October 1922 is attributed as the first officially documented date of the University of Wyoming’s homecoming. Celebrations included class reunions, open houses, a homecoming dance, parades, and of course, the homecoming football game.
Wyoming football origins date back as early as 1893 when games were played in Prexy’s Pasture; however, the first official homecoming game was the inaugural game played in 1922 on the new Corbett Field thanks to intensive community fundraising efforts led by UW’s own Dr. Samuel H. Knight.
An alumnus of the University of Wyoming and professor of geology, Dr. Knight served as the president of the Alumni Association from 1921 to 1924 and on the athletic committee. Knight was keen on the national movement of the time to coincide football festivities with homecoming celebrations and was instrumental in collaborating with the Alumni Association to move the date of previously established alumni celebrations from the summer months to align with the first football game of the 1922 season, starting the tradition of UW Homecoming in October marked by a home football game.
As University of Wyoming Homecoming fast approaches its 99th year, UW football looks a little different. The homecoming football game is still regarded as one of the most Poke Pride-filled games of the season, second only perhaps to the Border War with Colorado State University. But it’s been a long time since UW football played its final game on the old Corbett Field, which is now occupied by the College of Business and the Wyoming Union parking lot.
In Spring 1950, construction of what is now War Memorial Stadium began and was completed in time to host the Cowboys that fall. The stadium wasn’t the only addition to UW that year though. 1950 also marked the beginning of perhaps the University of Wyoming’s tiniest and most beloved tradition – Cowboy Joe.
Generously donated by the Farthing Family of Cheyenne, the young Shetland pony became Wyoming’s mascot. From the very beginning, Cowboy Joe was adored by the community and became a staple of UW pride representing the University of Wyoming and UW athletics in parades, tailgates, and, of course, the end zone after UW touchdowns! Accompanied by Cowboy Joe, the 1950 Cowboys football season played one of their best seasons, going undefeated in the regular season and winning the Gator Bowl hosted in Jacksonville, Florida, 20-7.
Cared for lovingly by his handlers, Cowboy Joe V is now a fifth generation Wyoming mascot and has become such an icon, he even has his own social media platforms. Today, he stays closer to home, no longer flying with the team across the country but rather making regional appearances around the state and trotting the field at every home game. According to the Cowboy Joe Handlers website, “Cowboy Joe’s handlers have the privilege of working with and grooming Joe before events, trailering him to events, and showing him off at home football games and other community and university functions. Handlers have the unique opportunity to spend time with Cowboy Joe and express the deep-rooted passion for the history of the University of Wyoming.”
Much about homecoming and UW football has changed over the years but Cowboy Joe represents a long-standing tradition and brings a special joy to adults and children alike.
You can learn more about Cowboy football history at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by Archival Processor Emily Hakert, AHC Accessioning Unit.