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Officials: Wyoming High School Sports Will Begin As Scheduled

in Coronavirus/News/sports
5487

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

All of Wyoming’s fall high school sports will begin as they were originally scheduled, officials have announced.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association announced in a release Tuesday that thanks to a collaboration with the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Department of Education, new guidelines have been implemented to allow a return of the six sports offered in the fall.

“We are excited for our students,” WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said in the release. “We appreciate the WDH and WDE working with us to be able to approve a plan we all believe can safely return our students to their sport. This is a great example of how working together will allow our students to continue to enhance their educational experience. We know the mental and emotional issues those students experienced last spring when track and soccer were cancelled.” 

Practices are slated to begin Aug. 10 for 4A football, golf and tennis. On Aug. 17, practice will begin for cross country, class 1A, 2A and 3A football, girls’ swimming and diving and volleyball.

The WHSAA board will provide further guidance to the schools concerning the six sports to assist them in their efforts to guarantee social distancing for each sport. Reducing the total number of competitors at each event will be a priority.

Adjustments to reduce event numbers will also be considered.

“I cannot overstate the importance of allowing students to safely participate in activities this fall,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in the release. “Activities are essential to the physical, emotional, and social well being of our children and fundamental to our mission in K-12 education of building character and necessary skills in our youth. My staff, the WHSAA, and the Wyoming Department of Health have diligently created a framework for activities that schools and communities can use this fall. It will take all of us, including parents and the students, doing our part to make this fall successful.” 

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Dahl Erickson: Saying Goodbye To The Mascot Doesn’t Mean Dropping The Team

in Column/sports
5272

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By Dahl Erickson, SVI Media

The world is a funny place. And sometimes funny actually means terrifying, or bewildering or completely unpredictable. Take your pick at any of those adjectives for 2020 because things are going to be whatever you didn’t expect them to be.

I’ve written on potential name changes for sports teams before. Many times actually. I’ve even compiled lists of potential replacements should things go that direction locally.

But before I get to that part of the discussion I wanted to expound a bit on the impending name change of the Washington Redskins. And yes, it is changing.

The second that organization released a statement saying they were examining the name, it was over. Corporate sponsors, big ones, made it clear they would like the organization to change the name and on top of decades of push-back by some and despite a fist-shaking refusal by others, it’s happening.

My own opinion on using Indian imagery as a mascot has evolved over a lifetime and it’s hard to encompass that into just a few words.

I was born in Afton, Wyoming, the youngest of six kids, all of which loved sports. The local high school team, which my four brothers competed on, were the Braves.

By five years old it didn’t take much for me to latch onto the Washington Redskins as my favorite professional football team. That was in 1981. 

At that time as a high school football program in Wyoming, you weren’t just going to pop on the internet and design a new logo and have them send it to you overnight for a cheap cost. Getting helmet stickers was a process and choices were limited.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t other helmet stickers for the Star Valley Braves. From a star logo, to the crossed tomahawks, to the lightning “SV” and others, there were different attempts.

But the sticker of the Redskins stuck in the 1980s for the most part with the aforementioned handful of exceptions, it was the symbol of the program.

Growing up, the term Redskins meant winning. From the time I adopted the team in my little tiny brain, the team went to the Super Bowl four times and won three of them by the time I started high school.

Joe Gibbs, the head coach of the team often used the phrase, “looking for true Redskins” in his search for players who would put team above self and sacrifice for the good of the franchise and the community.

That’s what I always felt the team meant.

But sometimes even in moments of blissful ignorance, we can be wrong.

Take, for example, the former mascot costume for SVHS. The head was over-sized with a giant nose and dark black skin and a scowl. I never gave it a second thought.

But there are those that were bothered by it and honestly I see why. It’s an over-dramatization of an entire group of people that is being winnowed down for entertainment purposes. Again, I’m not trying to explain anything to anyone, I’m just telling you my own personal journey.

The mascot costume went away. I’m not exactly sure when, but it did. In 1992 came the first of many lawsuits against the Redskins asking them to do away with the name. Threatening boycotts and who knows how many legal trademark court cases since then.

More recently, Teton High School, less than two hours away, has done away with their Redskins mascot usage. They are now the Teton Timberwolves.

In 2012, I wrote about how schools in the State of Oregon had a five-year grace period to phase out Indian imagery or face the reality of having their funds from the state legislature affected. As of 2017 that went into affect although some bills were introduced based on schools’ ability to garner approval from any of the nine tribes who call the state home.

In Wyoming there are many schools who have a majority of students who have Native American lineage. Some of those schools use that imagery, others do not.

Some people are incredibly fired up by the mere mention of changing any of these names. Make no mistake, this is a conversation that could well be coming to our very houses.

The Redskins, Chiefs, Indians, Blackhawks and Braves are the giant-sized dominoes that are starting to fall. When or if that gets to the high school level in Wyoming anytime soon? I don’t know.

And I guess the difference is, I don’t care. I used to be what I felt was being very “democratic” when it came to such changes. The majority rules.

I also used to be very defensive about this conversation.

Now, I have native friends who are very offended by this type of imagery and I have other friends who have roots who still love the names.

The important thing to remember to me is that history does not change. The team and programs that we grew up loving are still the teams and programs that we loved. They just might be getting a different wardrobe.

The Washington Redskins used to be the Boston Braves. The Star Valley Braves used to be the Star Valley Cheesemakers. Before that, they were the Star Valley Athletic Club. The program was still started in 1928 and is one of the most successful in Wyoming prep history. That won’t change.

A high school sports program should reflect one’s community and their ability to love each other, back each other up, show pride in their hard work and on game day show other communities that they don’t do it as well as we do.

By the way, my two favorite concepts should things move that direction at the local level? The Star Valley Cutthroats and the Star Valley Fighting Elk.

Keep the colors, the fight song and everything else. Maybe you have a different suggestion. Maybe this topic makes you madder than a hornet.

But in a year where we are just hoping to have sports, the names of what we refer to the teams seems more secondary than ever.

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Who’s on Your Mount Rushmore of U.W. Cowboy Football?

in News/sports/University of Wyoming
4052

Former UW players Weigh-In On The Top Four Stars in Program History

By Cody Tucker, Cowboy State Daily

CHEYENNE — Sports are on a hiatus. That’s no secret.

Now, we are limited to online polls, all-time lists and dropping opinions about our favorite players, games, moments, etc. Daily, the University of Wyoming is asking fans on social media who the best players are in its storied history.

On my website, 7220sports.com, we just posted our 68th story in a series we call “Who wore it best.” Which UW football players “own” their jersey number is the basis of what was supposed to serve as a way to have new, fresh content on our site every day.

The best part for me is learning Cowboy football history.

For fans, it’s about the debate.

Let’s add to that — who would go on the Mount Rushmore of Wyoming football?

Four players who did more, meant more and own names that roll off the tongue from Tongue River to Evanston, Jackson to Pine Bluffs.

I’ve wrestled with this one. Only four? 

It has to be done. So, here goes:

Marcus Harris, wide receiver, 1993-96

For me, this one is a no-brainer. Harris was the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver when he left Laramie. He won the Biletnikoff Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top receiver. He still owns most of the pass-catching records in UW history: yards (4,518), receptions (259), single-season yards (1,650), single-game yards (260-Fresno State), single-game receptions (16-Iowa State). That’s just scratching the surface. Harris was also a Heisman Trophy candidate in 1996. He finished ninth in the voting. Harris was a seventh-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions. He never played a down in the NFL. That doesn’t matter when it comes to this vote.

Ryan Yarborough, wide receiver, 1990-93

Before that guy above broke every record in the book, they all belonged to Yarborough. He still owns the career touchdown mark at UW with 42, four more than Harris. Yarborough fit perfectly into Joe Tiller’s “basketball on grass” offense, hauling in 239 passes for 4,446 yards. He was a two-time All-American and held the NCAA record for most games with a touchdown reception with 27. “Yards” was a second-round pick of the New York Jets in 1994. He played just two seasons in the Big Apple and spent time with the Packers and Ravens. 

Mitch Donahue, defensive end, 1987-90

This super athlete came to Laramie thanks to Dennis Erickson, who spent just one season as the head coach at UW. He thrived under an “old guy no one knew,” Paul Roach. Donahue still owns the school’s all-time sack record with 49. That’s 19 more than his teammate, Pat Rabold. The Billings, Montana, product racked up a record 22 sacks in 1990. Three times that season — against Utah, New Mexico and UTEP — Donahue tallied three sacks in a game. He was a two-time Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Donahue was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft. 

Casey Bramlet, quarterback, 2000-03

This Wheatland product won just nine games during his four seasons at UW. It was one of the lowest periods of Cowboy football. Despite the mounting losses, Bramlet always seemed to give off a ray of hope. Bramlet owns the school record for career yards (9,684), pass attempts (1,378), completions (767). He has the second-most touchdown passes with 56. So why on earth would Bramlet make this list? He got sacked, hit and beat up — and he got up every single time. He was an All-Conference player in all four seasons. He went undrafted in 2001, but spent time with the Bengals and Redskins. He played in NFL Europe and won the MVP of the World Bowl as a signal caller for the Hamburg Sea Devils.

Now, let’s rip my picks apart.

Not one of these guys ever won a bowl game. All played in the 90’s and early 2000’s. None had sustained success in the NFL. 

What about Josh Allen? Where’s Jim Kiick? No Eddie Talboom, Jerry DePoyster, Ryan Christopherson, Brian Hill or Jay Novacek?

There are plenty of greats to choose from, but the main factor in my picks — I saw them all play with my own eyes.

I played the part of Marcus Harris in the backyard, playing catch with my buddies as a kid in Cheyenne. At age 12, I flew by myself to Las Vegas for the inaugural WAC title game against BYU. Josh Wallwork, Richard Peace, Jay Jenkins, Jim Talich … my list of favorites could go on and on.

Let’s see who some former UW football players would put on their Mount Rushmore:

Jeff Boyle (1997-2000): Marcus Harris, Ryan Yarborough, Conrad Dobler, Josh Allen

Jovon Bouknight (2002-05): Jay Novacek, Marcus Harris, Ryan Yarborough, Josh Allen

Mitch Donahue (1987-90): Jim Kiick, (coach) Paul Roach, Randy Welniak, Conrad Dobler

Chase Appleby (2014-16): Brett Smith, Josh Allen, Brian Hill, Mitch Donahue

Mitch Unrein (2006-09): Josh Allen, Marcus Harris, Mitch Donahue, Jay Novacek

Don Clayton (1975-78): Paul Nunu, Conrad Dobler, Aaron Kyle, Kevin McClain

Brian Hendricks (2008-11): Jay Novacek, Jim Kiick, Marcus Harris, (coach) Phil Dickens

Ryan Christopherson (1991-94): Mitch Donahue, Ryan Yarborough, Jay Novacek, Josh Allen 

Coronavirus Leaves Wyoming’s Practice Fields — And Fans — Eerily Empty

in sports
3929

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By Cody Tucker, Cowboy State Daily

LARAMIE — Craig Bohl’s parking space was empty.

So were the dozen or so others surrounding Wyoming’s head coach’s spot Sunday in War Memorial Stadium’s north lot.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Coming off an eight-win season and a dominating Arizona Bowl victory over Georgia State, excitement surrounding the program hasn’t been this high since the late 90’s. You remember? That’s when names like Joe Tiller, Marcus Harris and Josh Wallwork, among many others, were household names in Wyoming.

This spring, many were eager to see if quarterback Levi Williams could take the next step in his progression.

Who would replace Casper’s own Logan Wilson at linebacker?

Which kicker can attempt to fill the void left by the program’s all-time leading scorer, Cooper Rothe?

Can Xazavian Valladay threaten the school’s single-season rushing record?

Those questions — and plenty more — will simply have to wait. Year seven of Bohl’s tenure is on indefinite suspension.

Sunday, there were no whistles, pads popping or leaping catches.

Instead, the Cowboys’ home field emulated the wind-swept plains that surround the Gem City. The same can be said for the campus, which is typically bustling with students this time of year.

Fraternity row took on the appearance of a ghost town. Cross walks were empty. Traffic was nonexistent.

COVID-19, or coronavirus, a worldwide pandemic, is solely to blame.

The world is on hold. Wyoming football, which seems so small in the grand scheme of things, is no exception. The first of 15 spring practices were supposed to begin March 25. Instead, Bohl and Co. are hibernating in their homes, using video conferencing to do, well, everything.

Coaches are using computer software to implement workout routines, game plans, to check in with players’ academic progress and to recruit.

Yes, recruiting is being done via the internet.

Bohl and his assistants have been forced to virtually sell their vision. Their brand. The school. Laramie. Everything.

So is new head basketball coach Jeff Linder. In fact, he has already landed a pair of players, one from Arizona, the other from Illinois. Neither has stepped foot in the Cowboy State.

Imagine making your college choice after speaking with a coach and watching a virtual tour of campus on your laptop?

Crazy time we are living in, huh?

Of course, football and men’s hoops aren’t the only sports feeling the effects of COVID-19. UW’s golf, tennis, wrestling and swim teams all suffered a death nail. In late March, the NCAA closed the doors to fans. Hours later, players were sent home, too.

Five Cowboy grapplers were supposed to head to Nationals in Minneapolis. That didn’t happen.

The NCAA a week ago granted seniors in those spring sports an additional year at their respective schools. Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman expressed his concern about how the university would fund these additional scholarships. Burman himself took a self-imposed 20-percent pay cut. Bohl followed suit and donated $100,000.

Problem solved.

One problem at least.

No one knows when this pandemic will reach its peak in Wyoming and eventually sail out of town. Some are even questioning if there will be a football season at all. Bohl isn’t going there yet. He shouldn’t.

Things are bad enough.

These are unprecedented times. Handling a deadly virus isn’t exactly in the playbook. Like the university, fans will just have to go with the flow and play the waiting game. Unfortunately, that’s the new norm.

Spring is supposed to be a time of renewed optimism. You’re supposed to be opining about who the starting quarterback will be and why. You should be pointing out new, young stars who could make an impact this fall. This was the first opportunity to look at some of those new recruits.

Instead, we wait.

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Arizona Bowl was Wyoming Triumph, but also for Tuscon Local Charities

in Column/Dave Bonner/sports
2687

By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune

So it isn’t an ESPN bowl game.

That didn’t matter to fans of the University Wyoming and Georgia State University football teams who squared off Dec. 31 in the Arizona Bowl at Tucson.  And it sure isn’t a big deal to the folks who own, promote and produce the Arizona Bowl.

In fact, it’s by design. You can add a couple of exclamation points to that statement.

Of the 40 bowl games played this year, only two were not televised and controlled by ESPN/ABC, Fox Sports and CBS.

The Tucson Bowl was one of them. It was televised nationally by CBS Sports Network, a step down from the big names in sports broadcasting (61 million households vs. 86 million households for ESPN).  

The key is the matter of control.  To Tucson attorney Ali Farhang, the brains and the face behind the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, it’s everything.  He is the principal founder of the Arizona Bowl and the chairman of the board of the group which owns the bowl, now in its fifth year. 

He and his founding partners are insistent that the Arizona Bowl is a community-driven event. That’s one way of saying that bowl decisions will serve Tucson’s interest, not national TV programming.

That starts with game day scheduling and start time. An afternoon kickoff for the Arizona Bowl on New Year’s Eve is non-negotiable.

Tucson weather delivered for the Arizona Bowl last week. Fans basked under bright sun and a temperature of 62 degrees for the 2:30 p.m. game. 

Tim Medcoff, a law partner with Farhang who is also intimately involved in the Arizona Bowl, said the vision for the bowl grew out of a desire to remove “kind a black cloud over Tucson from days gone by.” He referred to the fact that Tucson in recent years had lost the Copper Bowl, MLB spring training,  PGA and LPGA tour events.

The road back, in the collective mind of Farhang and colleagues, was to look inward.

“Ali’s all about promoting everything that’s great about Tucson,” Medcoff said. “That includes the sunny weather of southern Arizona, the Air Force and military presence, the hospitality of the area and the great non-profits — the people who care about making others’ lives better.”

The economic impact in the area from a successful bowl game is, of course, a big deal. But giving  back to the community is not simply lip service either. The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl is one of a kind in donating all bowl proceeds to non-profits in the community.

“We do everything we can to make things better for Tucson,” Medcoff said. “We want to give back.”

And for the record, the Tucson Bowl is happy to have the CBS Sports Network as a partner.

“They told us they support everything we’re doing,” Medcoff said.

Final numbers have not been tabulated, but game producers expect that up to $400,000 in cash will be generated for non-profits of the community.  That’s net proceeds from ticket sales and concessions.

Wyoming did its part. The Cowboys scored a 38-17 win over Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference on the field, but that’s not all. Some 10,000 Brown and Gold clad fans helped propel Tucson Bowl beer sales to a new record.

Kym Adair, who pulls most of the levers in making bowl operations go, said she was excited by the strong showing of Wyoming fans that pushed bowl game attendance to 36,892.

She should be.

Sales of cold ones broke the previous bowl game record by $100,000. If you’re counting, that record $100,000 translates into 14,285 more of the 16-ounce drafts sold at $7 each than in any previous year.  

A new official Arizona Bowl Brew was introduced at the game, a product of the local Barrio Brewing Co. Wyoming fans gave it a big thumbs up.

Longtime sports reporter joins Game and Fish

in Community/sports
2076

Longtime Wyoming sports reporter Robert Gagliardi has left the world of newspapers for a position with the state Game and Fish Department.

Gagliardi, who spent 25 years covering sports for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and WyoSports — a joint sports reporting service between the Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang — is the new associate editor for the Game and Fish Department’s Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.

Gagliardi said he felt that changes in the newspaper industry made it important for him to change directions in his career.

“The newspaper industry as a whole has changed and a lot of those changes aren’t good and those changes are having rippling effects even at places like Cheyenne and Laramie,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I don’t envy the higher-ups that have to make some of these decisions, but in the end, I felt like for my own stability and even sanity … I just felt that change was needed.”

Gagliardi said he will miss coverage of the people involved in sports at the University of Wyoming and the state’s high schools.

“The games are fun, obviously big wins, even disappointing losses,” he said. “But to tell the stories of some of these young men and women and the coaches and administrators, everyone that entails sports, is probably the thing I’m going to miss the most.”

Gagliardi counted among his highlights as a sports reporter coverage of the University of Wyoming’s win over UCLA in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys’ overtime victory at the New Mexico Bowl in 2009, the Cowgirl basketball team championship in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in 2007 and the UW women’s basketball team appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2008.

Making the switch from reporter to sports fan might be difficult, Gagliardi admitted.

“I don’t know how to just sit and watch a game as either a fan or an observer because I haven’t done it since I got into this business,” he said. “I don’t know how to be a fan. That’s going to be an interesting transition.”

Go Pokes! A historic UW photo for a football team on the way to a historic season?

in sports
Wyoming Cowboys football team 1905
2030

Go Pokes: As the University of Wyoming 🏈 (2-0) gets ready to take on Idaho today, here is an earlier UW team from 1905 (some 114 years ago) showing a group of tough young men surrounded by their fans and other supporters.

Just look at those expressions!

This old photo is from the American Heritage Center and is from the B.C. Buffum Collection. The photo was sharpened and colorized for publication in Bill Sniffin’s coffee table book ‘Wyoming at 125’.

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