“On to Richmond.”
That old Civil War battle cry became the motto for Eastern Washington football fans Thursday after coach Beau Baldwin was passed over for the same job at the University of Nevada.
The news broke late Wednesday night that the Wolf Pack has selected Arizona State assistant Jay Norvell, and many Eastern fans awoke to the news with mixed emotions: relief that the Eagles’ highly successful coach will stick around; disappointment that Baldwin missed out on another chance to move to the big-school ranks.
Fans at both schools were surprised, especially those at Nevada. An online poll set up by the Reno Gazette-Journal showed 79 percent of fans favoring Baldwin over Norvell and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.
But if Baldwin was surprised, he wasn’t showing it as the second-seeded Eagles (11-1) prepared for Saturday’s FCS quarterfinal home game against the Richmond Spiders.
Baldwin declined to comment on the subject, including the rumor that he had been offered the position and turned it down.
“No rear-view mirrors,” Baldwin said Thursday when asked about the Nevada job.
However, he praised his players’ ability to focus despite the distraction.
“Our guys have handled every situation with focus and maturity,” Baldwin said. “I don’t think this changes anything going into the Richmond game.”
The players said as much Tuesday before practice. “It’s not a big deal,” running back Sam McPherson said.
In the short-term, Nevada’s decision spares EWU athletic director Bill Chaves the chore of finding a successor to Baldwin, whom Chaves hired nine years ago.
Chaves was sympathetic.
“I think that in our industry, you’re looking to improve your situation,” said Chaves, whose choice of basketball coach Jim Hayford paid off with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015. He also selected soccer coach Chad Bodnar, who led the Eagles to their first NCAA appearance this fall.
Asked if the near-miss by Nevada was a shot to the bow at Eastern’s lack of facilities and financial resources, Chaves said was circumspect.
“I don’t think it takes a situation like this to remind us to give us to do everything we can to get better in every way,” Chaves said.
So it’s on to Richmond, which now is the only team saddled with distraction.
The Spiders’ Danny Rocco is rumored to be the front-runner for the head job at Delaware. In fact, some believe that Rocco has already accepted the job, which is still vacant.
“You can’t prevent speculation,” Rocco told the Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal earlier this week. “So all I can really focus on is going through the routine and focusing on the process, the process of winning.”
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