Dave Walsh: The Wyoming Cowboys Played The First-Ever American Football Game In Australia

Columnist Dave Walsh writes: "In Australia, all on-air radio announcers are members of a union. And until Wyoming Sens. Al Simpson and Malcolm Wallop got involved on our behalf, we were not allowed to do the broadcast. But we were finally cleared to broadcast and were off to Melbourne for the 85 season finale."

Dave Walsh

April 29, 20226 min read

Dave walsh Uw
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Here it is. It’s into another important milepost in the 12-month, 365-day journey that is college football. And for many of us, we who are Wyoming Cowboy Football fans and followers, the playing and staging of the Spring Game is the very moment of the entry into this next important phase. 

Whatever you want to call this next phase, don’t be calling it “the off-season.” No one takes time off here. Not the players, not the coaches, and certainly not the fans. It’s merely a space of time where no “games” are on the schedule, but a lot of preparatory hours leading up the next game are. Fall drills, and that big game on Aug. 27 lie ahead, with a whole lot of conditioning on the schedule in between.

And just think about it, we are now just 17 weeks away from that big day. The Cowboys are just 119 days from their 2022 season opener. And Cowboy fans are just as close to that first–ever football match-up between Wyoming and Illinois. The Cowboys and the Fighting Illini will play one another on a football field for the first time in Memorial Stadium. Not War Memorial Stadium, but Memorial Stadium, the Illinois homefield in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

Now, there is still some football going on, even now. But if one is a college football fan, or a high school or even NFL fan for that matter, the next game is coming. And those who are connected, in some way, with actually following, or should I say “covering,” one of those football teams, well, we are always looking forward to the beginning of the next season. 

I admit it, heading into what would be my 39th consecutive season of calling Cowboy Football games, I still can’t help staying obsessed with what is coming next for the Pokes. Let’s see, “announcer” and “fan” sure seem like the same thing, don’t they? Now there’s a prime topic for a future column. What it’s like and how does one become an open and admitted “homer.” I’m your guy! But later!

Back to Cowboy Football, and really the sport of football itself. It’s amazing as to just how important this sport has become to so many. Not unlike other sports, most certainly, but the passion and dedication that seems to grow among those who participate in football are truly amazing. 

We are seeing interest and participation back at peak levels, after two seasons of scheduling and playing on-the-fly. The interest has returned in a big way here in the States for American Football. And curiosity in the game apparently continues to grow abroad as well. The NFL will play more regular season games in Europe, Mexico and Canada in seasons to come and is said to be considering putting a franchise in London or Mexico City. Didn’t the Buffalo Bills recently play an exhibition game in Canada? 

Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have been in business in international markets for years. College football still isn’t dabbling much in scheduling games abroad. And by the way, games in Honolulu, Hawaii, do not count as being played “abroad.” I’m talking about games played outside the United States. Most schools, at all levels of college football here in America, have never played a game outside the U.S.

The Cowboys have.

The Wyoming Cowboys have played more than 1,100 games in their 125-season history. To be exact, the Pokes have represented Old U-Dub some 1,167 times, that includes regular season and post-season games. And the Cowboys have played all but one of those 1,166 in one of the 50 states in America. Just one Wyoming Football game has ever been played overseas, outside the United States.

Oddly enough, it was a regular season game, popping up on the 1985 schedule. The Cowboys would play the UTEP Miners “Down Under,” on Dec. 7. It was the last game on the schedule, and would be played in Melbourne, Australia. Ironically, the game would be played in the South Pacific, exactly 44 years to the day, of that fateful attack on Pearl Harbor. 

This would be the farthest the Cowboys had ever travelled for a roadie, and of course, a Wyoming football team hasn’t gone that far from home to play in the 36 seasons since. It was also a game “the Voice” almost missed. It would have been the only one I’ve missed in 39 seasons, but it almost happened. 

You see, in Australia, all on-air radio announcers are members of a union. And until Wyoming Sens. Al Simpson and Malcolm Wallop got involved on our behalf, we were not allowed to do the broadcast. But we were finally cleared to broadcast and were off to Melbourne for the ‘85 season finale.

There were other unusual facets to this game. This would be the first-ever American Football game ever played on the continent of Australia. The Australians were big Rugby and Australian Rules Football fans, but had never seen the American game before. And although this was not a post-season bowl game, it had three different names — the Down Under Bowl, the Gridiron Bowl, or the Australian Bowl, take your pick. 

This game also featured two head coaches who had already been fired! Wyoming and UTEP had given Al Kincaid and Bill Young the old heave-ho after their last games three weeks prior.

The Cowboys would win the game, played before 19,000 fans in the massive 100,000 seat Victoria Football League Park in Melbourne. The Pokes beat the Miners, 23-21 in Al Kincaid’s last game, led by Scott Runyan and his two touchdown passes, and Toriano Taylor’s 125 yards rushing.

And how about one last trivia tidbit!

When the Cowboys won that game in Australia back in 1985, they became the first American college football team in history to win games in both the northern and southern Hemispheres!

Just 119 days from creating even more Cowboy Football memories. Can’t wait!

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Dave Walsh

Sports Columnist