There isn’t another team in the country that stands taller than the Wyoming Cowboys -- literally. When these Gold and Brown gridiron combatants step onto Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, they are 7,220 feet above sea level: hands down, the highest altitude in all of NCAA athletics.
Since debuting in 1893, the Pokes have captivated scores of fans in the Cowboy State with their resilient brand of football. Their early years as a club were pretty light on accomplishments to celebrate, but that all changed once Bowden Wyatt assumed the head coaching reins in 1947. Despite lasting only six seasons, the former All-American player from Tennessee turned out to be a pretty good coach. In ‘50, the future Hall of Fame field general led the Cowboys to a perfect 10-0 record and a date at the Gator Bowl, the program’s first postseason appearance.
In a lot of ways, WYO is probably one of the more overlooked outfits in the world of college sports. They’ve appeared in numerous major bowls, including showings at the Sugar (‘67), Fiesta (‘76), and Holiday (‘87 and ‘88) Bowls. Wideouts Ryan Yarborough and Marcus Harris both were consensus All-Americans during their time in Laramie, and Harris captured the Biletnikoff Award in ‘96 as the top receiver in the country. Not only that, but in the new millennium, the Gold and Brown defeated traditional powers such as Ole Miss and Tennessee during the regular season, and knocked off UCLA at the ‘04 Las Vegas Bowl. They may not be as flashy as some other programs, but the Cowboys have proven that they can compete with anyone.
If there’s been one constant in the history of Wyoming football, it’s been the continued quest to wrestle the Bronze Boot away from the Colorado State Rams in the renowned Border War series. These two Mountain West rivals have been battling for bragging rights on and off since 1899, and the Pokes have exerted dominance in recent years with decisive victories in ‘09, ‘10, ‘11 and ‘12.
On the hardwood, the men’s basketball program has a proud legacy of their very own. The WYO hoops crew danced into the NCAA record books in ‘43 when they nabbed a consensus national championship, and a member of that title team, Kenny Sailors, has become a legend in his own right. In addition to being named National Player of the Year twice, Sailors is recognized as the inventor of the jump shot.
It’s hard to say if the Pokes will ever shed their status as perpetual underdogs. Until then, fans will continue to sing along to “Ragtime Cowboy Joe,” a spirited number about a “rootin’, tootin’ son of a gun from ol’ Wyoming.” They’ll also continue to erupt into a joyful roar whenever their equine mascot trots out onto the field. For years now, outsiders have been counting out the Gold and Brown, but diehards use it to their advantage. After all, the sweetest victories are always the most unexpected.