Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best has the option of rolling out of bed Monday morning and making the short drive to downtown Spokane for the Big Sky Football Kickoff, an annual gathering of the conference’s head coaches, top players and media members.
Now that the event – previously held in Park City, Utah – is making its debut in EWU’s backyard, Best, quarterback Gage Gubrud and defensive back Mitch Fettig won’t have to get on a plane to field questions from reporters and socialize with their rivals.
Hosted at the DoubleTree Hotel, the two-day event begins Sunday with a dinner. On Monday, the conference’s 13 head coaches and 26 players – two from each school – will begin answering the media questions at 9 a.m.. The interviews will be streamed on WatchBigSky.com
With his wife and kids out of town, Best plans to enjoy the DoubleTree amenities instead of staying at home.
“I am going to stay at the hotel and enjoy the event with the guys,” Best said. “It’s a business meeting, but with this it’s business and pleasure. There are a lot of friendships there, and when you’re working all season to beat each other, it’s nice to have some time and relax and enjoy each other’s company.”
Idaho representatives will drive just 80 miles north for the event. The Vandals, making their return to the Big Sky after 22 seasons at FBS level, spent last season’s Sun Belt Conference media days in New Orleans.
Sixth-year head coach Paul Petrino and two of his top seniors, linebacker Kaden Elliss and running back Isaiah Saunders, will represent Idaho.
Idaho isn’t the only big thing returning to the conference. Making the 3-hour drive from Missoula, Montana head coach Bobby Hauck is back in the saddle. Hauck led the Grizzlies to seven straight conference titles and three FCS title games before accepting the same job at UNLV in 2010.
About half of the Big Sky’s members are located within a day’s drive from Spokane, which provides a bigger media market for the event than its previous hosts.
“Spokane is a great fit for our football kickoff,” Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams said. “The media coverage in Spokane will create more exposure to the Big Sky and our member institutions. Spokane has a history of putting on world-class events and we look forward to working with the Spokane Sports Commission and city to showcase the football kickoff and start the season.”
Best said the growth of the event bodes well for the conference. The event returns to Spokane next year.
“It’s not as grandiose as SEC media days, but it’s still good and a great thing for our conference,” Best said.
The Big Sky media and coaches’ preseason football polls will be released during the event. Eight Big Sky teams were recognized in the four polls by various publications this summer, with EWU being ranked as high as No. 4 by HERO Sports, No. 11 by Athlon Sports and No. 14 by Street and Smith’s.
EWU, which returns 16 starters from a year ago, is looking to bounce back from a 7-4 season and an FCS playoff snub. The Eagles finished ranked No. 22 in the final 2017 FCS coaches’ poll.