Part of why I continue to run wyoming-football.com — for which I started the research in 2004 and have since expanded to basketball and, well, everything else with Champlists — is that I keep learning new things.
The past year in particular, I hit the researching hard, thanks to a subscription to newspapers.com (a bonus made possible by those who provided a sponsorship!). I found some interesting things about coaches, players and others — some cool, some sad, some disturbing.
Of the myriad tidbits I’ve encountered, here are some of the more interesting ones — stories I wouldn’t have know about if I hadn’t been putting together research for my sites.
- Willard Hirschi was only a football coach in Wyoming for one year (Cowley 1956), but he’s a world-renown sprint coach. He got inducted into BYU’s athletics hall of fame in 2015.
- Another short-term coach, Wimp Hewgley (whose only season led to a state championship for Worland in 1959), was pretty much an expert on NFL quarterbacks as a scout.
- Bill Baker, who coached Newcastle for three years in the early 1950s, later coached Chadron State to a perfect season.
- Sheridan coach O.E. “Oc” Erickson was a highly successful football coach, but he left the head coaching spotlight his early 30s. He moved to his hometown of Cheyenne and was an assistant for the Cheyenne High team for a few years. He should have been around much longer; he died at 41 after he fell in a hotel lobby the night after a UW football game and fractured his skull.
- Then there’s the story of the high school basketball coach who coached his daughter in the state tournament; the team lost two and went home. The next day, his daughter died in a car crash; a moment of silence was held before the championship games that Saturday night.
The disturbing (with names removed):
- The girls basketball coach who was convicted of having sex with players on his team — and who in his court testimony struggled to show remorse.
- The basketball coach who traveled separately from his team to the state tournament — and then got pulled over and tagged with a DUI and speeding while on the way. By all accounts, he coached at state, but he didn’t keep his job much longer.
- The coach who left education to get into law enforcement, became police chief of a major Wyoming city — and was convicted of soliciting bribes while police chief.
- The driver of the “other” car in the crash that killed Byron and Lovell coach Wilford Mower, the guy for whom the big award handed out to high school athletes in Wyoming’s northwest corner — he died several years later in another car crash that also took the life of one of his own children.
These are just a few of the hundreds of tidbits I’ve found while researching Wyoming’s high school sports. I think it’s important to remember all of it — good, sad, disturbing and more — to understand the totality of how sports, community and culture intermingle. I’m hoping to bring some of the more interesting stories to this site in the future thanks to the details I’ve picked up in researching for Champlists.