For some fans, family ties, team rivalry tangle on game day
PULLMAN - Add Kevin Bacon to list of proud Eastern Washington graduates.
The longtime Mead resident and banker isn’t a Hollywood actor, but he has no problem adjusting roles.
Before his son, freshman wide receiver Lucas Bacon, walked on to Washington State’s football team this fall, his allegiance had been to his alma matter and the Washington Huskies.
He was proudly wearing crimson on Saturday, though.
Hours before kickoff between Washington State and Eastern Washington at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Kevin and about a dozen relatives donned WSU jerseys with the No.82 at a tailgate party – Lucas’ number, with the surname Bacon across the back.
Kevin’s brother, Kent Bacon, also graduated from EWU and was wearing one of the jerseys. Kent would occasionally pull up the jersey and flash his undershirt – a red Eagles T-shirt.
“I am an Eagle, but now I’m also a Coug. We’re here to support Lucas,” Kevin said. “It’s been fun. I am glad these two programs play each other now.”
“The gap between (Washington State and EWU) has closed a bit,” Kent said. “Growing up in the the 1980s, it was a huge gap.”
Lucas Bacon set Mead High School receiving records last fall and was recruited by both EWU and WSU, Kevin said.
“Doing the EWU and WSU has been a big transition for the family,” Kevin said said. “But it’s been fun to come down to Pullman.
With a proximity of only 80 miles between the two schools, the sellout crowd of nearly 33,000 had dozens of fans whose families have allegiances to both schools.
The stepmother of former Washington State and New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, a Gonzaga Prep graduate whose inspirational fight against ALS started the Team Gleason Foundation, was proudly donning red and black Saturday.
Jackie Gleason, an EWU graduate and elementary school teacher, wore EWU gear as her husband and Steven Gleason’s father, Mike, sported a 1998 WSU Rose Bowl sweatshirt.
“The Gleasons are a house divided for a day,” joked Jackie Gleason.
Before the game, Jackie said she received text messages from her WSU alum daughters, including “Go Cougs!” and the “Eagles are going down.”
Jackie, now 65, said football wasn’t as big of a deal at EWU when she attended. Now that the program has been a consistent FCS Top 25 program, she said she’s enjoyed following the Eagles’ ascension.
“It’s very exciting,” Jackie said. “The whole family is a Coug family, so it’s great to see EWU compete with them now.”
EWU and WSU have faced each other just three in the modern football era, beginning in 2012. Longtime EWU radio man and former standout WSU safety Paul Sorensen never faced the Eagles when he played in the early 1980s.
Sorenson, an All-American who went on to have a cup of coffee in the NFL, was the man of the hour prior to kickoff Saturday. He was chosen to wave the Cougar flag, an honor often reserved for WSU’s most accomplished alums.
He wore both EWU and WSU shirts.
“To wave the flag in front of your peers and old teammates, to see how much change WSU has gone through. It’s awesome,” Sorensen said.
Sorenson, who has over 30 years of combined radio service between WSU and EWU, said he has a hard time picking between the two schools.
“I pull for EWU and I pull for WSU,” he said, “I know that sounds like a wimpy answer, but I like both schools. There’s such dichotomy between the school and they’ve grown so much. I consider myself both an Eagle and Coug and it’s pretty fun.”