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EWU Homecoming special section conjures up memories


Last updated 10/25/2018 at 5:31pm

File photo Ron Swords, a sideline fixture with his camera for decades at EWU passed away Sept. 29.

Putting together our annual Eastern Washington University Homecoming special section is always a bit of a challenge. It's a challenge because story ideas don't always come easily, as they do with other special sections.

Outdoors is pretty easy, it's just a matter sometimes of making sure we don't repeat ourselves. Medical Lake Founder's Day and Cheney Rodeo usually provide good material, as do the two Back to School sections, and the fall and winter sports previews are no-brainers.

But Homecoming is often a special section in search of a theme, and that's not easily produced. Sometimes we get lucky, as with Eastern's "Swoopstock" theme several years ago, which led to a trip down memory lane for some of us.

Often we don't have a lot of time to put the section together, as it usually comes quickly on the heels of the fall preview and EWU's Back to School section. Couple years ago, those were literally back-to-back-to-back on consecutive weeks as EWU elected to hold Homecoming early.

This year's Idaho game offered a chance to take a look at a rivalry that exists on paper, but maybe not necessarily in the stands. You would think that the two schools positioned about 90 miles apart, and in the same conference for the most part, would have developed more of a competitive feel about each other.

My perception is this isn't the case. At least, the Eagle fans I know don't seem to be getting as agitated as they used to when those folks from Missoula found their way over Lookout and Fourth of July passes to Cheney.

I can't even say the name of their team, although I appreciate the economic boom they brought to Cheney when they did come here, and the additions to the Eagles win column. Hopefully they'll be back.

Idaho is a different matter. With the exception of 1983-1996, the Vandals have always played a division about Eastern, although that hasn't stopped the Eagles from winning. But I think it has prevented a true combative feeling that always permeates a good rivalry, like Washington State and Washington, Oregon and Oregon State, et al.

Eastern and Idaho have played some games that carried meaning, as the story in our special section relates. What are those, you ask? Hey, go read the section.

Perhaps with Idaho finally coming to grips with the fact that football success was going to be hard to come by at the Football Bowl Subdivision for a school of their size, and their return to the Big Sky, a new rivalry will blossom, one that might be easier for fans to fill the respective stadiums than before.

At least Eastern's - the Kibbie Dome might be another issue.

One thing about Saturday's contest is that it will be missing an individual who was a constant on the EWU sidelines. Contract photographer Ron Swords passed away recently, and his absence will be missed.

Some of the pictures in our special section and its cover come from Ron's lenses. He was such a fixture on the EWU sidelines that he was inducted into the athletic Hall of Fame last year.

His citation reads as such: Swords has been a photographer for Eastern Athletics since the late 1980's, and is in his fourth decade of faithful service to the Eagles. His work has been viewed by Eagle fans and others throughout his 30-plus years of taking photos at all athletic events, as well as the WIAA State Track and Field Championships taking place at EWU since 1996. Swords prefers to shy away from the limelight and deflect credit that is thrown his way, but he has overcome so much to continue to serve Eastern. He is the epitome of service - giving much, asking little in return and never complaining.

I have had contact with Ron at times when I have also patrolled the Eagle sidelines. He was always friendly, easy to talk to, especially about photography - even if his equipment made mine look like I was using a Kodak box camera.

Thanks for the good work Ron, and rest in peace. The Eagles could honor his memory by beating Idaho for the first time in Cheney.

John McCallum can be reached at


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