Class of 2011
The 1949-50 Basketball Team and Five Individuals Highlight the 11th Induction Class
The inductees will be honored with a breakfast and ceremony that starts at 9 a.m. on Oct. 1 at the Pence Union Building. The public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697) and the cost is $15 per person. Inductees will also be honored at halftime of EWU’s football game against Weber State that begins at 12:35 p.m. Pacific time.
The new inductees include the 1949-50 men’s basketball team, which finished 23-7 and won the Evergreen Conference title with a 13-1 mark in the league’s second year of existence. Despite falling short in advancing to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Tournament, that team was called by legendary Eastern head coach Red Reese as "my best basketball club."
Individual inductees include a pair of standouts from the 1940’s -- sprinting sensation Holt Brewer and basketball standout Jack “Rabbit” Roffler. Brewer set school records in the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes, and competed in the 1948 Olympic Trials. Roffler was a “dribbling and driving lay-in artist” who helped Eastern to a collective record of 79-16 (.832 winning percentage) and two NAIA Tournament berths.
Baseball pitcher Richard “Curly” Rousseau will also be inducted for his record-breaking performance on the mound in 1970 for Eastern. Rousseau earned honorable mention All-America honors, as he had five shutouts in 1970 to rank as the school record for both a single season and career. His 1.09 earned run average in 1970 ranks second in school history, as he finished 6-2. He has since gone on to serve as President of the Eagle Athletic Association, helping that fund-raising group break records as well.
The other two inductees competed for Eastern in the school’s infancy in the NCAA Division I ranks. Former football cornerback and punt returner Rob Friese was a small-town football player from Lebam, Wash., who became a record-breaking Eastern football player from 1982-85. He helped Eastern to a 9-3 record as a senior in 1985 and the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (then known as I-AA). He had 169 tackles, nine interceptions, 16 passes broken up and a 12.1 average per punt return in his career.
Volleyball setter Suzanne Vick earned second-team All-Northwest Region honors in 1989 when she helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Tournament after winning Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament titles. She Eastern win its first-ever Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament titles to advance to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament, finishing 25-7 overall and 14-2 in the league. Vick set the single season school record with 1,367 assists
Established in 1996, this year’s inductees will bring the total number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 58. Eight teams will have also been inducted. Recipients of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award will be announced in August.
HOLT BREWER (Athlete/Track/Basketball/Football)
Brewer competed in the 1948 Olympic Trials and is still the school record holder in the 220 yard dash (21.2) and fifth in the 100 (9.6). He was called by Abe Poffenroth as one of the "greatest sprinters to come out of Eastern." Brewer won the 1947 Washington Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in the 100 with a record time of 9.6 seconds, breaking the previous record of 9.7 tied in 1940 by Vic Carpine. Carpine, who was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005 along with his nephews Tony and Fred Carpine, had his 220 record of 21.4 (1939) broken by Brewer in 1947. Brewer never lost a collegiate race, and at one point in his career he had times that were better than Harrison Dillard, who went on to win an Olympic gold medal in the 100 in 1948 and won a total of four Olympic titles in the sprints and hurdles. Brewer lettered in basketball at Eastern in the 1947-48 season when the Eagles finished 16-12, and he also played football. Originally from Toppenish, Wash., Brewer held the Toppenish High School record in the 200 for 55 years. Brewer left Eastern to serve the United States Army in the Korean War, and then he returned to work at his family’s farm. He eventually ran a restaurant in Mabton, Wash., for more than 25 years. Said Fred Carpine in a letter of recommendation for the Eastern HOF: “Holt was a good guy, shy and quiet off the field, but an inspiration and leader to the team by his dedication and preparation on the field. I truly feel that if my uncle Vic Carpine, my brother Tony and myself are worthy of Hall of Fame induction, then Holt is certainly worthy to be inducted -- and it’s a real shame that he hasn’t already been. It was well-documented during the time frame that we were in college the caliber of athlete that Holt was, and he stood on top as far as track was concerned. Having never lost a race during his college career should and does speak volumes as to Holt’s worthiness of induction. It was as rare back then as it is today for someone to dominate in a sport, but that’s exactly what Holt did.” State of Washington Representative Norm Johnson, who has known Brewer for over 65 years, had this to say about the Native Yakama tribal member: “During the 1940’s it was uncommon for a registered Native American Indian to attend College. Holt’s attendance at the University attests to his diligence and tenacity to live a life of worth. He is a tribute to his family, his Indian heritage and his school. When we reflect on who has lived a life worthy of the Hall of Fame, no one that I can think of has lived a life with more vigor and honor than Holt.” Added his daughters in another letter of recommendation: “Dad always put family first. He sacrificed his college career after his return from the war to stay on the family farm and support his family. Some would say that he missed out on opportunities ranging from going to the Olympics to a career in professional football. But his daughters and friends see a man who stands taller than any professional athlete. A man who is humble and honorable in the way he has lived his life. Our dad has always let his actions and conduct speak for the kind of man he is. He is respectful, loyal, and most of all, a family man.”
Friese was a small-town football player from Lebam, Wash., who became a record-breaking Eastern football player from 1982-85. He has since become a highly-successful football coach, teacher and administrator, and is now the superintendent of schools for the Willapa Valley School District. He graduated in 1981 from Willapa Valley High School, where he helped his school win three state championships in sports. He was a four-year football letter winner at EWU from 1982-85, helping Eastern to a 9-3 record as a senior and the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (then known as I-AA). He had 169 tackles, nine interceptions, 16 passes broken up and a 12.1 average per punt return in his career. His 84-yard punt return for a touchdown in the FCS playoffs in 1985 versus Northern Iowa still stands as the longest in school history, and he had a 72-yarder for a TD earlier that season versus Idaho. His 352 punt return yards in 1985 was a school record for 19 years, and he still ranks in the top 10 in all season and career punt return categories. His nine career interceptions ranked third in school history at the time, and his 16 passes broken up were a school record that was broken the following season. He was selected by the Eastern Athletic Department to the “100 for 100” All-Time Football Team, which was honored on Sept. 27, 2008, to commemorate Eastern’s 100th year of football. In 1999, Dick Zornes selected Friese to the "Z" Team consisting of 36 players that he felt were the best players and made the largest contributions toward the 158 games Eastern won in Zornes' 26-year association with Eagle Football. As an educator, Friese received his bachelor’s degree from Eastern in 1986 and his master’s in 1990. He was a coach and teacher at Ocosta High School before returning to his alma mater, Willapa Valley, to coach and teach. As head football coach at Willapa Valley High School, he coached the team to State B football titles in 1996 and 2001. He won 10 league titles and had a 144-47 record in 17 seasons with 15 playoff appearances (through 2010). In 2008, Willapa Valley was 11-0 before losing in the quarterfinals of the WIAA State 2B Playoffs. Including a stint at Ocosta High School, he was 150-76 in 21 seasons as a high school head football coach (through 2010). He was honored as Washington State Coaches Association District IV Football Coach of the Year twice and earned league coach of the year honors multiple times. For several years he served as the WSCA west-side coordinator for the East-West All-State football game, and once he was the winning head coach in the B/A/AA game. He was honored as the Seattle Seahawks Coach of the Week and has served on that NFL team’s High School Coaches Council. He has also served on the WIAA B Football Study Committee. As head coach of the girls’ track team, his squads won 12 league titles. Three times his teams placed third in the state, and once they finished fourth. He also served as an assistant for the boys, which won the 2002 State B title and was the runner-up the following season. Friese was named in spring 2011 as the Superintendent of the Willapa Valley School District after serving as the Willapa Valley High School principal (from 1997-2011). He won the Robert J. Handy Administrator of the Year award in 2005 and has served as the Washington Association of Secondary School Principals Small School Representative. He has also served on the AWSP Certificate of Academic Achievement Committee.
JACK "RABBIT" ROFFLER (Athlete/Basketball & Contributor)
A 1946 graduate of Eastern, Roffler was a point guard during three of the most successful basketball seasons in school history and later distinguished himself as a teacher and basketball official. Eastern was 21-7 (1943-44), 27-5 (1944-45) and 31-4 (1945-46) in his three seasons, a collective record of 79-16 (.832 winning percentage). No NAIA Tournament was held in 1944 because of World War II, but Eastern appeared in the NAIA Tournament his final two seasons. Eastern lost in the first round in 1945, then in 1946 Eastern defeated Louisiana Tech (66-44) and Southeastern Oklahoma (45-37) to advance to the quarterfinals where the Savages were edged by Pepperdine (46-42). “Rabbit” earned All-Washington Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors as Eastern won the league title in 1946 with a 15-1 record. Eastern’s 1945-46 team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003, and “Rabbit” gave the acceptance speech. Roffler was also team captain in the 1945-46 season, and was a member of legendary head coach Red Reese's All-Time Team, representing the top 13 Eastern players he ever coached. Reported the Bellingham Herald: "Roffler is the swiftest thing we have seen on the court in years." The NAIA Tournament program called him a "dribbling and driving lay-in artist." Roffler went on to play professional basketball for the Springfield (Mo.) Squires and Tacoma Mountaineers before settling in Port Townsend, Wash., where he taught from 1948 until his retirement in 1979. He spent 25 years as a basketball official, working eight state tournaments and earning the Washington Officials Association Meritorious Service Award in 1975.
RICHARD "CURLY" ROUSSEAU (Athlete/Baseball & Contributor)
A 1971 graduate of Eastern, Rousseau earned honorable mention All-America honors in 1970 as a record-breaking pitcher. He later helped the Eagle Athletic Association break fund-raising records as well. In 1970 he earned All-Evergreen Conference and All-District 1 honors, and was team MVP and Scarlet Arrow Award recipient. He was team captain as both a junior and senior. He had five shutouts in 1970 to rank as the school record for both a single season and career. His 1.09 earned run average in 1970 ranks second in school history as he finished 6-2, with both losses coming to future major league baseball pitcher Dave Heaverlo from Central Washington (including one game by a 1-0 score). Rousseau started eight games and had seven complete games in 1970 when he pitched 58 innings and allowed just nine runs, only seven of them earned. Five of the earned runs he allowed came in one inning, as he had streaks of 31 and 18 consecutive scoreless innings. He gave up only 40 hits and seven walks, and had 36 strikeouts. “Curly” won three games by 1-0 scores, including an 11-inning win over Whitworth in which he retired 24 batters in a row. In another of his 1-0 victories on the mound, he had Eastern's only hit and scored the only run of the game on a wild pitch. Statistics from 1971 are unavailable, but at one point he was 2-2 as a shoulder injury limited him most of the season. From 1969-70 he had an 8-10 record, and at one time held the school record with 79 career strikeouts and 11 complete games. He also has the school record with 13 strikeouts in a single game in 1971, which was followed by another game with 12. After playing one season at Spokane Community College, he was 2-8 with a 3.19 earned run average for Eastern in 1969. Of the eight losses he suffered, Eastern didn’t score in seven of them. Ligaments in his throwing arm were so loose that during games he sometimes dislocated his shoulder and had to have a teammate snap his shoulder back into place. Later, he spent five academic school years (2002-06 and 2007-08) as president of the Eagle Athletic Association, the fund-raising arm of the athletic department. He was a driving force in helping the organization raise a record $371,476 in pledges in 2005-06, breaking the previous record of $321,603 the previous year. He has served as co-chair of all of the record-breaking fund drives, and served in the same position for a fifth-straight year in 2006-07. The 2009-10 drive was his 11th participating in the annual fund drive, and he was an “All-Star” each of the previous 10 years as one of the top 10 producers. He also served as the host of the weekly EAA luncheon for seven years. In 2006, he was presented the EWU Student Life Alumni Excellence Award and he is also a former winner of the EAA Booster of the Year Award (2007) and a recipient of the EAA Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also affectionately known as the “Candy Man” at EWU sporting events for his custom of giving out candy to staff and fans before games. Kim DeLong, a former teammate, had this to say about Rousseau in a letter of nomination for the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame: “Curly is the embodiment of the character of Eastern Washington baseball complete with grit, tenacity, determination, courage and love of the game. By honoring him you honor all who are a part of Eastern’s baseball heritage. It was Curly who made sure the pitchers were in shape and it was Curly who held the team together when times were tough. He commanded the respect of every player on the field, including his opponents. He didn’t win that respect through rhetoric or bravado, he won it by leading through example. He was the most dedicated, best prepared and mentally-tough athlete I have ever met.” Said another former teammate, Tommy Thompson, a couple of years later: “Curly was a very smart athlete, very mature, and very dedicated to baseball, his performance and the team’s success . . . the rest of us were just having fun . . . and that is not to say that Curly wasn’t having fun. Curly was the leader and we did pretty well . . . no championship, but we attained respectability. I think Curly truly understands the student-athlete connection and the work that he is doing now (for EAA) is outstanding. He got me involved after a lot of years of zero involvement . . . and I will continue to be involved because he got me to believe in Eastern again.” Added Monte Pittz in 2007: “I can’t think of anyone that is more deserving (of being inducted into the EWU Athletics Hall of Fame). He was not only a great baseball player, but the work he has done for Eastern over the last few years should not go unnoticed. It would be a great honor for him.” Added Don Walker in May 2010: “Every couple of decades we find a deserving EWU alumni that leaves a mark on our university both as a student-athlete and alumni supporter. Curly Rousseau qualifies as one of these rare individuals that excelled as an athlete and then continued to contribute to Eastern Athletics at all levels. Curly’s on-field baseball career has earned him consideration and his lifetime effort and commitment to EWU Athletics deserve this recognition.”
SUZANNE VICK (Volleyball)
A record-breaking setter, Vick earned second team All-Northwest Region honors in 1989 when she helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Tournament after winning Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament titles. Also that year, she earned first team All-Big Sky and Big Sky Conference All-Tournament Team honors. She was also named to the BSC All-Academic Team in 1989 and was the league’s player of the week once that season. She and league MVP Juli Argotow helped lead Eastern to its first-ever Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament titles to advance to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament. Eastern finished the season 25-7 and 14-2 in the Big Sky Conference. Vick set the single season school record with 1,367 assists in 1989, a mark that stood for a decade. She also hit .284 as a senior to set a school record that stood for eight seasons. As a junior, she was the team’s Most Valuable Player when she hit .172 and finished with 902 assists, 32 aces and 230 digs in 99 sets. She set the school record for career assists with 2,679, a record that stood for 10 years (currently third). Also a letter winner in 1986 and 1987, she finished her career with 299 total games played, a .235 hitting percentage and 570 digs. In four seasons at EWU (1986-89), the Eagles had three 20-win seasons and were a collective 77-57 overall and 33-25 in league play. She was a 1986 graduate of Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash., where she earned All-Narrows League honors and was team captain as a senior. She was second team All-Narrows League in soccer and was her school's softball captain, and also lettered in basketball. Her sister, Sherrie, also played volleyball at Eastern. Her father, John, lettered at Eastern in football in 1959. In 2008, she was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame.
When he retired, Red Reese called his 1949-50 team "my best basketball club." Eastern won its first Evergreen Conference title in the second year of the league's existence, finishing with a 13-1 record. Eastern lost an EvCo game at Puget Sound by one point, then won its next 13 by more than 20 points per game (an average score of 70.7 - 48.5). Due in part to injuries that sidelined two of its best players, Eastern lost in the playoffs by three points to Puget Sound, which eventually won a first-round game in the NAIA Tournament. During its preseason schedule, Eastern defeated Washington State, Idaho and Montana after losing to those same three schools earlier in the season. Eastern was led by junior forward Dick Eicher, who was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. He averaged 15.1 points per game, making 52.8 percent of his field goal attempts and 69.5 percent of his free throws. Senior center Gene Burke chipped in 14.1 points per game, and was also an impressive shooter by making 50.9 percent of his shots from the field and 66.1 percent from the line. Burke averaged a team-leading 16.3 points per game during league play to earn first-team All-Evergreen Conference honors. Eicher was a second-team pick, as was junior guard Bill Hallett (9.1 points per game) and senior guard Dick Luft (8.5). Forward Pat Whitehill, a Hall of Fame inductee in 2001, was a junior on the 1949-50 squad and averaged 6.0 points per game. Eastern was directed by Red Reese, who coached Eastern to 470 victories in 31 seasons and was an inaugural Hall of Fame member in 1996.
Former Administrators to Receive Honor on Oct. 1
For their tireless efforts in helping elevate
Eastern’s Athletic programs, six individuals will be honored
with the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution
2011 Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame
Service & Contribution Award
H. George Frederickson, Former
Ken Dolan, Former Assistant to the President
Russ Hartman, Former Vice President for Business & Finance
Jim Kirschbaum, Former Board of Trustees Chair
Ron Raver, Former Athletic Director
Bill Shaw, Former Chief Financial Officer
They were relentless in their vision and faced a lot of tumult along the way. But 30 years later, after the school mesmerized the region with its 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship, they deserve a debt of gratitude for what they accomplished through their perseverance.
Six former Eastern Washington University administrators will be honored on Oct. 1 with the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award for their tireless efforts in the 1970’s and the 1980’s in helping Eastern achieve and maintain NCAA Division I status and become a member of the Big Sky Conference.
The six administrators are headlined by former EWU President H. George Frederickson (1977-87), who spearheaded Eastern’s drive to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I status after being a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for most of the school’s history.
Helping Frederickson and Eastern along that path were Ken Dolan (former assistant to the president), Russ Hartman (former vice president for business and finance), Jim Kirschbaum (former board of trustees chair) and Bill Shaw (former chief financial officer).
Also honored posthumously will be former athletic director Ron Raver, who was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001. Raver will be represented Oct. 1 by his wife, Karen, and son, Tim.
Along with five individual Hall of Fame inductees and the 1949-50 men’s basketball team, the recipients of the Service and Contribution Award will be honored at a breakfast and ceremony that starts at 9 a.m. on Oct. 1 at the Pence Union Building. The public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697) and the cost is $15 per person. They will also be honored at halftime of EWU’s football game against Weber State that begins at 12:35 p.m. Pacific time.
The Service and Contribution award was created in 2007 to recognize extraordinary achievements and contributions by individuals with a past association with the Eastern athletic department. This award, selected by the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Executive Committee, seeks to honor individuals who have contributed not only to EWU, but to other outside endeavors such as education, community service and coaching. John Lothspeich was given the first award in 2007, and others honored include Chuck Randall (2008), Jim Wasem Sr. (2009), Ernie Afaganis (2010) and Arthur C. “Woody” Woodward (2010).
Zornes leads the charge in recognizing vision and persistence . . .
If it wasn’t for the vision and persistence to upgrade Eastern’s athletic programs – and ultimately keep them at that level – Eastern would have never have had the opportunity to win last year’s NCAA Division I championship in football. That reality was not lost on former Eastern head football coach Dick Zornes, who passed along the idea to current athletic director Bill Chaves.
Zornes, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, was involved for 26 years as a player, coach and administrator at Eastern. In 15 seasons at the helm as head coach from 1979-1993 during Eastern’s rise, Zornes had an 89-66-2 record with a Big Sky Conference Championship in 1992 and NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as Division I-AA) Playoff berths in 1985 and 1992.
“Dick made a passionate case for honoring these individuals and crediting them with helping us become and remain a member of NCAA Division I and the Big Sky Conference,” said Chaves. “We all need to remember the efforts they and others put forth during a challenging time in our department’s history. We couldn’t be more delighted in honoring them in this way.”
With Frederickson leading the charge, new directives for intercollegiate athletics were set in motion in 1977 by the Intercollegiate Athletic Evaluation Committee, a 12-person group that included Dolan and was chaired by Fred S. Johns. Among the many details outlining the recommended governance, organization and funding of intercollegiate athletics, the “Johns Report” concluded that Eastern should “investigate national affiliation with the NCAA in an appropriate division.”
Frederickson began carrying out the directives, along with the assistance of Hartman, Dolan and Raver, who was named athletic director in 1979. Eastern moved through the ranks of NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I, and eventually was granted membership in the Big Sky Conference beginning in the 1987-88 school year. Said Frederickson regarding Eastern's rise to Division I, "There is simply no doubt that without the leadership of Ronald Raver this would never have happened. Ronald Raver made that road possible." Raver passed away on March 1, 2002 at the age of 63.
Eastern originally applied for membership in the Big Sky Conference in 1978, but it wasn’t strongly considered until the mid-1980’s when the athletics program had grown to be a force in the region and appeared to be on the threshold of becoming a member. However, after an ill-timed on-campus controversy regarding athletic funding, Eastern was denied membership on May 22, 1985, and was forced to re-assess its plan.
Nonetheless, the EWU Board of Trustees affirmed Eastern’s commitment to NCAA Division I athletics, and the men’s teams proved they belonged by enjoying incredible success as an independent in the mid-1980’s – especially against Big Sky competition. Meanwhile, the women were a force to be reckoned with at Division I in the newly-created Mountain West Athletic Conference. Eventually, the merger of the Mountain West with the Big Sky helped Eastern achieve its goal of becoming a member of the Big Sky.
“It’s the beginning of a new era in the history of the university,” Raver told the Spokane Spokesman-Review on Dec. 10, 1986 – the day Eastern was finally admitted. “I think some day we’ll look back and say this had a major impact on how our university is perceived.”
But the Eagles weren’t at the end of the bumpy road quite yet. After Frederickson departed Eastern in 1987, Eastern still had to overcome criticism of its expenditures for intercollegiate athletics with a seemingly endless string of reviews. Eventually, thanks to the efforts of Shaw and Kirschbaum, in April 1990 the Eastern Board of Trustees unanimously approved continuing its programs at the NCAA Division I and Big Sky Conference levels. That decision was reaffirmed a year later and in subsequent years. Kirschbaum served on the BOT from 1987-99, including three years as chair.
The road hasn’t been without a few ruts since then, but the 2011-12 school year will be Eastern’s 25th as a member of the 49-year-old conference – and 29th at the NCAA Division I level.
Since joining the Big Sky Conference, Eastern teams have won 16 Big Sky regular-season team titles, including six by the volleyball team and five by football. Eastern has had 25 student-athletes honored as league MVP in their respective sports, including 12 in football. In the sport of track and field, 91 individual conference championships have been won with EWU athletes winning 11 Athlete of the Meet accolades.
Aside from the national title, the high point of Eastern’s existence in NCAA Division I and the Big Sky Conference came in the 2009-10 school year when Eastern won the Sterling Savings Big Sky Presidents’ Cup Award. The winner of this award is determined by overall athletic success combined with team grade point averages, graduation rates, and all-conference performers with grade point averages of at least 3.0.
Eastern won its first-ever Big Sky Men’s All-Sports Trophy in the 2005-06 school year. In 2004-05, with league championships in volleyball and soccer, the women finished a best-ever third in the women’s competition. In fall 2004, Eastern won league titles in football, volleyball and soccer, becoming the first-ever league school to accomplish that feat. In the 2001-2002 school year, the Eagles equaled their best-ever finish of third in the Combined Big Sky All-Sports Trophy competition.
Frederickson attends NCAA Championship Game with pride . . .
Frederickson, now Edwin O. Stene distinguished professor of public administration at the University of Kansas, attended the NCAA Division I championship game in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7. He walked outside the stadium for hours before the game, taking in the atmosphere with an ear-to-ear smile as thousands of Eagle fans partied long and hard. Inside the stadium, he watched the Eagles rally for a 20-19 victory over Delaware, which merely put the finishing touches on a dream that had already come to fruition.
The night before, he presented to current Eastern President Rodolfo Arevalo the game ball that was used in Eastern’s first-ever Big Sky Conference football game on Sept. 12, 1987. The day of the title game, in an editorial in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, his sentiments of where Eastern was and what it became were expressed from the heart.
“Well before Eastern’s present student-athletes were born, Eastern was a state college,” he wrote. “After it gained university designation in 1977, intercollegiate athletics was one of the next big challenges that faced the university. Over the years, sports at Eastern had received little attention and had been allowed to drift, so a blue-ribbon panel was appointed to study the problem, consider alternatives and make recommendations
“After a thorough study, the panel made a bold set of recommendations for action, including seeking status in Division I-AA of the NCAA (the previous designation for what is now the Division I Football Championship Subdivision) and seeking membership in the Big Sky Conference. The reasoning of the panel was that in athletics as well as in academics Eastern was like universities in Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. The Eastern board of trustees endorsed these objectives, and the university set about attempting to achieve them.
“To say that the initial response to these plans was mostly critical would be an understatement. The media suggested that Eastern ‘did not know its place.’ Some alumni rather strongly preferred the status quo. Some faculty and students were concerned about a possible overemphasis on sports and were worried about the costs. Nevertheless, the university began the step-by-step implementation of the plan. Eastern got on the football and basketball schedules of all the Big Sky universities. Eastern embraced Title IX, which called for equal status for women’s athletics. The politics of getting the support of the Big Sky universities was afoot.”
“Acceptance in NCAA Division I came quickly. But year after year Eastern’s application for membership in the Big Sky conference was rejected. Each time Eastern was knocked down, those opposed to the plan called for it to be abandoned. Yet each time Eastern picked itself up, dusted itself off, prepared a new application and returned to the politics of Big Sky membership. Finally in 1986, after a seven-year struggle, Eastern was accepted, effective in 1987. In the 25 years that have followed, Eastern has proved to be a steadfast, reliable and trusted member of the Big Sky Conference. More important, Eastern has grown from strength to strength in the breadth and quality of its academic programs.
“And now, because of that struggle of long ago, Eastern is in another kind of struggle, playing for the national football championship. Go Eagles.”
A timeline of roller-coaster success and rejection . . .
[May 19] The “Johns Report” is released after a committee was formed by Eastern President Dr. H. George Frederickson to thoroughly examine the existing athletic program. The report endorsed upgrading of the EWU athletic program to Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Within the next year, Eastern was accepted as an independent member of NCAA Division II and made its initial application to join the Big Sky Conference.
[Fall] Eastern Washington State College becomes Eastern Washington University at the start of the fall term.
[Nov. 23] Eastern officially leaves the Evergreen Conference after a 31-year association. Eastern’s final EvCo football game was on Nov. 11, 1978, and the final men’s basketball game in that league had taken place on Feb. 25, 1978. However, Eastern remained as an independent member of the NAIA for several more seasons while also being affiliated with NCAA Division II.
[June 1] Long-time assistant basketball coach and head tennis coach Ron Raver becomes athletic director, helping put in further motion the plan for Eastern to become a member of NCAA Division I and the Big Sky Conference.
[Spring] Eastern’s baseball team joins the Pacific 10 Conference Northern Division.
Eastern’s women’s athletic programs become charter members of the Mountain West Athletic Conference. The league would eventually become the Big Sky Conference in 1987.
[November 13] Eastern wins the NCAA Division II men’s cross country championship in ankle-deep snow in St. Cloud, Minn.
[June 23] Eastern’s petition for re-classification of all Eastern sports to NCAA Division I is accepted by the NCAA, beginning with the 1983-84 school year for all sports but football. That sport began competition in NCAA Division I-AA (later changed to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision) in 1984.
[May] Eastern receives an invitation by the Big Sky Conference Presidents’ Council to submit a formal proposal for membership.
[May 22] After an exhaustive effort that lasted nearly a decade, Eastern’s request to join the Big Sky Conference is denied by the league’s Presidents’ Council.
[November] In just its second season as a member of the NCAA Championship Subdivision, Eastern’s football team advances to the quarterfinals of the playoffs after upsetting Idaho 42-38 in the first round. That was one of six victories over Big Sky Conference foes that season for the Eagles.
[March 2] Eastern’s men’s basketball team finishes 20-8, including seven wins over Big Sky Conference members. Eastern swept Idaho, Idaho State and Gonzaga.
[March 7] Eastern’s women’s basketball team defeats Idaho 62-60 in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament before falling to host Montana in the title game. Idaho would go on to win the championship in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
[June] Greg Jones earns All-America honors in the high jump with a leap of 7-3 to place second at the NCAA Division I Championships.
[December 10] The Big Sky Conference admits Eastern to the league, effective July 1, 1987. At the same time, the Mountain West Athletic Conference for women’s sports merged with and became the Big Sky Conference.