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Baldwin, Eagles visit Tri-Cities

Beau Baldwin has set the bar high at Eastern Washington University.

In seven seasons as the head football coach for the Eagles, Baldwin has a 67-25 record with one national championship and Big Sky Conference championships four out of the last five years.

But Baldwin is quick to give credit.

“We built this program on what Coach (Paul) Wulff did, and what Coach (Mike) Kramer did, and what Coach (Dick) Zornes did,” said Baldwin. “Without Coach Zornes, none of this would be possible. It took them, setting the foundation, for what we do today. It allows us as a staff to push it to the next level.”

Baldwin was in the Tri-Cities — along with numerous Eastern coaches and athletic department officials — a second consecutive year for a fundraising dinner at the Tri-City home of Rich and Celia Gentz on Thursday, and then an alumni golf tournament at Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland on Friday.

What the football team has done the past few years has enabled Baldwin to do a better job at recruiting.

An Eastern game is now an event.

“It’s changed the face of bringing a recruit in, with the whole atmosphere and tailgating,” Baldwin said Friday after the golf tournament. “It’s not as hard to recruit. You don’t feel like you’re selling them anything. You just provide the data. And four hours later, when the game is over, the recruit comes up to you and says ‘Coach, this is great stuff.’ ”

Baldwin drew some interest from bigger schools after last season, but he likes where he’s at.

“The best way to say it is there has been contact made from a few universities,” Baldwin admitted. “At the same time, it better be right, because where I am at is extremely good. The offer would have to be all-encompassing, and not just about money. Where I am at is incredible. It’s got to be a tremendous no-brainer of a decision (to leave).”

So Baldwin and his staff are preparing for the 2015, and they’ll do it without quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who transferred to the University of Oregon for his final season.

“The thing about Vernon is he did so much for us,” said Baldwin. “You want your players to move on and have success. We’re still taking the approach that we’re ready to move on.”

And the Eagles open their football season on Sept. 5 at Oregon, ironically.

Two of EWU’s starters are offensive lineman Aaron Neary (a Hanford grad) and linebacker Miquiyah Zamora (a Chiawana grad).

“They’ve elevated themselves,” said Baldwin. “They were both somewhat under-recruited, and they elevated themselves to all-league status. Neary received some All-America honors. They had that chip on their shoulders, and they’re both great young men in our program.”

Also at the event was Pasco High graduate Chad Bodnar, who will begin his second season this fall as the women’s soccer coach. It was a pretty good first season for him.

“Well yes and no,” said Bodnar. “I think we expected to do well. To win eight games, five of them conference games, there are a lot of plusses.”

The Eagles finished 8-9 last season after the program was 3-14 the previous year. Bodnar expects the Eagles to be young but better this coming season.

“We spent all last year recruiting,” he said. “I’ve been all over the place, got a lot of air miles.”

The Eagles signed 17 new players for fall.