Dave Walsh: 1988 Wyoming Football Team Headed to Hall of Fame

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By Dave Walsh, columnist

It was in the fall of 1992 when Wyoming athletic director Paul Roach set up a committee.

This committee, on which I had the honor of serving, was to select the very first class of the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame. This very first induction ceremony will take place a year later, in the fall of 1993. The creation of the Hall of Fame was the highlight of the celebration and the anniversary of the 100 years of cowboy football.

There were nine individuals and one team inducted into this first class. Iconic Wyoming athletes like cowboy football players Jerry Hill and Mike Dirks, and dual-sport stars Jay Novacek and Johnny Winterholler.

Cowboy Basketball stars Kenny Sailors and Fennis Dembo, All-American Wrestler, Dick Ballinger, and legendary athletic director, Glenn “Red” Jacoboy, and Ev Shelton, the equally legendary Cowboy Basketball Coach, made up the list of people. And the 1943 NCAA championship men’s basketball team, coached by Shelton, was the first team to be inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.

The 29th class of the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame will be honored and inducted on Friday, Sept. 2, the day before the Cowboys’ home opener against Tulsa. And just like all previous classes, this year’s group is a “who’s who” of great cowboys and cowgirls.

This year’s Hall of Fame class will feature six individuals and one team.

Two Cowboy Football players, Walter Goffigan and Grant Salisbury will enter the room.

Two-sport star Wyoming Cowgirl and Wyoming native Erin Kirby will be inducted. So does Mary Johnson, administrator/manager of the Cowboy Basketball Office for nearly 30 years.

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And Wayne Jensen, a Cowboy All-American Track and Cross Country performer, and Les Witte, a former Cowboy Coach, round out the list of individuals in this year’s class. The Cowboys Football Team of 1988 rounds out the Wyoming Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

That’s a whole list of accomplished athletes, coaches and administrators to induct into the Hall of Fame. These people contributed a lot to the programs they were part of. They all added to the history and tradition of Cowboy and Cowgirl Athletics.

But it is Cowboy Football that will provide the most new members to the Hall of Fame. Two of the five individual inductees are from Wyoming Football, and there’s the 1988 Cowboy football team itself that will be in the room.

Walt Goffigan, one of the best running backs to ever carry the Brown and Gold, scored 26 rushing touchdowns during his Cowboy career in the mid-1980s. It’s still tied for the fifth touchdown on the fastest on the Wyoming career list.

Goffigan was a cowboy captain in 1983. Grant Salisbury was a two-time All Western Athletic Conference interpreter for the Pokes, right after Goffigan in the late 80s. And it was Salisbury who centered the ball to fellow Hall of Famer Randy Welniak of the 1988 Cowboys football team.

Salisbury will become the seventh player from the 1988 squad to be inducted as an individual. Salisbury joins former 1988 teammates John Cogdill, Mitch Donahue, Sean Fleming, Pat Rabold, Mike Schenbeck and Randy Welniak to be inducted.

And how about the 1988 Cowboys football team! You speak of a candidate most worthy of entering the Hall of Fame! And many would say it has earned the right to be considered one of the greatest cowboy teams of all time, if not the best of all time!

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The 1988 Cowboys, the 22nd UW team and only the 8th Cowboys football team to be inducted into the Hall, were loaded with talent and motivated to improve on a 10-win conference championship season the previous year.

Many of the 1988 Cowboys had played on the 1987 team, Paul Roach’s first team as head coach. The 1987 Cowboys had won 10 games, were a perfect 8-0 in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) game, and captured the conference title. The 1988 Cowboys would go undefeated in the league for another WAC regular season championship. And the 1988 Cowboys team would win its first 10 games.

They were 10-0 and ranked 10th in the nation by the Associated Press. After taking their first loss of the season in Houston, the Cowboys would defeat Hawaii in Honolulu for the conference championship and their 11th win of the season. It was the most wins ever by a Wyoming football team in a single season. And yet, some 34 years later, those 11 wins in a single season are the most ever by a cowboy football team.

And that certainly makes a strong claim for the 1988 Cowboys to be inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame as the “greatest cowboy football team of all time.”

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