Eastern Washington University
Head Coach Beau Baldwin
With eight postseason appearances in 17 years, playoffs – and now titles – are commonplace for Beau Baldwin
Football playoffs have become second nature for Beau Baldwin. And championships have become commonplace as well after he directed the Eastern Washington University football program to the 2010 NCAA Division I title.
Ever since his high school days when his Curtis High School team in Tacoma, Wash., won the State AAA title, Baldwin has been a part of playoff runs at three collegiate levels – NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, NCAA Division II and NAIA. His 17-season collegiate coaching résumé – all at Eastern Washington or Central Washington – includes two national championships, six conference championships and an 11-6-1 record in eight post-season playoff appearances.
Baldwin enters his fourth season as head coach at Eastern with a 27-11 (.711) win-loss record, going 13-2 in 2010 and 8-4 in 2009 after a 6-5 debut season in 2008. In 2007, as head coach at Central Washington, Baldwin was 10-3, giving him a 37-14 (.725) head coaching record. He is 24-8 (.750) in league games as a head coach, including an 18-6 (.750) mark in three seasons as head coach in the Big Sky Conference.
Three of his four seasons as head coach – and two more at Eastern as an assistant – ended with playoff berths. He had four more berths as a young assistant at Central Washington, including the 1995 NAIA title.
In a short amount of time, Baldwin has taken a perennial playoff participant and honed it into a national champion. Ironically, many observers didn’t even have EWU ranked as a top 25 team before the 2010 season began, but the Eagles finished both the regular season and playoffs ranked No. 1. The 2010 season had a storybook ending for Baldwin after the Eagles finished 13-2 and won the NCAA Division I Championship with a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware in the title game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
“I’m so happy for all the players in our program, and especially happy for the seniors, because you knew no matter what, it was going to be their last college football game,” Baldwin said of the fantastic finish. “And with the hard work they’ve put in, they deserve to go out as champions, because they work like that. That’s the character they have. And it was fun to watch those guys.”
The Eagles won their final 11 games of the 2010 season, and finished with a 7-1 Big Sky Conference record to win their fifth Big Sky title all-time and third in the last seven seasons. Eastern made its fifth appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs since 2004.
“In that type of ballgame against an incredibly talented and great Delaware team, it came down to those guys on the field,” said Baldwin of his squad, which included just two senior starters on offense and four more on defense. “Those guys just never quit fighting.”
Thousands of Eastern fans were on hand for the title game in Frisco, Texas, and thousands more watched via a national broadcast on ESPN2.
“Winning the championship means a ton for Eastern Washington University as a whole, and it means a lot for the community of Cheney, the City of Spokane, and so many supporters,” Baldwin explained. “And it means a lot to a lot of people that were in Frisco supporting us. It was so electrifying to drive into the parking lot at the stadium and see all our fans all in red tailgating and having fun. That gave us energy and gave us a spark, and it was exciting to see. I just want to thank everyone for that support, because like I said, it’s huge, and there are so many people that have allowed us to be in this position.”
As a result, Baldwin was honored nationally as the College Sporting News Coach of the Year and the American Football Monthly Coach of the Year. He was also a Liberty Mutual FCS Coach of the Year finalist, as well as for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award presented by The Sports Network.
He was also honored regionally by the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters (SWABS) as Coach of the Year. Baldwin is only the fifth Eastern coach to be recognized in the more than 60-year history of the awards, which were first presented in 1948. Previous Eastern coaches honored were football coaches Dave Holmes (1967) and Dick Zornes (1992), as well as wrestling coach Curt Byrnes (1977) and basketball coach Ray Giacoletti (2004).
The team was also honored by SWABS as Team of the Year, marking only the second time an Eastern team has been honored since the awards were first presented in 1948. The 1967 football team, which was the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) runner-up that season, was the only other team to be honored.
And besides the awards and many speaking engagements that came as a result of the title, he was given the opportunity on April 9, 2011, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for his favorite boyhood baseball team, the Seattle Mariners. A three-year letter winner as a baseball player and a quarterback in high school, Baldwin threw a perfect strike at Safeco Field in Seattle, Wash.
In 2010, Baldwin and the Eagles finished a perfect 8-0 on the new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. The red surface – the first of its kind – was funded by private donations, including a $500,000 gift by former Eagle offensive lineman and current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos. Three of the victories at the “Inferno” were in the FCS Playoffs as EWU defeated Southeast Missouri State 37-17, edged North Dakota State 38-31 in overtime and advanced to the title tilt with a 41-31 win over defending champion Villanova in the semifinals.
Thanks to the tutelage of Baldwin, Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns to earn Most Outstanding Player accolades in the championship game as EWU rallied from a 19-0 deficit. Mitchell is from Katy, Texas, and transferred to EWU from Southern Methodist University following the 2009 season.
Mitchell completed 29-of-43 passes and directed EWU on scoring drives of 80 (5 plays), 89 (14 plays) and 63 yards (8 plays) – all in the final 16:48 of the game. Eastern won six games in the 2010 season when it trailed or was tied in the fourth quarter. But the magical championship game victory was by far the largest deficit the Eagles faced in those six games, and the most gratifying.
“It’s not so much magical as it’s just a lot of guys believing in each other even in the toughest of situations,” said Baldwin of the comebacks. “That’s the key. You can’t stop believing no matter how grim it feels, otherwise you’ll never have a chance to operate in those situations.”
For the season, Mitchell completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,496 yards (fifth in school history), a school-record 37 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 135.8. In NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics, he finished ranked 20th in passing offense (233.1 yards per game), 26th in total offense (236.2) and 26th in efficiency (135.8). Mitchell also broke school records for attempts (505) and completions (300).
As a team, Eastern finished the year ranked 22nd in the FCS in total offense (397.1 yards per game), as well as rankings of 26th in passing (241.0), 49th in rushing (156.1) and 18th in scoring (31.5).
Showing its consistency, in 2010 Eastern had its 13th winning season in the last 15 years (1996-2010). Eastern is one of only six schools (of 117 playing FCS football) to have made the playoffs at least five times in the past seven years (2004-10).
Baldwin has coached three national players of the year at the FCS level – all since 2005 – as presented by The Sports Network. In 2005, quarterback Erik Meyer won the Walter Payton Award, which is presented to the top offensive player. Defensive end Greg Peach (2008) and J.C. Sherritt (2010) won the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player.
Having spent his entire coaching and playing career in the state of Washington, Baldwin has great knowledge of recruitment within the region and the type of player his program seeks.