Four years from now, the Eagles are going to visit the newest home of Jim McElwain.
Eastern Washington University and the University of Florida will play each other on Sept. 5, 2020, at 88,548 seat Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., the two schools jointly announced on Wednesday (Sept. 7).
The first-ever game for the Eagles versus the Southeastern Conference will be against a Gators team currently coached by McElwain, a former Eagle. The Montana native spent 15 years in Cheney, Wash., from 1980-94 first as a player and then as a coach. He received his bachelor's degree in 1984 from EWU and also worked on his master's degree while an Eagle.
"This is pretty cool to be able to add Eastern Washington to the schedule," said McElwain. "I spent 15 years at Eastern and it is such a huge part of my life. I met my wife, Karen, there and all of my children were born there. I have so many great memories of my time at Eastern and I still have friends there to this day."
"We thank everybody involved, including Coach McElwain, for making it possible for us to play such a great SEC program," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "It's a tremendous honor for us at Eastern Washington and we look forward to the opportunity to play Florida."
"We would like to thank Coach Mac, (Florida director of athletics) Jeremy Foley and (Florida executive associate AD) Chip Howard for their willingness to make this happen," said Eastern AD Bill Chaves. "The ability to connect Eastern with one of its most successful alums is something unique that athletics can do. We cannot be more excited about the opportunity to play the Gators and the Southeastern Conference."
The game in 2020 continues the trend of playing upper-echelon teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. Eastern beat Washington State 45-42 last Saturday (Sept. 3) in Pullman, Wash., marking the sixth-straight season EWU has played a team from the Pacific-12 Conference.
In 2017, Eastern is scheduled to visit Texas Tech (9/2/17), and EWU has also previously announced agreements to play in 2018 at Washington State (9/15/18) and in 2019 at Washington (8/31/19). The Eagles are now 10-24 all-time versus members of FBS, and have won two of its last four games versus FBS foes (Oregon in 2013).
"The SEC is a conference our players see every week on TV and is talked about as arguably the premier conference in the country," added Baldwin. "To work toward playing on that stage, in that environment