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SIGN OF SUPPORT: New Eastern Oregon football coach Jim Fenwick (left) and players (from left) Ruben Villa, Mark Jensen and Matt Hamlin show off one of the booster club signs the team plans to place in area businesses' windows next month. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
SIGN OF SUPPORT: New Eastern Oregon football coach Jim Fenwick (left) and players (from left) Ruben Villa, Mark Jensen and Matt Hamlin show off one of the booster club signs the team plans to place in area businesses' windows next month. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Jim Fenwick is full of ideas for the Eastern Oregon Mountaineer football team.

Start a job bank to keep players in La Grande during the summer. Take practices to Baker and Pendleton. Tear down the film tower and put up a real press box.

All of these are just ideas floating through Fenwicks mind at this point, but Easterns football coach has jumped into his new job with both feet.

I really like to develop team building and relationships with the players, Fenwick said. To get them to work toward one common goal can be very rewarding.

The goal is winning, something Fenwick did to the tune of a 50-14 record in six seasons at Los Angeles Valley Community College from 1991-96. He spent 1997-98 as the head coach at Cal State-Northridge and was the offensive coordinator at New Mexico from 1998-2000.

Fenwick was offensive coordinator at Eastern for two years under Rob Cushman, who resigned last month after 15 years with the Mountaineers, the last five as head coach.

Fenwick has three priorities: first, his players; second, recruiting; and third, fund-raising. He met with players individually before they left for the holidays, making them aware of his background and the transition.

He even recruited some of the players to carry out one of his ideas, which he calls the Eastern Pride Campaign. The Mountaineer Booster Club had signs made that Fenwick and the players will take around town and put in businesses windows.

The plan is not only to introduce Fenwick and the players to the community, but to give recruits and opponents a sign of the communitys support for the team.

Opponents know they get to play our team, but they also know theyve got to play the spirit of the town, Fenwick said.

Since Eastern does not offer athletic scholarships, Fenwick and other coaches emphasize the schools positives when they recruit student-athletes. Thats where the signs come in, he said. We need to bring out what makes us different. Take them horseback riding, take them fishing they dont want to learn it from me, they want to hear it from the people.

Fenwick and assistant coach Tom Simi are doing the bulk of the recruiting right now. Their priorities start with linemen.

Youre going to win with linemen, Fenwick said. The linemen pool is probably a lot smaller than the skill pool.

Speed is next.

If you get somebody whos fast, it can make you look good as a coach, he said.

He intends to focus his initial efforts in Eastern Oregon, western Idaho and eastern Washington, areas similar to La Grande. He wants players who plan on staying for four years and might draw their parents to games.

The idea of practicing in Pendleton or Baker City isnt farfetched if it draws people to games.

Maybe theyll come over and identify with us and maybe come over and see us, Fenwick said.

He has a lot of ideas, and hes not afraid to spell them out, even if their completion comes years from now.

Im talking big and dreaming big, but I know its going to take a lot of work, he said. If youre going to go in and do it right, youve got to jump in and do it right. I want to build something here.

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