MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – Much has changed since Colin Cowherd toed the red turf of Eastern Washington University in 2014, a trip to Cheney to help boost a since-defunct football stadium project.
Cowherd, one of the nation’s most well-known and polarizing sports media figures, has since taken his silver tongue to Fox Sports, where his radio show “The Herd” is simulcast on FS1 and iHeartRadio.
The former ESPN radio and TV personality inked a contract with Fox in 2015 for a reported $6 million a year – he’s since earned a raise, according to reports – and contributes to a few of the network’s other programs.
Cowherd has also had two books published since 2013, including “You Herd Me: I’ll say it nobody else will” – a New York Times bestseller – and “Raw: My 100% Grade-A, Unfiltered Inside Look at Sports.”
The 1985 EWU graduate now resides in the ritzy, laid-back portion of the Los Angeles area – Manhattan Beach – where Cowherd, 55, is also reportedly active in the South Bay area’s luxury real estate market.
Not bad for a small-town coastal Washington native who cut his teeth calling minor-league baseball games in Las Vegas and working in local television in Portland.
The Spokesman-Review recently caught up with Cowherd, who reflected on his time in Cheney and gave his thoughts on EWU’s FCS-power football program and the Spokane area.
Looking back to the early 1980s, what made you choose Eastern Washington University?
Well, I came from a small little town on the beach – Grayland, a town of about 1,000 people. I was the quarterback and a basketball player at Ocosta High School. It was a great community to grow up in. My dad was the town optometrist and my mom worked at the school. It was a good life. There wasn’t a lot of money around, but I loved it. I had great high school coaches.
Coming from such a small area, EWU was very appealing to me. It was far enough away from home. I grew up in a wet part of the state, so I wanted to go to to a dryer part of the state, and (EWU) had good broadcasting. For me it was ideal. I loved it.
What are some of your earliest memories of EWU athletics?
I remember we played Idaho in football. We weren’t playing Pac-12 schools like they are now. Utah State would have been a big nonconference game back then. It was good football, though. Dick Zornes was the head coach and we always had good, clever offenses. It was clever football. We were a little more single-back before other teams had done it. I recall a lot of shootouts. Rick Worman was the quarterback then, and we always had CFL-level talent or undrafted free-agent level guys. Jim Brittain was another quarterback I remember, he went on to play for the Denver Gold (of the USFL).
Yeah, those guys basically started EWU’s long lineage of solid quarterbacks.
Yeah, they always had QBs who threw it. Jim McElwain threw it, Rick Worman threw it. Those were quarterbacks from the ’80s that jump out to me. (Former EWU offensive tackle) Ed Simmons was a guy who went on to be a starting offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins.
You watched this year’s FCS national title game between EWU and North Dakota State. What did you think?
EWU lost (38-24) to a better team. With EWU, I always watch their championship games. I catch about two games a year. I was up in Cheney for their game against Sam Houston State in 2014. It’s a good program, they do a good job and I support them. I know (former EWU head coach and current California offensive coordinator) Beau Baldwin. I went up to a Cal game and saw him.
I’m proud of the EWU football program. They’ve done a nice job. They remind me of a smaller version of Boise State. Always been committed to football. They recruit the state well. Always had good coaches. They’ve never really been awful in my lifetime, always competitive.
Have you followed the Roos Field renovation saga? The athletic department is still trying to get enough outside funding to revamp the facility. You mentioned donating a few years ago to a (previous) project at EWU (that has since been shelved).
Well, it’s a commuter school to some degree. So that’s always going to be a struggle, I think. Because you don’t have a lot of boosters and you’re surrounded by a Pac-12 school, so cobbling money together is hard. You have Gonzaga basketball, you got Washington State football, the Spokane Indians, and professional sports in the state.
It’s not like North Dakota State where they’re the only thing going on.
It’s also very recreational in EWU’s area, so it’s not like people don’t have anything to do. It’s got great lakes, skiing, Lake Coeur d’Alene, Priest Lake, tons of good golf, and you have the casinos up there. There’s stuff to do in that area. I love it up there.
When was the last time you were in the Spokane area?
I was at (Gonzaga coach) Mark Few’s a couple years ago. I love Spokane. I wouldn’t be surprised if I go fly fishing up there the next couple years.
Spokane was the first city I lived next to when I was at Eastern. I like the downtown area. The river. The Davenport is great. They’re hipping it up with condos now.
I think there’s real advantages to growing up in areas like a Cheney or a Spokane, where you have opportunity. Spokane has concerts, real sports and things going on .
I remember when the Seahawks had their training camp at EWU. I wish it was still there. I remember seeing Steve Largent, Jim Zorn and Eugene Robinson at EWU when the Seahawks were in town.
When you were at EWU in the broadcasting/journalism program, didn’t you work under Greg Lee your freshman year? He went on to be a Spokesman-Review sportswriter for over 30 years.
Yes, Greg was the editor. I remember him very well. Nice guy. I had stars in my eyes and wanted to go big after school, but Greg was rock solid and wanted to stay in the area. Another guy who was good was (former Spokesman-Review writer and editor) Jeff Bunch, smart guy.
I remember a lot of guys from program at Eastern. Dave Akerly, who is now a news anchor in Michigan. Ron Breitstein, who is now in the wine business, and many others did well for themselves.
When I went to EWU, I just always knew I was going to go national, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. And that’s just how I saw the world. I’ve always been pretty willful.
You’ve mentioned that you’re still a big newspaper reader.
I loved listening to Howard Cosell growing up, but I was just as jacked up to meet writers. Because we didn’t have cable TV or talk radio. So sportswriters, like Spokesman-Review columnist John Blanchette. Meeting someone like him was as just as fun for me as meeting a TV or radio guy. I grew up on columnists.
There’s currently five EWU alums down the road from you on the Los Angeles Rams’ 90-man roster. Have you followed them much?
Mostly Cooper Kupp. Very quiet. Friends with quarterback Jared Goff. Very reliable. Hard, hard worker from a good Christian family. Dad was an athlete. They have a good reputation.
The Los Angeles Chargers also loved Cooper Kupp. So if the Rams didn’t draft him, the Chargers loved him. But everyone I talked to in the league said he was going to get drafted by somebody.
He’s gotten better and better, but has had an injury bug. His first year he had a little bit of the drops, but that will happen. He’s talented, gets open. He’s stronger than people think, he’s faster than people think.
If Kupp wasn’t out with an injury for the Super Bowl, do you think it changes the Rams’ fortunes against the Patriots?
The Rams’ offense was never the same last season after he got hurt. No question. With Kupp out, teams could double-team Robert Woods. Kupp’s injury was huge, and after he got hurt they became too dependent on (running back) Todd Gurley, and when Gurley broke down, the Rams were in trouble.
When do you think you found your voice and became most comfortable with your ability as a sports commentator?
I think between the ages of 32-33 years old. I stopped listening to other broadcasters. I felt my whole life I listened to other broadcasters, and in my 20s, I sounded like a collection of multiple people. Then around 32-33, I got comfortable doing it my way.
I always tell young broadcasters not to get in a hurry to get to a big network. Go make a bunch of mistakes in Spokane (or) Midland, Texas, or Des Moines, Iowa, and get better. If I had gone to a big network at age 28, I’d have been a big failure. I wasn’t ready and needed to make a decade of mistakes.