November 28, 2001 11:00 pm
Jim Fenwick ().
Jim Fenwick ().

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Jim Fenwick wanted to be a head football coach again, but when he came to Eastern Oregon two years ago, he didnt expect to get the job here after two losing seasons forced coach Rob Cushman to resign.

I didnt expect it all to go down this way and happen this way, Fenwick said this morning after being named Easterns ninth head football coach. Im excited about the opportunity to be a head coach again and provide leadership for the team.

Fenwick was Easterns offensive coordinator the past two seasons under Cushman, who resigned last week after an 18-31 record over five seasons.

Fenwick had been a head coach at Division I-AA Cal State-Northridge in 1997 and was a head coach at Los Angeles Valley Community College from 1991-96, when he compiled a 50-14 record.

He spent the 1998-1999 seasons at New Mexico, where he was offensive coordinator.

When I got here, my whole goal was to try to get myself in position to get back to be a head coach, Fenwick said. Those opportunities dont come very often. The way it happened here I have mixed feelings about because Rob has been very good to me. I like the town and I like the players.

Eastern Oregon Athletic Director Rob Cashell had wanted to hire a coach quickly to avoid missing out on recruiting.

Its kind of a policy of mine, and its good for an institution, to look inward first and to see about quality people on campus and see if theyre capable of doing the job, Cashell said. Theres no doubt in my mind that if we opened this to a job search wed have 50 or 60 good applicants, but weve got a great person right here.

His experience as head coach and his leadership capabilities will help us continue to move the program forward. Im impressed with the fact that he is a continuous teacher of the game and of life, at practice, on the field, off the field.

Fenwick met with some of the players Wednesday and told them they are his first priority.

Weve only got about a week and a half here before we go on winter break, so we need to communicate with them, get them feeling good about working hard and coming back for next season, he said.

Recruiting, building a staff and fund-raising are also on the priority list, Fenwick said.

Cashell said Fenwicks teaching load in the physical education and health department and other responsibilities are being evaluated to best fit the needs of the program and the department.

Fenwick is also adviser to the schools tennis club.

Fenwick lives in La Grande with his wife Gayle and son Casey, who was an all-Greater Oregon League running back and defensive back for the La Grande Tigers football team the past two seasons.