Dave Walsh: Wyoming’s 1988 Football Team Heading To Hall Of Fame

Columnist Dave Walsh writes: "The 1988 Cowboy football team is a most worthy entrant into the Hall of Fame. Many will say that it has earned the right to be considered the greatest Cowboy team ever."

Dave Walsh

August 04, 20224 min read

Dave walsh Uw

It was the fall of 1992 when Wyoming’s Director of Athletics, Paul Roach, put together a committee. 

This committee, on which I was honored to serve, was to select the very first Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame class.  That very first induction ceremony would take place one year later, in the fall of 1993.  The establishment of the Hall of Fame was the cornerstone event in the celebration and anniversary of 100 years of Cowboy Football.

There were nine individuals and one team inducted into that first class.   Iconic Wyoming athletes like Cowboy Football players Jerry Hill and Mike Dirks, and two-sport stars, Jay Novacek and Johnny Winterholler. 

Cowboy Basketball stars Kenny Sailors and Fennis Dembo, All-American Wrestler, Dick Ballinger, and legendary Athletic Director, Glenn “Red” Jacoboy, and Ev Shelton, the equally-legendary Cowboy Basketball Coach, made up the list of individuals.  And the 1943 NCAA Championship Men’s Basketball Team, coached by Shelton, was the first team to be inducted in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.

The 29th Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame Class will be honored and inducted on Friday, September 2nd, the night before the Cowboys home opener against Tulsa.  And just like all of the previous classes, this year’s group is a “who’s who” of Cowboy and Cowgirl greats.

This year’s Hall of Fame class will feature six individuals and one team. 

Two Cowboy Football players, Walter Goffigan and Grant Salisbury will go into the Hall. 

Wyoming Cowgirl two-sport star, and Wyoming native, Erin Kirby, will be inducted.  As will Mary Johnson, the Cowboy Basketball Office Administrator/Manager for nearly 30 years. 

And Wayne Jensen, a Cowboy All-American Track and  Cross Country performer, and Les Witte, a former Cowboy Coach, complete the list of individuals in this year’s class.  The 1988 Cowboy Football Team rounds out the Wyoming Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

That’s quite a list of accomplished athletes, coaches, and administrators to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.  These folks contributed much to the programs they were a part of.   They have all added to the history and tradition of Cowboy and Cowgirl Athletics. 

But it’s Cowboy Football that will provide most the new members of the Hall of Fame.  Two of the five individual inductees come from Wyoming Football, and there is the 1988 Cowboy Football Team itself that will go into the Hall. 

Walt Goffigan, one of the very best running backs to ever don the Brown and Gold, scored 26 rushing touchdowns during his Cowboy career in the mid-1980’s.  That’s still tied for fifth-most rushing touchdowns on the career list at Wyoming. 

Goffigan was a Cowboy Captain in 1983. Grant Salisbury was a two-time All Western Athletic Conference performer for the Pokes, right after Goffigan, in the late ‘80’s.  And it was Salisbury who was centering the ball to another Hall of Famer, Randy Welniak, on the 1988 Cowboy Football Team. 

Salisbury will become the seventh player from the 1988 Team to be inducted as an individual.  Salisbury joins his former ’88 teammates John Cogdill, Mitch Donahue, Sean Fleming, Pat Rabold, Mike Schenbeck, and Randy Welniak to be inducted.

And how about the 1988 Cowboy Football Team!  You talk about a most worthy entrant into the Hall of Fame!  And many will say that it has earned the right to be considered one of the greatest Cowboy teams ever, if not the best ever! 

The 1988 Cowboys, the 22nd UW team, and just the 8th Cowboy football team to be inducted into the Hall, were loaded with talent, and motivated to improve on a 10-win, conference championship season the year before. 

Many of the ’88 Cowboys had played on the ’87 team, Paul Roach’s first team as head coach.  The ’87 Cowboys had won 10 games, were a perfect 8-0 in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play, and won the conference title outright.  The ’88 Cowboys would go undefeated in league play for another outright WAC regular season championship.  And the 1988 Cowboy team would win their first 10 games. 

They were 10-0, and ranked 10th in the nation by the Associated Press.  After taking their first loss of the season in Houston, the Cowboys would beat Hawaii in Honolulu for the Conference Championship and their 11th victory of the season.  It was the most wins ever by a Wyoming football team in a single season.   And still, some 34 years later, those 11 victories in a single season are the most ever for a Cowboy Football Team.

And it certainly makes a solid claim for the 1988 Cowboys, to be inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame, as the “best Cowboy Football Team Ever”.

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Dave Walsh

Sports Columnist