For the first time in generations, a capacity crowd of 29,181 packing War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming on Sept. 2 for the Cowboys home opener won’t have Jack Nokes over the stadium’s public address system.
After 41 years as the voice of War Memorial Stadium, Nokes, 73, is hanging up his microphone.
Battling some health issues, Nokes, 73, said it’s time for a new voice to settle into the press box and start a new era of announcing Cowboys football games.
“I used to say that I’m going to quit doing it when they get a new press box or when I turn 100 years old,” Nokes told Cowboy State Daily. “I used to think 100 would come first.”
After announcing an estimated 300 games or more at War Memorial Stadium – along with hundreds more college basketball games – Nokes said “it’s just time” to step away.
Iron Man Of UW Sports
The end of the Nokes era as PA announcer also brings to an end an impressive track record of reliability.
Despite living in Casper and driving to Laramie for UW home games, he was only thwarted twice in 41 years. And both times were because of road closures.
“Man, there was a lot of snow and blowing snow at times,” he said about the commute. “But I had a job to do.
“No matter how bad the roads were, unless they were closed, I was going to be there. In 41 years for football, I missed two games, and it was because the roads were closed.”
End Of An Era
While it was usually kept on the low-down that Nokes is a Colorado State University grad – he was a Ram from 1967-71 – his voice booming through War Memorial Stadium was 100% Cowboys.
Along with those 300-plus UW football games, Nokes also was the PA voice for more than 100 Wyoming state high school championship basketball and football games.
He took over for Walt Miller, who was the voice of UW football games from the stadium’s opening in 1950 through 1981, when Nokes took over.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Nokes said, adding that even after all these years he still believes that “nobody can replace Walt. His was the voice.”
Changing Of The Guard
With the retirement of Nokes as PA announcer, Cowboys football next season will be a distinctly different experience for UW fans.
That’s because it’ll be the first time in nearly four decades fans won’t have either Nokes or Dave Walsh calling games.
Walsh retired last season after 38 years as the radio play-by-play voice of Cowboys athletics. The 2022 season was his first in retirement. He said there wasn’t a time he didn’t hear Nokes’ distinctive voice over the stadium PA.
“That will be strange to not have him there, won’t it?” Walsh told Cowboy State Daily. “His has been the same voice for two or three generations. People bring their kids to the stadium and he’s there.”
Although Wash was always busy calling the games himself, he said he always heard Nokes.
“We had natural sound in the headsets, and we would hear him too, so we’d hear Jack,” Walsh said. “All those games I heard him, he was a big part of it.
“Jack did such a great job. He was just right, a great voice.”
Nobody Like Josh Allen
Over the decades, Nokes saw hundreds of University of Wyoming football players take the field at War Memorial Stadium, including some of the best high school talent from Wyoming.
Along with Natrona standout Logan Wilson, who now plays linebacker Sundays for the Cincinnati Bengals, Jordan Bertagnole and Alvin Griffin stand out.
“When (Wilson) was at Natrona, I did his games on the radio,” he said. “He was just a physically dominant player.”
Then there’s Josh Allen, the former Cowboys quarterback who became UW’s all-time highest draft pick and now is a perennial Pro Bowl QB for the Buffalo Bills.
“People ask me my top memory of Josh,” Nokes said. “It’s easy. It’s his first game and I have a brand new spotter (in the booth). It’s the first series and we’d heard about his arm.”
He said even then, Allen was electrifying when ad-libbing a play.
“He just gets to running out of the pocket, and he takes on the safety and just obliterates the poor safety,” he said. “Then two plays later he’s out of the pocket, he’s running, and we look at each other and are saying, ‘Slide! Slide!”
But sliding isn’t in Allen’s nature. He put his head down and punished the defense for as much ground as he could get.
“Well, on that play he broke his collar bone and was out for the rest of the season,” Nokes said with a chuckle.
Of all the talent Nokes saw either with the UW program or other teams coming through Laramie, he said he’s never seen an arm like Allen’s.
“I don’t recall anyone who could throw the ball on a hard line like Josh,” he said, comparing his velocity to the legendary strong arm of John Elway.
Evolution Of The Job
Just as technology has revolutionized most areas of how people live and play today, it’s also evolved stadium announcing, Nokes said.
“The job has changed a whole lot in the last 40 years,” he said. “They used to give me a script that was 30-40 pages long with little lines to slip in.
“Nowadays, everything is totally scripted down to the second.”
But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t opportunity for human error every now and then.
Noke said he would always arrive early and go over names of opposing teams with their sports information directors. That was especially important every time the Cowboys played Hawaii, BYU or other teams with a lot of Polynesian players.
“Every time Hawaii comes to town is a lot of fun,” he said.
While there are many memorial plays from his time in the press box, Nokes has a few favorites.
“You see so many plays and you’re talking between them, so … it’s not so much a favorite play,” he said. “The one thing I will never forget is the first night game ever in War Memorial Stadium.”
The game was on national television and the Cowboys, who were big underdogs, dominated the game on ESPN. It was the season opener of the 1988 season against nationally ranked rival BYU.
“We sacked their quarterback, like, nine times and won the game on national TV,” Nokes said. “That game, more than any other, stands out because of what it was and who we beat.”
With today’s 24/7 news cycle with social media sharing every second of everything that happens, Nokes said it’s impossible to go 41 years talking for a living to not have a couple of “oops” moments.
One of the most difficult things to get used to is a 2-second delay between when he talks and when his voice goes out over the PA.
“When you mess up, you know you’re going to hear it coming back to you in 2 seconds,” Nokes said.
“The most infamous one was against San Diego State several years ago,” he said. “In my defense, we had just switched that season from a handheld microphone to a headset.”
With different, unfamiliar controls and it being bitter cold – along with UW trailing 28-0 at the half – when the Cowboys attempted a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down, the whole stadium got to hear what Nokes really thought of the play call.
“My mic was still on, it was a bad snap and I had a little exclamation in there that went out over the microphone,” he said. “I just kept going.
“Nowadays, it would’ve been all over YouTube and everything. It’s one of those deals when you say it and you can’t get it back.”
Ready To Move On
Now that he’s just a fan, Nokes said he won’t know how to deal with having his Saturdays free to watch other college football.
But he won’t be watching on Barstool Sports anytime soon after the streaming platform presented UW in the Arizona Bowl.
The unorthodox, and at times irreverent, presentation has been met with a flurry of response, with fans either loving the juvenile humor of the broadcast or hating it.
Nokes isn’t a fan.
“I’m an old guy and I didn’t like it,” he said. “During the game, we were having a party, but at one time they were talking about stuff and asking, ‘Doesn’t Laramie have some elevation?’ Those guys have not done any homework at all, good grief.”
He also said he recognizes the different format likely appeals to a much younger audience.
“Life goes on, the world changes,” he said. “The younger generation may like that and it may catch on. But I’m not going to be one those who rides that little wave.”
Learn To Be A Fan
Nokes said he’ll aways be a Cowboys fan, but admits it will take some getting used to watching UW on TV like everyone else.
“For me, I’m so used to watching the game from the press box and working, I’m not sure I can be a fan,” he said.
And for those who say the games won’t be the same without him, Nokes said they’re also not the same without Miller.
“Nobody is irreplaceable,” he said. “It’ll be good, I think, to have another voice. People will have to get used to it. Times change and people move on.”