Eastern Washington football fans held their coach a little closer Monday night.
Not only because of what they might lose – namely Beau Baldwin himself – but because of what they’ve already won: the feel-good experience of the most successful run in school history.
Both emotions were tied like a knot Monday night at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, cheers and laughter mixed with the “rumors and innuendo” that Baldwin could soon be headed for bigger things.
Bigger, yes, but not better than the atmosphere Monday at Northern Quest, where Baldwin was at his multi-tasking best in reviewing the Eagles’ 37-20 playoff win over Montana.
Baldwin analyzed highlights, cracked jokes at the Grizzlies’ expense, heaped praise on his coaches and players, and made it clear to fans that the appreciation goes both ways.
“In our (coaches’) world, which is so focused on finishing, it means a lot to us,” Baldwin said. “It doesn’t matter – in wins or losses, you’ve always been supportive.”
After it ended, he planned to drive back to his office “for another late-night Monday,” planning for Saturday’s FCS quarterfinal against Illinois State.
“That’s priority number one,” said Baldwin, who added that his ability to “multi-task and compartmentalize” have helped him deal with distractions since he surfaced as a candidate for head-coaching positions at Oregon State and Colorado State.
On Monday afternoon, the Oregonian newspaper reported that OSU has Baldwin on a list of prospective candidates for the vacancy left by Mike Riley’s departure last week for Nebraska.
The Oregonian story added that an EWU athletic department spokesman declined to comment Monday on whether OSU has asked the Eagles for permission to interview Baldwin.
Baldwin’s success is hard to to ignore; he is 66-24 at Eastern, has won four Big Sky titles and the FCS title in 2010. Five of his seven teams have reached the postseason, where he’s 9-3.
In the last four meetings against Pac-12 opponents, Baldwin’s teams have been competitive in every game, including a 49-46 win at OSU in 2013.
While not addressing whether he’s been in contact with any school, Baldwin said he’s focused on the task at hand, and making sure the players do the same thing.
“I address the team on certain things,” said Baldwin, adding that the volume of information on social media is so great “that players tend to ignore it more.
“You just have to blank all of that out,” Baldwin said.
Most of the evening was spent in the here-and-now – namely the Eagles’ second win this season over Montana. As Baldwin pointed out, this game was won the old-fashioned way, with a solid running game, a dominating defensive line, and by winning the turnover battle.
Baldwin knows that some fans view the Eagles as a finesse team, but said that opposing coaches “who look at an entire season” know differently.
For good measure, two video clips showed Eastern defenders flattening Montana blockers en route to the ballcarrier.
It was just one more moment for his audience to embrace.
An honor for Baldwin
Baldwin was named the American Football Coaches Association Region 5 Coach of the Year for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision on Monday.
This is the first time Baldwin has been honored by the AFCA, and comes on the heels of Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2012 and 2013. All three seasons, Baldwin’s teams have won the Big Sky Conference title and advanced to the playoffs.
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