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Dave Walsh: Big Game, Big Crowd, Great Venue? 2002 MWC Basketball Championship Had It All

in Dave Walsh/Column
19962

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

There’s nothing quite like a big event, staged in front of a big crowd. And if that big event is staged in front of that big crowd at a great venue? Well, all the bigger and better.

There have certainly been some events that fill the bill quite nicely staged right here in Wyoming over the years. Many of those events have been games played in Laramie, in the beautiful Arena-Auditorium and in historic War Memorial Stadium. These two venues have played host to Wyoming’s largest football and basketball crowds in state history.

Now, that makes sense in so many ways, but for two very good reasons. War Memorial Stadium happens to be the biggest football stadium in Wyoming, and there is no basketball venue in Wyoming that seats as many as the Double A. And the Wyoming Cowboys and Cowgirls get statewide attention. The venues are outstanding, recognized as such on a national level. And they welcome active and avid fan bases.

There have been so many big games played in War Memorial Stadium over the past 72 seasons. The list of important games played in front of large crowds is long. Maybe it was a game that would gain post-season eligibility, or better yet, it could be a match-up to crown a regular season champion. It’s a very special place when War Memorial hosts events like that.

The same can be said for the Arena-Auditorium. When there is a big basketball game to be played, there is no better place to play it than the “Double A.” There may be bigger arenas that can accommodate more people, but the experience that is created in the “Dome of Doom” is as impressive as anywhere.

A packed “Palace on the Plains,” filled with loyal Cowboy and Cowgirl fans and spearheaded by a very-involved student section, is very special. And really, only special places have so many special monikers, so many descriptive nicknames.

I was fortunate enough to take in 36 years’ worth of Cowboy Basketball games played in the Arena Auditorium, working the radio broadcasts. And I was lucky enough to witness, close up and personal, almost 600 Cowboy games in the Double A. And really, they were all special to me. But there were some games that took it to another level of “special.”

This Cowboy Basketball game, this special game, took place a little more than 20 years ago. Wyoming was to play its Mountain West Conference rival, Utah, in the Arena-Auditorium. Great league match-up on the Cowboy’s home court! That’s special right there.

But there’s more!

This game, played on March 2, 2002, was the final game of the regular season, the last conference game of the year.

And there’s more!

The Cowboys and Utes came into the game with identical league-leading 10-3 records. This game was for an outright Mountain West Conference regular season title!

Ironically, the Cowboys and Utes were both coming off a league championship season. Wyoming and Utah, along with BYU, would be regular season tri-champions, with 10-4 records in 2001. A regular season championship is the common and consistent pre-season goal of every team. Winning a league title, shared or otherwise, is big. Winning a conference championship outright, no sharing, is special. Cowboy Basketball has won or shared 16 regular season conference championships over its 129-year history, about a handful of those were outright titles.

So, a very big stage was set for a very big game. The 2002 regular season finale tipped off that Saturday afternoon, and would feature the beloved Cowboys, in their beloved home, the Arena Auditorium.

It had been a popular place all season long, as the Pokes would average over 10,000 fans a game. That’s still the second-best per game average ever. The Cowboys had gone 11-1 overall that season in the Double-A, and an Arena-Auditorium record-crowd of 16,089 would show up for this game.

This conference championship game was a tough, physical struggle from the start. Every shot was contested, it was very intense, and low-scoring.

Utah’s Karl Bankowski would lead all scorers with 24 points in the game, and he would help Utah to a 2-point lead at halftime, 24-22.

The second half belonged to the Cowboys. Two future Hall of Famers, Marcus Bailey and Josh Davis, led the way offensively, while teammates Uche Nsonwu-Amadi, Donta Richardson and Jayson Straight filled out the starting lineup that dug in defensively to create 15 Utah turnovers. Cowboy guard Paris Corner came off the bench to score 7 points in 21 minutes.

The Cowboys would get a number of free-throws down the stretch when Utah was forced to foul, and the Cowboys would hit them all. Bailey nailed many of them, but the Cowboy team would make 10 out of 10 free throws in the second half, they would make 16 of 18, 89%, in the game. Bankowski would throw in a three-pointer from near mid-court as time expired and the Cowboys had won, 57-56.

Wyoming had won their first outright Mountain West Conference championship. The Pokes had picked up their first outright regular season league title since winning the Western Athletic Conference Championship in 1982, 20 years prior. The Cowboys did all that on their now-legendary home court, in the presence of the largest crowd to ever attend a Wyoming home game. And some 20 years later, it is still the biggest Wyoming home crowd ever.

It was one of the biggest wins ever, played in front of the biggest home crowd ever.

Now that’s special!

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Dave Walsh: Remembering Wyoming’s First Football Game Under the Lights

in Dave Walsh/Column
19743

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

The University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame will induct its 29th class this fall. And like the twenty-eight classes before, this list of inductees is a veritable “who’s who” of Cowboy and Cowgirl sports. 

The 2022 UW Hall of Fame class includes six individuals and one team. A Cowboy basketball star from the 1930’s, Les Witte, former Cowboy Cross Country star, Wayne Jensen, and 27-year Cowboy Basketball Office Administrator Mary Johnson, will be enshrined. Wyoming native and two-sport Cowgirl performer Erin Kirby and Cowboy football players Walter Goffigan and Grant Salisbury round out the list of individual inductees. 

And the team, “oh the team” — the 1988 Wyoming Cowboy football team.

First of all, it’s hard for me to imagine that this will be the 29th Hall of Fame class! I happened to be a member of the very first Hall of Fame selection committee back in 1993.

The UW Hall of Fame was the brainchild of and was created by Wyoming Athletic Director Paul Roach. Roach was in his seventh year as the AD, it was the 100th anniversary of Wyoming Football and the very-successful former head football coach had put together a group of people to select that very first class. I was honored to be a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee for 19 years.

What a class this 2022 Hall of Fame class is! And what a team this Hall of Fame team is!

I’ve been around long enough to witness and enjoy the talents and performances of four of the six individual inductees. And it was my honor to experience and broadcast each and every game the 1988 Cowboys played.

It was a magical season for the Cowboys, one in which the Pokes would win a record 11 games! And still, some 34 years later, and after 125 years of Cowboy football, it holds the Wyoming record for most wins in a single season.

Everyone knew after the very first game of the 1988 season that this could very well be another special year in the offing for Cowboy football.

Not many were so sure before the season began. Even though the Cowboys had gone a perfect 8-0 in Western Athletic Conference play and had won the Conference Championship outright in 1987, Wyoming was picked to finish in the middle of the Mountain West Conference pack in 1988. But, again, the first game of the 1988 season hinted at a very different scenario.

All “season openers” are important. Home openers are big. Add to that the fact that the opponent is a major conference rival and you’ve got the trifecta of big-time openers. The Cowboys had all of that, and more, for their first game in 1988. 

Wyoming would face the BYU Cougars in their home and season opener at War Memorial Stadium. It was BYU that had been named the pre-season conference favorite just weeks before.

This season opener got the interest of a major television network, which would televise the game, but only if it could be played and aired in an evening timeslot. They wanted a night game, and they wanted the game to kickoff at 8:15 pm, Mountain Time. And that demand would set the stage for a great game and a historic one, as well.

The first night game to ever be played in War Memorial Stadium would take place on Thursday, Sept. 1 1988. Many believe it to be the first Cowboy football night game ever played in Laramie, but there are veteran Cowboy fans who claim there was a game played in the 1930’s on the field that was located just south of where the Fieldhouse is today.

The game got started a bit late in the afternoon, and it got dark in the fourth quarter. The story goes that those fans who drove to the game lined their vehicles, side-by-side, along each sideline, and turned on their headlights. The game concluded “under the lights”, so to speak.

That Cowboy 1988 season opener is “officially” the very first Wyoming home game played “under the lights.” And since War Memorial Stadium did not have lights, they had to be brought in. Musco Lighting was a company that supplied portable, crane-operated, banks of stadium lights to venues in need.

So, the lights were wheeled in, the opening kickoff sailed into the 58-degree night air at 8:48 p.m., the game was played in a light breeze in front of almost 29,000 spectators and ended at 12:09 a.m., Friday, Sept. 2.

And what a game it was for the Cowboys. The Pokes scored first and the score was tied at one point during the second quarter, but the Cowboys would grab a 21-7 lead before halftime and never look back. 

The Cowboys were led by Hall of Famers Randy Welniak and Grant Salisbury on offense and Hall of Famers Mitch Donahue, Pat Rabold and Mike Schenbeck on defense. Cheyenne native and Cowboy defensive end, Dave Edeen, had five sacks.

The Cowboy defense would sack BYU quarterbacks Sean Covey and Ty Detmer a total of nine times, and the Cowboy defense would record seven takeaways, four interceptions and three fumbles. 

Meanwhile, the Wyoming offense, with Welniak at the controls, would roll up 300 yards of total offense. The Wizard of Ord accounted for 219 of those yards, with 172 yards passing and 47 rushing yards. Welniak would figure in all three Wyoming touchdowns, two passing and one rushing.

And the Cowboys beat BYU, 24-14, in that historic, nationally-televised and “well-lit” first-ever Wyoming home football game “under the lights.”

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Dave Walsh: Following The Pokes In The Pros

in Dave Walsh/Column
19513

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

Don’t you love it when there are those “Pokes in the Pros” to follow as they take their talents and abilities and try to apply them at the very top level? And it really doesn’t matter which Cowboy or Cowgirl it is or the sport in which they compete. 

When someone who has gained our interest while competing in the Brown and Bold advances to the next level, most Wyoming fans just have to keep up and keep tabs.

Cowboy football fans now have their latest and newest possible Pokes in the Pros to root for. Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars a week ago. Muma, like Logan Wilson two NFL drafts ago, was picked early in the third round. 

A pair of Cowboy linemen have also been signed as undrafted free agents. Cowboy center Keegan Cryder and defensive end Garrett Crall will get NFL shots too. And there could be more Cowboy free-agent signings. 

All three of these Cowboys will report to rookie camps in the next week or so. Of course, there is the matter of “making the team” for any player, drafted or not. I think these three are all NFL-worthy. 

Muma, of course, would seem to have the best opportunity, being the 70th player picked in the draft and going to a team that could sure use the help. But Cryder will get a great look at Tampa, and Crall will get strong consideration in Miami.

And won’t it be fun watching it all play out! Wyoming football fans are as passionate and faithful as any in the country. And their passion and interest doesn’t fade, it follows their former Pokes wherever they go. And it’s always been that way. 

The Josh Allen craze that continues here in the Cowboy State is certainly not the first example. The Logan Wilson infatuation will not be the last. Will there be a flurry of Jacksonville Jaguar jersey sightings coming soon?

It seems impossible to go anywhere in Wyoming, especially a Wyoming athletic event, without seeing a Buffalo Bills article of apparel. It might be a T-shirt or a sweatshirt with the number 17 and the name “Allen” on it. It could have “Bills Mafia” emblazoned upon it. 

Have you noticed the “Wilson” Cincinnati Bengals jerseys out and about? I even spotted a Mitch Donahue San Francisco 49ers jersey at the Cowboys Spring Game last weekend.

And again, this has been going on for a long time. Forty years ago, when I finally found home here in Wyoming, I encountered many Jim Kiick Miami Dolphins Jerseys. Kiick hadn’t played for the Dolphins since 1974, and would also play for the Broncos and Redskins, but here in Wyoming in 1982, the former Wyoming Cowboy‘s pro jersey was very popular. There were also Ken Fantetti Detroit Lions tops and Aaron Kyle Dallas Cowboys AND Denver Broncos jerseys.

I had the pleasure and honor of broadcasting Cowboy Football games during the senior season of one of the best Wyoming athletes ever. My first season on the Cowboy radio broadcast was Jay Novacek’s senior season at Wyoming. Novacek was a two-sport star at UW. He was a decorated decathlete on the Cowboy track and field team and a tight end on the Wyoming football team. 

Novacek was drafted in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. So you would see a few Novacek-Cardinals jerseys around the state. Then, in 1990, Novacek was traded to the Dallas Cowboys, where he would play for seven mostly Pro Bowl seasons. And the Novacek-Dallas Cowboy apparel exploded in popularity here in Wyoming.

When a home grown Wyoming product gets drafted, well, those jerseys become immediate collector’s items. Imagine the run on Chris Prosinski Jacksonville Jaguars apparel in 2011. The John Wendling Buffalo Bills jersey was very popular in 2007, the Casey Bramlet Cincinnati Bengals jersey was hot in 2004, and we saw lots of John Burrough Atlanta Falcons tops in Wyoming back in 1995.

I understand that NFL fans are much like college football fans. Both are just fans of the game, they love the sport. I enjoy watching any level of football, no matter who is playing. But like most football fans, we tend to closely identify with a single team, and the players on that team. And when those players, Cowboy football players in this case, continue on in their pro careers, we cannot resist, we must follow.

The NFL certainly has become more interesting to me over the years because of that. Like many others, I can’t help but seek out NFL games in which former Wyoming Cowboys are involved. The pro game is a great product, made even better by those Pokes in the Pros.

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Dave Walsh: Another Important Milestone On The Way To Football Season

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19305

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

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: Remembering Joe Dowler And George Kay, Two Wyoming Sports Legends

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19079

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

We lost a couple of true Wyoming legends over the last few weeks. These two icons who recently passed were exceptional in their chosen fields for many years and were even more impressive as genuinely kind and caring people. 

I had the honor to meet both four decades ago. And the privilege to work with, and learn from, both George Kay and Joe Dowler for many of the past 40 years.

It was about this time of year, in 1982, when a young Walsh family came rolling into the Oil City, with a full U-Haul and full of excitement. I had taken a job at KVOC Radio in Casper, Wyoming, having never even been there. 

Coming from a three-year stint in Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah, this was a new opportunity in the Cowboy State. Here we were driving into a new town on CY Avenue to begin a new chapter in the crazy life of a radio play-by play man. I would be the Voice of the Wyoming Wildcatters, a first-year expansion team in the Continental Basketball Association.

George Kay

And one of the first people I met was George Kay.

George was the sports director at KTWO Radio and Television. George had worked at KTWO for 15 years before we met and as the sports anchor on KTWO-TV, he was one of the most recognizable sports figures in the state. 

George was right there on KTWO-TV each evening with news anchors Pete Williams, Susan Anderson, Charles Brown, and Tom Edwards. Doc Mueller did weather. And George Kay was the sports guy. The camera, and the viewers, loved George.

I would get to know George Kay quickly. He was easy to get to know, and we were running into each other often. George covered every Wildcatter home game, and many of the roadies too. 

And in 1984, our working relationship took a big jump. First, in June, George asked me to join him at KTWO-TV and serve as the weekend sports anchor. Wow, what a huge opportunity! I started doing Saturday and Sunday newsblocks, the 5:30 p.m. and the 10:00 p.m. sports on KTWO-TV, with George Kay as my teacher and mentor. 

It was just two months later, in August of 1984, when I was offered the best play-by-play job in radio. Another Wyoming icon by the name of Curt Gowdy, hired me as the play-by-play Voice of the Cowboys!

I would call my first two seasons of Cowboy games while still living in Casper and working at KVOC and KTWO-TV. And on many of the drives over the Basin, through Medicine Bow and Rock River, all the way to Laramie, I would enjoy the company of George Kay. 

The drives home were even better, with long discussions about the Cowboy game we had just witnessed. A couple of middle-of-the-night drives back to Casper were delayed and made even longer during a post-game snowstorm out on Shirley Basin. 

Three years later, the rights to broadcast Cowboy games went to KTWO. I was asked back to handle the play-by-play, and I would have a new partner in the radio booth. George Kay was the new color analyst. We would do 10 years of Cowboy football games together. George and I would do around 125 Cowboy game broadcasts together. So many enjoyable hours of airtime with one of the classiest gentlemen, and true legends, in Wyoming broadcasting. George Kay passed away on Feb. 13.

Joe Dowler

I met Joe Dowler in 1984. I had just been named the Voice of the Cowboys, and was attending a Cheyenne Quarterback Club meeting when I was introduced to the very successful and popular Cowboy wrestling head coach. 

Coach Dowler had been Wyoming’s wrestling coach for 11 years by then and had won multiple Mountain Intercollegiate Wrestling Association and Western Athletic Conference team titles. Dowler would win 104 dual matches and coach 35 individual conference champions and two All-Americans at Wyoming.

The Walshes moved to Laramie in 1986 and Joe Dowler had retired from coaching to become associate athletics director and right-hand man to Athletic Director Paul Roach. Roach and Dowler would lead Wyoming Athletics to unprecedented success. 

Joe was a great administrative leader in the Athletics Department as associate athletic director for 14 years, until 2001. Dowler would then initiate and coordinate the “W” Club for all UW athletic letter-winners. All told, as a coach and administrator, Joe Dowler would serve UW Athletics for 28 years, and was inducted into the UW Hall of Fame in 2005. Joe Dowler passed away last weekend.

George Kay and Joe Dowler were living legends who will be remembered and appreciated for a long time. These two classy family men, with Marge and Glenda by their sides and in full support, would achieve so much during their Wyoming careers. They would win the respect of untold numbers of Wyoming fans, including yours truly.

George…Joe…Rest in Peace.

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Dave Walsh: Springtime In Wyoming Means Only 19 Weeks Until Cowboy Football!

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18852

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

I just love springtime in Wyoming! Of course, you could get just about anything “weather-wise” this time of year. One day it feels a lot like winter, others it may seem a bit “fallish” There may be a day or two in April that give you a summertime feel.

And “sports-wise” here in the Cowboy State, we are plenty busy following our springtime favorites. I hear that there are even a few professional leagues back in business and well into their regular season schedules, but as a U-Dub fan, and especially a Cowboy Football geek, spring has sprung in a big way. In fact, the only way I know that it’s technically and officially spring is that Cowboy Football is involved in spring drills. 

Spring Football is just one phase, and a very important one, of the entire process of preparing for the upcoming season. The Cowboys are midway through the spring and two weeks away from the Spring Game in War Memorial Stadium on April 30.

Another thing we love about the spring is that it means we are that much closer to the fall. We are that much closer to the start of the 2022 Cowboy Football season. Cowboy Football fans will tell you that the Pokes are, right now, just 19 weeks from starting the 2022 season. The Cowboys are just a little more than four months from “kicking off” the season in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The Cowboys will face the Fighting Illini on Saturday, August 27, a mere 133 days from now!

Springtime is a time of reflection, and a time of attending to the here and now, but it’s also a time of moving ahead. We are all kind of “springing forward” I suppose. For this veteran broadcaster, it is all of the above. The old voice still reflects on a Cowboy Football season that ended just four months ago in Boise, Idaho. And can’t help but get excited for the next season that begins in four months in Illinois.

I’ve said many times, on many broadcasts over the years, that I am the most fortunate person. I’ve been lucky enough to spend my entire time in the workplace doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, something that was anything and everything but work. I knew at a very tender age, I was 8 years old, with my transistor radio on my pillow, listening and falling asleep to a baseball or basketball game in its final stages, well, I knew then what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be that announcer, the play-by-play guy describing the game.

Lucky, fortunate, me. Here I am, and here we are just 133 days away from “living the dream” and calling a Cowboy Football game. Back in the booth, back in the headset. Back with the crew, the entire broadcast team.

And back with Kevin.

Like I said, I am the most fortunate person. I am so lucky to have had Kevin McKinney as my partner on Cowboy Football broadcasts. We did 36 years of Cowboy Basketball together, and will head into the 39th consecutive year of announcing a Cowboy Football together. We even did a few Cowboy Baseball broadcasts 25 years ago. 

From 1999 through 2008, Kevin and I co-hosted Sportsline Live, a nightly sports call-in talk show in southeast Wyoming. That’s some 1,200 talk shows and close to 1,500 Cowboy broadcasts, and all were done “live.” Those are a lot of broadcasts to get comfortable with one another, develop a rapport, and just do good radio.

You may have heard me refer to, and often introduce Kevin as “the Armani of Analysis – Kevin Mc Kinney.” The Armani reference is to one of the Kings of Fashion, Georgio Armani. And anyone who has ever met or seen Kevin is immediately impressed with how nattily-dressed the man is, a style that is very Armani-esque. And analysis? Well, there is no one who can breakdown what we have just seen, and provide quick and knowledgeable analysis, better than Kevin McKinney.

I’ve always been very open and honest about how I feel about broadcast, and the Cowboys. I fully admit that I am a “homer.” It’s been a love that began to develop almost exactly 40 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about this great state, its wonderful university, Wyoming athletics, and especially Cowboy sports, from Kevin McKinney. 

Born and bred in Cheyenne, Kevin was a Cowboy fan from the start. He attended Wyoming games all through his childhood, would earn a degree from UW, and has worked in athletics at Wyoming, in so many ways, for more than 50 years.

How lucky am I? The luckiest ever! That’s how much!

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Dave Walsh: NCAA Tournament Brings Back Memories Of Wyoming’s ‘Sweet 16’ Season

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18670

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

Well, college basketball season has officially come to an end. The men and women staged what, as always, are always the best tournaments in sports. 

Of course, college fans who have a passion for Wyoming basketball are coming off of enjoyable seasons, the Cowboys and Cowgirls had great seasons, and both are poised for outstanding campaigns ahead.

The men’s championship on Monday night was the classic finale for all of it. And while taking in the three games that made up the semifinals and championship, I found myself flashing back to very fond memories of a historic event, and very important game, in Cowboy basketball history. 

A number of things were similar with these two Big Dance happenings, which took place some 35 seasons apart. This year’s Final Four took me back to the Cowboys final game of the 1986-87 season.

And it was the venue, the actual backdrop of this year’s final, that tossed me back to the last time Cowboy basketball payed a visit to the Sweet Sixteen and played a huge basketball game in a football stadium. Caesars Superdome became the Seattle Kingdome. 

There weren’t 70,000 spectators in the Kingdome 35 years ago like there were in the Superdome on Monday, but the “feel” was certainly the same. The former home of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners seemed similar to the current home of the New Orleans Saints and when the Cowboys took on the top-ranked team in the country, there were more than 23,000 fans in attendance in the 59,000-seat Kingdome.

The other obvious connection was the very nature of the event. We’re talking the NCAAs here, the advanced stages of the tournament, to boot. The game the Cowboys played in Seattle in March of 1987 was coming off of two of the very biggest wins in Wyoming’s long and accomplished history. 

Just days before, the Pokes had beaten Virginia, out of the powerful ACC, in the opening round, and followed that up with a CBS-televised upset over mighty UCLA. The Cowboys, the No. 12-seed in the West, had knocked-off the No. 5 seed and the No. 4 seed in Salt Lake City. Those two wins will probably serve as content in future columns and will be remembered for many years to come.

The Cowboys fed off of a truly home crowd advantage in Salt Lake City. Fennis Dembo became even more famous, and Wyoming was headed to the Pacific Northwest, the West Regionals, the Sweet Sixteen. The Pokes were taking the next big step into the Big Time. And the opponent would be as Big Time as one can get. 

The Cowboys’ next step in the bracket matched them with the top-ranked team in the country. The Pokes would run with the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV, the No. 1 seed in the West and the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebels brought a 35-1 overall record into the game, the Pokes were 24-9.

The game started well for the underdogs from the Western Athletic Conference. In fact, Wyoming held a 1-point lead at halftime. But the Rebels took charge in the second half and, led by All-American Armon Gilliam’s 38 points and 13 rebounds, would end the Cowboy’s season, 92-78.

It was a loss that took nothing away from an incredible season for the Cowboys. The Pokes had won a WAC regular-season Championship, gained an NCAA bid, and made the deepest foray into the NCAA Tournament since the National Championship year 44 years earlier in 1943. And again, it was Wyoming’s best run in the NCAA’s in the last 35 years.

And there was much to look forward to for the Cowboys. Fennis Dembo would be back for a senior season and an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Eric Leckner, Jonathan Sommers, Turk Boyd, Sean Dent and nine seniors-to-be would be returning. 

But ironically, the head coach would not. 

Jim Brandenburg had just completed his ninth season with Wyoming and a very successful run at the helm. Little did anyone know, that NCAA game with UNLV in the Kingdome would be his last as head coach of the Cowboys.

This Cowboy team and its head coach would both be recognized and honored with induction into the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame. Jim Brandenburg was inducted in 2000, the 1986-87 Cowboy team in 2011. 

That 1986-87 Cowboy basketball season has been referred to as the “Sweet 16 Year” for a long time and that Hall of Fame team will be remembered as the “Sweet 16 Team.” And both will be remembered as such, I suppose, until it happens again.

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Dave Walsh: A Radio Guy Takes A Dive Into The Written Word

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

I sure didn’t see this coming. An old “radio guy” like me being asked if I’d be interested in writing a column! For Cowboy State Daily no less! 

Yes, it was quite the surprise when Jimmy Orr, the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily, contacted me and wanted to discuss the possibility of the “Voice of the Cowboys” contributing to the best “all-Wyoming” website in the business.

I’ve done plenty of writing in my day, but not like this. Most of my writing skills have been used for short, pre-produced radio shows like “Wonders of Wyoming” or the “Cowboy Capsule.” Preparing for the play-by-play broadcast of a Cowboy football or basketball game is entirely different. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to call Cowboy games for almost four decades now, that’s more than 1,500 game broadcasts. And I was also lucky enough to put the first nightly sports/talk radio show in Wyoming on the air back in 1988, “Sportsline Live,” which aired for more 20 years. 

Of course, it was actually a radio play-by-play gig, and a job at KVOC Radio in Casper, that brought me to Wyoming in 1982. I was the “Voice of the Wyoming Wildcatters” and I had found home.

But that was then, and this is now. And now, it is my great privilege and honor to write this column and tell my stories. I can only hope to add to this amazing site in the same manner as great columnists like Bill Sniffin and Rod Miller. I’ll be working with legendary managing editor, Jim Angell, and enjoy the association with old friend Don Day and a most-talented group of reporters in Ellen Fike, Jen Kocher, Wendy Corr, and Clair McFarland. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I am so looking-forward to it.

I’m so excited to tell my stories and share my Wyoming experiences, accumulated over the last 40 years. We’ll be recounting some unique and extraordinary games, and there have been many of those. There have been some big-time performances by great athletes that we will recall. Certain moments that just seem to stick in one’s memory will be discussed. The list of faraway places we’ve been over the years covering the Cowboys and the ‘Catters is lengthy. 

We’ve called games in just about every state in the union and in Australia, Mexico, the Carribean, and Canada as well. And there are some crazy experiences connected to many of those places. There are other stories associated with not-so-faraway places too. I will tell of the many unique experiences associated with rivalries. Wyoming’s match-ups with front-range rivals Colorado State and Air Force, and blood-feuds with BYU and Utah, provide a lot of memorable moments.

I must say that I will be dropping a lot of names in these columns. There are so many places and things to write about, but it’s the people who I have come in contact with over the years who have provided most of the memories, and fodder for these columns. You’ll read about Wyoming coaches, players, and administrators. There are more than a few opposing coaches and players who will be mentioned. And, of course, “fan” is short for “fanatics,” so we’ll tell tales about fanatics we’ve encountered along the way too.

I’ve known for many years now that I’ve had the best “job” there is. Being the “Voice of the Cowboys,” doing the radio play-by-play, really isn’t like a job at all. Oh there’s work to be done in preparing for a broadcast, but gathering information is like rehearsing for a big show. Doing “live” radio play-by-play is all about “painting a picture,” describing the action for a listening audience.

I promise that I will approach this column in much the same way. I’ll make it interesting and fun, and continue to paint a picture. I’ve often said that it can be silly to “live in the past,” but I sure do like “visiting” it once in a while. And I look forward to you logging onto Cowboy State Daily in the coming weeks and joining me.

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