Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Bon voyage, coach Baldwin

Eagles' successful head football coach left to join Cal Bears as offensive coordinator

 

January 4, 2018

Paul Delaney

Long-time Eastern Washington University broadcaster Larry Weir (left) talks with head coach Beau Baldwin as he leaves for Spokane International Airport and a flight to California. Baldwin had just addressed players and the media, confirming his move to Berkeley to become the offensive coordinator fore the Pac-12 Cal Bears.

An emotional Beau Baldwin bid a surprising and a very much unexpected farewell to Eastern Washington University after nine years as the school's head football coach on Jan. 16, headed off to take on the role of offensive coordinator at the University of California-Berkeley.

In a hastily-called afternoon news conference on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Baldwin took several minutes to finally confirm what most of the room filled with reporters and some EWU football players and coaches knew already: That Baldwin would be joining the staff of newly named Cal coach, Justin Wilcox.

Wilcox, formerly the defensive coordinator at the University of Wisconsin, was named the new head coach of the Bears on Jan. 14. But he and Baldwin had preliminary discussions about a week ago.

"It was just a couple of conversations midweek (last week) but those were just conversations," Baldwin said. "It eventually led to an interview and from there it leads to where we are today."

As hastily as Baldwin had moved on, EWU athletics director Bill Chaves acted equally as swiftly to fill the vacancy from within.

Just a week later, and with the crucial National Letter of Intent Day looming on Feb. 1, loyal foot soldier Aaron Best, an Eagle at heart for two decades from his days as a player, was elevated to head coach. Best ascended to the position and finished with a 7-4 record. While stunning in many circles not making the playoffs, Best did earn a rare win in Missoula over the Grizzlies.

In the nine years under Baldwin, Eastern has consistently had its offense ranked among the best in the nation. In 2016, the Eagles led the Football Championship Subdivision in passing yards per game at 401 with sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud the top passer in the FCS with 5,160 yards.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Baldwin, who had flown in from Berkeley to first meet with players, left with two airline carry-ons and headed back to the airport to fly to the Bay Area.

A finalist for a recent opening at the University of Nevada in Reno, and mentioned for a variety of openings since 2012, school officials had sought to keep Baldwin in Cheney by offering him a five-year contract extension that would have paid him about $240,000 a year with incentives and bonuses. While no figures were announced, it was broadly speculated that Baldwin would at least double his salary.

"Given this situation, it was right, that's what I'll say," Baldwin said. "It's an incredible opportunity, it's an incredible opportunity for my family, it's an incredible opportunity for my career."

Baldwin was hired at Eastern to replace Paul Wulff, Jan. 4, 2008 after one year as head coach at his alma mater, Division II Central Washington University. He had served four years under Wulff as EWU's offensive coordinator before being hired at Central where he had a 10-3 record.

At Eastern, Baldwin had a string of incredible success, guiding his team to playoff appearances six times and the 2010 Football Championship Subdivision title, beating Delaware, 20-19 in Frisco, Texas.

Three other times, Baldwin's teams reached the FCS semifinals, including 2016 where the Eagles lost to Youngstown State, 40-38. Baldwin was 85-32 overall and 58-14 in the Big Sky Conference where his teams won or shared five league championships.

Baldwin leaves Eastern just four wins shy of the school record of 89 victories by Dick Zornes from 1979-93 during the school's transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I and the Big Sky.

"I've been good all day," Baldwin said, again with emotion in his voice. "It's gonna' be missed," he said of leaving Eastern and the many friends and acquaintances he's made during his time in Cheney.

As a head coach for the last decade, Baldwin said the role of an assistant would not be difficult. "It will be a transition but I'm excited about it," he said. "You're still the head of the offense."

He went on to add, "(I) won't be in these things," Baldwin said with a laugh, referring to press conferences.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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