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UW football too good for Wyo kids?

Sep 23, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

Funny how that has become so accepted across the 100,000 square miles that constitutes the Cowboy State.

One of my former players sent me an e-mail with an embedded link titled "Autumn Wind." No, Jake didn't send his old coach a touching sentiment on the advancing years, instead he remembered our shared following of the once formidable Oakland Raiders.

Jake teaches and coaches in Ten Sleep and his message was a simple one. "With the death of Steve Sabol today, thought that you should be reminded of this," is all Jake's message read.

Steve Sabol was a visionary in the world of sport. His NFL films productions are the stuff of boyhood dreams and the long ago legends of old men. Sabol is often confused with John Facenda, the narrator of most of these memorable film clips of yesteryears glories. Facenda is often referred to as the "Voice of God."

Football has been in the forefront this season for me. I had the chance to return briefly to the world of varsity coaching in working during the pre-season with the Shoshoni High School linemen.

It was back to the future in a sense, since my primary reason for becoming a secondary history teacher was the opportunity to coach varsity football.

In the twists and turns that we call life, I became a head track and basketball coach but never took the helm on the gridiron and now with a third-of-a-century behind me I probably never will.

A conversation with a football official I knew during a recent game brought back many bitter memories accumulated over the years. It seems that Wyoming football is just too good for Wyoming kids to play.

At halftime the official came up to me and asked who the kicker was. I told him and he responded with, "That kid really has a good leg. He punts well too. Has Wyoming contacted him yet?"

My expression provided the answer. "Oh, preferred walk on?" he said with a smirk.

"If he was from Kansas or Idaho they'd give him a full ride but being from Wyoming they just couldn't risk a scholarship."

Funny how that has become so accepted across the 100,000 square miles that constitutes the Cowboy State.

If this young man were from Riverton, Utah instead of Riverton, Wyoming, or Shoshone, Idaho instead of Shoshoni or perhaps even Cody-Kilgore, Nebraska instead of Cody he would be lauded as a blue chip prospect.

But being from Wyoming, the best he could hope for would be a place a few steps ahead of the other walk on players during fall practice.

It annoys me greatly. Maybe I'm in the minority but if the state's only university is too good for the young men of the state to even play for them then maybe the Cowboys should drop a division or two.

As a Wyoming alumnus I try to follow the Cowboys but find myself following the kids I once covered in high school at institutions out of state. Chadron, Mesa State, Black Hills, Dickinson State, Mary and Jamestown hold more interest to me now than the progress of the out-of-state mercenaries struggling in Division I in Laramie.

I've called for it before but it is time for one of Wyoming's eight community colleges to step forward, move to four year status and compete in either NAIA or Division II.

The University of Wyoming can do what it does in Laramie with out-of-state athletes and out-of-touch coaches and I won't mind. Just don't ask me for support. I'd rather follow a team composed of players from within our own region.

A few reading this will question my loyalty but before you do, ask yourself how many Wyoming players you can name that took the field in Laramie over the last decade.

I'll bet the names Bramlet, Wendling and Prosinski come to mind. Incidentally, it seems that aside from a couple of exceptions, the only players from the University of Wyoming that make the NFL all hail from the place that's not good enough for recruiting a Division I team. Casey Bramlet, John Wendling and Chris Prosinski played at Wheatland, Rock Springs and Buffalo and found themselves in the NFL.

Greybull's Brett Keisel did the same but he turned down the offer to walk on at Laramie in favor of a full ride at Brigham Young.

Now the vaunted University of Wyoming stands at 0-3 and the latest in a long line of football saviors is on the ropes. Once again, the trustees have dug a deep financial hole by paying a contract extending several years into the future for a program now regarded on its best day as damaged goods.

The cycle goes back to the Black 14 incident in 1969, an incident that Wyoming football has really never recovered from.

The University of Wyoming has always taken the students of the state for granted. A walk through Laramie reflects this attitude as the Gem City is perhaps the least "user friendly" college town in America.

The Hathaway Scholarship was a great idea but as an unexpected consequence the University of Wyoming has abandoned the students of the state in favor of offering more lucrative incentives to students from other areas.

Football is just a microcosm of life but it's a mirror of how our state values or fails to value the uniqueness of our young people.

It is time to set things right. The conventional wisdom just doesn't cut it anymore.

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