As the college football coaching carrousel picked up speed Thursday, Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin was mentioned as a candidate at several Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
The latest and most plausible is Oregon State, which saw longtime head coach Mike Riley depart for Nebraska on Thursday morning. Within hours, Baldwin’s name was floated as a leading candidate by every major media outlet in the Willamette Valley.
Considered an innovative coach with a proven track record at the FCS level, the 42-year-old Baldwin is 66-24 in his seventh season with the Eagles, won a national championship in 2010 and owns a 49-46 win over the Beavers in the opening game of the 2013 season.
A Tacoma native, Baldwin also has strong recruiting ties in the Northwest. More than half of Eastern’s roster hails from west of the Cascades.
Earlier this week, Baldwin told The Spokesman-Review that he wasn’t interested in the head coaching position at Big Sky Conference rival Montana but left the door open to offers from FBS schools.
On Thursday, Baldwin said he hadn’t been contacted by anyone from Oregon State.
Meanwhile, EWU athletic director Bill Chaves was in Portland on Thursday night with several other Eastern officials. Chaves had no comment on whether he or Baldwin had been contacted by anyone from OSU.
Baldwin said he was flattered by the attention but remains focused on getting the Eagles past Montana.
“Obviously, it’s a step up, but in terms of where I am just right now on Thursday, my whole focus is toward Saturday and on what we’re doing here,” Baldwin said as the Eagles prepared for Saturday’s second-round FCS playoff game against the Grizzlies.
At the same time, Baldwin said, “By no means would I not be interested in hearing from a school at the Pac-12 level.”
A move to Corvallis also would mean a large increase in salary. Riley earned a base salary of $1.06 million this year, while Baldwin had a base salary $166,420, according to records obtained this week from EWU Human Resource Services.
Baldwin already has one endorsement, from former Portland State coach Nigel Burton.
“Beau has a lot of Riley-esque qualities,” Burton told the Oregonian. “He’d be a good fit. He’s a great football coach and a better person.”
Baldwin wouldn’t be the first Eastern coach to make the leap to the FBS level. Most recently, Paul Wulff was hired by Washington State in 2008, but was fired after four years. Earlier this year, the Beavers lured Spokane native Wayne Tinkle from Montana to be their basketball coach.
Other top candidates at OSU include:
• Jonathan Smith, a former Oregon State quarterback and current Washington offensive coordinator;
• Bronco Mendenhall, another former OSU player and assistant and currently the head coach at Brigham Young;
• Rocky Long, former OSU defensive coordinator, and now head coach at San Diego State;
• Brady Hoke, former defensive line coach at OSU and recently fired as head coach at Michigan;
• Scott Frost, the offensive coordinator at Oregon.
• Matt Wells, head coach at Utah State.
Former Eastern Washington quarterback and assistant Jim McElwain was hired Thursday morning by Florida. McElwain and Baldwin are friends, and there’s the possibility that Baldwin could be Florida’s offensive coordinator.
That appears unlikely, partly because of geography and partly because McElwain – like Baldwin – prefers to call the offensive plays.
At Colorado State, where McElwain had coached since 2012, Baldwin’s name is among 40-50 candidates.
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