If anyone on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins, Colorado, needs a reminder that this is Bronze Boot week in the 125-year rivalry between CSU and University of Wyoming football, they can go to the stadium.
There, they’ll find its large, life-sized bronze sculpture featuring a pair of rams engaged in battle with each other have been branded with a “UW” on each of their backsides.
It’s the latest in a series of pranks and memorable incidents that mark the annual Border War game, when UW and CSU square off for bragging rights for the next year. That happens for the 115th (or 114th time, if you ask CSU; more on that below) time at 6 p.m. Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
CSU holds an overall edge in the series 58-50-5, although UW says the scorecard should read 50-59-5. That’s because the first game between the schools in 1899 turned ugly, prompting the officials to stop the game and rule it a forfeit for CSU. But since the NCAA now doesn’t recognize forfeits, CSU has changed the record, while UW hasn’t.
Still Gets Pretty Emotional
Turns out, the hostility and bad blood between the programs in that first game was just the beginning for a pair of schools that, at least on the athletic field, hate each other.
Jack Nokes has been around to see a lot of it.
Before he was the UW stadium announcer for 41 years, he was a broadcast reporter covering UW going back to the early 1970s. And before that, he was a CSU student, graduating in 1972. He was at the Border War game in 1968 when the first Bronze Boot was awarded. It’s become the iconic traveling trophy for the winner of the UW-CSU football game.
“It’s always a big rivalry, obviously,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “My sense has been that maybe it means more to Wyoming because we’re just one (state) school. And it can get a little wild. You have two universities that are 60 miles apart, and it’s one of the best rivalries in the country.
“It doesn’t get the press the big boys get, but it’s intense and it’s over 100 years old.”
He Was There
Nokes was on the sidelines reporting on the infamous UW-CSU game in 1978 that devolved into an all-out, benches-clearing brawl even before the game kicked off.
CSU decided it wanted to make a statement, so instead of coming out onto the field from the locker room as usual, the entire team entered the stadium through the crowd. Then, the whole team went onto the field for the coin toss, provoking the UW players.
“I was doing my sideline report and there’s this brouhaha right behind me,” Nokes said. ‘I didn’t know what was happening. We were waiting for them to come out on the field, and I was talking to the booth, then all hell was breaking loose behind me.”
When order was finally restored, Wyoming won the game, he said.
Nokes also recalls one time at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie when the human mascots for the teams — Pistol Pete for the Cowboys and Cam the Ram for CSU — got into a full-on fist-flying brawl.
“I do remember that one time when it got out of hand” between the mascots, Nokes said.
While some reports say the woman in the Cam the Ram suit suffered a broken hip in the melee and had to be taken off the field in an ambulance, Nokes said he doesn’t remember that.
There have been other pranks and incidents that have marked, or marred, the Border War game.
In 2004, vandals broke into Hughes Stadium on the CSU campus and used a chemical to burn a pair of giant “UW”s into the turf. This was right before the teams were to play in a nationally televised game. The grounds crew fixed the damage, and it wasn’t noticeable on TV.
In 1990, after the game at CSU, the crowd celebrating a Rams win got out of hand, prompting response from a SWAT team and tear gas.
In 1994, CSU scored a come-from-behind win over UW, and again the fans storming the field were a little too rowdy. Along with tearing down the goalposts, some reports say members of the band were assaulted.
Then there was the time someone from UW stole CSU’s live bighorn sheep mascot, put a UW sweatshirt on it and took pictures. And Nokes said he remembers another time hearing about someone from CSU swiping UW’s live horse mascot, Cowboy Joe.
And while it was 55 years ago, Nokes said he remembers that first Bronze Boot game in 1968. It was at CSU, and Rams fans really wanted to win it.
“At that time, it was a big deal to CSU because they could never beat Wyoming,” he said.