd said, seeing a cup-half-full future that he likened to what Boise State has accomplished in the past 20 years.

Eastern’s high-profile weekend follows hard on the NCAA’s decision to grant autonomy to the top conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a move that some feel will widen the gulf between college football’s “haves” and “have-nots.”

A larger facility might ensure Eastern’s long-term ability to compete at the higher levels of NCAA competition – “there will be a landing spot,” Cowherd said – and improve its chances at more lucrative television exposure.

“There are 31 networks out there, and they’re looking for programming,” Cowherd said.