It's been a good journey for Chaves, EWU
Eastern athletics director has overseen school's rise on the national stage
Things have come a long way in the years since Bill Chaves arrived in Cheney in 2007 to become the director of athletics at EWU. Two of the more notable facilities upgrades have been the red turf in 2010 that has gained national attention, and the scoreboard added in 2012.
(Author's Note: When Cheney Free Press reporter Paul Delaney came on board in August 2007, his first assignment was covering the press conference announcing the appointment of Bill Chaves as Eastern Washington University's director of athletics. Each year since, about the time of their respective anniversaries on the job, the two have sat down to discuss the state of the EWU athletic union. The 2014 report follows.)
It wasn't the smoothest of roads for Eastern Washington University athletics director Bill Chaves when he arrived in Cheney.
When introduced at his press conference, Aug. 17, 2007, he had to work through rental car problems just getting from the airport. However, he arrived on time.
But ever since, the road has been relatively smooth and rewarding for both he and Eastern. "I think we keep evolving every year," Chaves said last week.
That evolution has been most obvious in football where the lumpy, green, natural grass at Woodward Field has given way to the radical red artificial turf of the renamed Roos Field. A new state-of-the-art video board stands where the ancient scoreboard once did.
"I think we're at a point where football has done such a wonderful job of really elevating (Eastern) on the national landscape (and) I think it helps all the other sports in trying to see just what is possible," Chaves said.
Roos Field is a destination. "Whether it be youth, high school or others, that's something that was not in play when I got here," Chaves said.
Chaves is the first to say, "There are a lot of folks who need to take credit and were a part of that. The end of it all, obviously without Michael (Roos) and (wife Katherine) Kat's donation that would not have been a reality," Chaves said.
Roos Field has served up many memories in the previous four years, among them Eastern's march to a 2010 national football championship in its first year on the new turf.
But other things stand out for Chaves. Funny moments, he said.
"We had a team that came in and had not been on Roos Field," Chaves said. "I just literally happened to be walking out the front door as their bus was coming over the hill and everyone on the right side of the bus (was) trying to get a look."
And new officials' crews that visit never forget to snap a photo.
"Those are kind of neat things," he said. "We've provided memories; we've provided things in some ways money can't buy."
Eastern was propelled into the national stage following their 20-19 win in Frisco, Texas over Delaware. Without that, and the success that has followed, it is quite likely that ESPN would never have been interested in opening the 2014 college football season in Cheney with the FCS Showdown.
"Every institution in the country makes a decision on how they want to play athletics, and they invest in it from an external/marketing standpoint," Chaves said. "There's no doubt that there's just a level of interest in what we do."
Back in the 1980s there was great angst at Eastern about their effort to move into Division I athletics. This was the same time enrollment was declining, and there was talk of a merger with Washington State University.
"Somewhere along the line, someone in a group of folks had an awesome idea in the mid-80s to go forward into Division I athletics," Chaves said. "Today, if we chose as an institution to do that, I'm probably going to say we wouldn't be able to afford it or even get into Division I."
"So we are there, we have that brand," he said. And as result the school and community will get exposure to some 120 million homes Saturday.
Chaves said that in the current state of flux college athletics finds itself, he thinks Eastern is indeed in the right place with the Big Sky Conference.
"For us to continue to play the Montanas and Portland States - and this year in everything but football, the Idahos - I think is attractive for this community," Chaves said.
The future for Chaves is moving ahead on the Gateway Project which would add an entirely new look to both Roos Field and the EWU campus. It is one of the next projects in which Chaves is heavily invested.
"We're more in a silent phase of trying to get an external domino to fall," Chaves said, meaning finding an initial private funding source. "If that could happen, then I think it would become a conversation level on the internal side; what do we do with that piece?"
It will be an interesting road ahead.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.