EWU title picked as the fifth-best moment in the league’s 50-year history as Big Sky begins final countdown to No. 1
In the hearts of Eagles, it was worthy of No. 1.
Eastern Washington University’s sensational run to the 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship has been selected as the fifth-best moment in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference, the league announced Thursday (April 24).
Lists of the top 50 moments and top 50 athletes of all-time have been compiled throughout the year in celebration of the league’s 50th anniversary. The Eagles have been recognized with six of the top 50 men’s athletes, and in six of the top 50 men’s moments. Eastern has also earned two spots each on the list of 25 all-time women’s athletes and 25 all-time women’s moments in celebration of 25 years the league has sponsored women’s athletics.
But the crowning moment for Eastern was when the Eagles used a “Why not us?” attitude to stun FCS football with the 2010 national title.
“I think every year it’s going to mean more and more as you reflect back,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “The further you get away from it, the more you appreciate that championship, the hard work that went into it and the way it was accomplished.”
The Eagles had a great football legacy to that point, but the 2010 season was nothing short of magical. Thanks to a come-from-behind victory in the title game, Eastern won its final 11 games of the season after entering the year just 13th in the preseason rankings.
Eastern won the title with four-straight playoff wins, including a 20-19 victory over Delaware in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. The Eagles scored three touchdowns in the final 16:48 of the game to rally from a 19-0 deficit and end their season with a school-record 13 victories (13-2 overall). Eastern finished 8-0 on its new, red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field), including three playoff games.
In particular, the overtime playoff victory against North Dakota State tested Eastern’s mettle, as the Eagles had to go on a 13-play, 90-yard drive to knot the game with 23 seconds to play in regulation. Eastern was no stranger to narrow victories, with nine of Eastern’s wins coming by an average of 6.2 points per game, including seven decided by seven points or less. Of those nine games, the Eagles trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter of six of them, in one they trailed in the third quarter and in the other two they were scoreless in the final stanza.
As a result of their success, the Eagles won a pair of prestigious awards. They were the “Sports Story of the Year” at the 77th Annual Sports Star of the Year awards show in Seattle, Wash., and the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters (SWABS) selected Eastern as its Team of the Year.
And ever since, Baldwin has witnessed the benefits. Entering the 2014 season, Eastern has advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs in three of the last four seasons, and has a 42-13 overall record (76 percent) and 27-5 conference mark (84 percent) in that span.
“Four years removed from it, we are able to see the things that 2010 championship season was able to launch,” said Baldwin. “Whether it was ticket sales, the game-day atmosphere, the new scoreboard or an increase in alumni and fan support, it provided the energy about the program. There are a lot of factors that go into it, but that 2010 season definitely had an impact.
“In addition, it benefitted the University as a whole through admissions and former alums who had nothing to do with athletics to that point,” he added. “They felt an appreciation for what was accomplished and walk around with a proud feeling. I know it’s always there, but it was intensified by the kind of run we were so fortunate to be a part of in 2010.”
MORE ON THE BIG SKY’S 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
After 50 years of competition, the Big Sky Conference has begun a year-long journey celebrating the league’s success both on and off the playing field by honoring 50 years of men’s athletics and 25 years of women’s athletics.
The 50th anniversary will celebrate the all-time individuals, teams and moments in the Big Sky’s history, including the selection of the league’s Top 50 male student-athletes and the top 25 female student-athletes. Along with the lists, the league will unveil the most memorable moments for both men’s and women’s competition.
For links to stories of the Top 50 Male Athletes and Top 50 Men’s Moments revealed thus far, go to: http://www.bigskyconf.com Here are EWU’s choices thus far from the football program:
EWU Among Big Sky’s Top 50 Male Athletes
#12 Erik Meyer (2002-03-04-05) – ’05 Walter Payton Award Winner
#20 Bo Levi Mitchell (2010-11) - ‘11 Walter Payton Award Winner
#22 Michael Roos (2001-02-03-04) - All-American & FCS Lineman of the Year
#37 J.C. Sherritt (2007-08-09-10) - ‘10 Buchanan Award Winner
#39 Greg Peach (2005-06-07-08) - ‘08 Buchanan Award Winner
#47 Matt Nichols (2006-07-08-09) - EWU & Big Sky record 12,616 career yards and 96 touchdowns
EWU Among Big Sky’s Top 50 Male Moments
#5 Eastern won its final 11 games of the season to win the 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship. Eastern won the title with four-straight playoff wins, including a 20-19 victory over Delaware in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. The Eagles rallied from a 19-0 deficit and ended their season with a school-record 13 victories. Eastern finished 8-0 on its new, red turf at Roos Field.
#6 Walter Payton Awards – The Big Sky has won seven Payton Awards, given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Included EWU winners Erik Meyer (2005) and Bo Levi Mitchell (2011).
#11 Buck Buchanan Awards - The Big Sky has been represented in six of the past 11 years, including EWU winners Greg Peach (2008) and J.C. Sherritt (2010). The Buchanan Award is given to the top defensive player in FCS.
#30 Former Eagle offensive tackle Michael Roos and former Idaho State defensive end Jared Allen were both honored on the as NFL All-Pro selections in 2008.
#37 EWU 2013 Comeback vs. Sam Houston State, a 45-42 loss in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs after trailing 35-0 at halftime.
#42 Bashir Levingston’s 3 Kickoff Returns for TD vs. Sacramento State in 1998.
EWU Among Big Sky’s Top 25 Female Athletes
#12 Kim Exner (1995-96-97-98) – ’97 & ’98 Big Sky Volleyball MVP
#20 Kari McKay (1990-91 & 1991-92) – ’92 NCAA Division I All-American in 10,000 meters
EWU Among Big Sky’s Top 25 Female Moments
#9 EWU Volleyball defeats Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2001, equaling the highest advancement ever for a Big Sky Conference school.
#12 EWU Volleyball is one of three Big Sky Teams to advance to the NCAA Volleyball Tournament in 1999.
Below are links to stories of the Top 50 Male Athletes and Top 50 Men's Moments, as well as the Top 25 Women’s Athletes and Top 25 Women’s Moments.