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New contract rewards Beau Baldwin’s winning ways with Eastern Washington football

Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and his  quarterback, Gage Gubrud, brewed up another successful season in Cheney for 2016. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and his quarterback, Gage Gubrud, brewed up another successful season in Cheney for 2016. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Even at $240,000 a year, Beau Baldwin is one of the biggest bargains in college football.

That’s how much Eastern Washington’s football coach will make this year, according to documents obtained this week by The Spokesman-Review.

“He’s been nothing short of remarkable,” says Bill Chaves, the athletic director and Baldwin’s boss for his entire nine-year tenure in Cheney.

Baldwin’s 85-32 record is seventh best in the history of the Big Sky Conference. He’s also won five conference titles (while going 58-14), an FCS national championship in 2010 and taken the Eagles on several deep runs in the postseason.

The cost of those wins: dirt cheap by most standards. Last year, Baldwin earned about $222,000 a year and won 12 games. That’s $19,000 per victory.

By comparison, Washington State paid $370,000 for each of the eight wins registered by coach Mike Leach, who also happened to lose the 2016 season opener to none other than Baldwin and the Eagles.

But Chaves also gets paid to get results and anticipate events.

As the Eagles opened last football season with that big win in Pullman, “an inkling” passed through Chaves’ mind that this might be another special year.

And that coach Baldwin might be targeted by a bigger school – again.

Sure enough, three months later, Baldwin was one of three finalists at Nevada. He didn’t get the job, but barely a day later, on Dec. 9, Eastern announced that it was “finalizing” a five-year extension with Baldwin.

Coincidence? Hardly, because the Eagles and Baldwin have been down that path before.

“He’s elevated this program to a higher level,” said Chaves of Baldwin, whom he hired in 2008 to replace Paul Wulff.

The new five-year contract was signed by all parties – Baldwin, Chaves and president Mary Cullinan – during the holiday break.

Under its terms, Baldwin’s base salary of $240,000 will increase by $10,000 annually through 2021. The contract is loaded with incentives: $2,000 for winning the Big Sky title, a like amount for each playoff win through the quarterfinals and $4,000 for reaching the title game.

Winning another FCS title would be worth $10,000.

Other bonuses would be paid if the Eagles reach certain thresholds in the classroom and at the gate.

The incentives total $34,000 annually.

There is no buyout clause should Baldwin leave during the term of the contract.

“I appreciate the continuous support from Dr. Cullinan and our athletic administration towards the support of our program,” Baldwin said. “We look forward to even greater things in the future.”

In the short term, Eastern returns a strong nucleus from last year’s 12-2 team that reached the FCS semifinals before losing 40-38 to Youngstown State.

Beyond that, the school still must address the issue of aging Roos Field, which turns 50 this year and is showing every age spot. The Board of Regents has yet to take up the issue.

The bigger question in the minds of Eastern fans: Will a larger contract keep Baldwin in Cheney for the foreseeable future? Only Baldwin can answer that question, but the deal makes him the second-highest paid coach in the Big Sky.

Only new UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins ranks higher, at $262,500, but he once made $1.5 million annually at Colorado.

Baldwin’s contract doesn’t cover his assistants – those are handled on a year-to-year basis, Chaves said. Last year, top assistants John Graham, Aaron Best and Jeff Schmedding made between $73,000 and $76,000. The other position coaches earned between $42,208 and $63,240.

Baldwin’s salary ranks in the upper tier nationally among FCS coaches. Chris Klieman of North Dakota State earned $261,000 last year, while Brock Spack of Illinois State made $300,000 and K.C. Keeler of Sam Houston State earned $250,000.

At the top end, Turner Gill of Liberty pulled in $658,492, but his salary is an outlier. The other top salaries went to Richmond’s Danny Rocco ($437,672) and Northern Iowa’s Mark Farley ($350,000).

Most FCS coaches make far less than their FBS counterparts. The Nevada job would have paid Baldwin at least $600,000 annually. Former NDSU coach Craig Bohl made $882,000 last year at Wyoming.

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