Cheney Free Press -

Game day at Eastern has become a very special thing

In Our Opinion


When a crowd of 9,734 showed up to watch Eastern Washington open their 2013 Big Sky Conference schedule with a 41-19 victory over Weber State it marked the largest gathering ever at Roos Field for a game that didn’t feature a team from Montana.

This Saturday, when the Eagles return to face Southern Utah for a 5 p.m. kickoff in their 2013 Homecoming game, the turnstile count could surpass that.

And when Montana State shows up Nov. 9 in Eastern’s next home game, if you don’t already have your ticket, enjoy the view on TV, because the game is sold out.

But you’ll miss all the fun that’s evolved in recent years in Cheney on game day.

The atmosphere that is present during each and every Eastern home football game once only happened when the Griz or Bobcats came to town accompanied with their legions of fans.

Now Lot P-12 behind Roos Field is filled to the brim with every kind of vehicle from cars to motorhomes, fifth-wheel trailers to “The Game Day Bus.” Barbecues of all shapes and sizes cook their grub; coolers accompany fans to make sure thirsts of all kinds are quenched.

Pop-up shelters crowd much of the rest of the pavement, flag poles rise to meet the breeze that flutters banners flying Eastern’s red and white colors. The school’s marching band, all snappily attired from head to toe, moves from area to area to offer samples of their musical talent and of course the fight song.

It’s all part of the big deal Eastern football has become in the past decade. More so, perhaps, since the arrival of head coach Beau Baldwin six seasons ago.

Baldwin’s remarked over and over in interviews how the crowds – first at Woodward Stadium and now Roos Field – have slowly and steadily increased, especially in the student’s section where their noisy support buoys his guys on the field.

Finally, after decades of suffering through the identity crisis of being that team only associated with playing the Whitworths, Linfields and Eastern Oregons of the small college world, Eastern football has slowly evolved – and arrived.

Winning a national championship – as Eastern did in 2010 – then taking Pac-12 teams like Washington and Washington State to the game’s final play, will get people to notice.

And beating nationally-ranked Oregon State in Corvallis to open the season are ways to remind people that today’s EWU Eagles are a far cry from your dad, mom or grandparent’s Eastern Washington State College Savages.

Today, some of the best college football around is right here in Cheney, not 90 miles away in Pullman or in Seattle.

The game day fun and frivolity has slowly leaked beyond the parking lots connected to Roos Field. And they’ve been, for the most part, well-behaved groups, with those red Solo cups, memorialized by country music superstar Toby Keith, just as important an item as ice, chips and dip.

Now a newly opened adjacent lot will help relieve some of the parking issues, but still keep the center of activities yards away from the action on the field.

Word percolating out of some circles on campus says there could be changes in who oversees the tailgating operation and that concerns us.

If indeed that is true we offer a simple message. Eastern as a whole has worked incredibly hard to get to where it is today when it comes to football and the fun that game day has become.

Don’t fumble the ball Eastern.

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