New Coach, New Outlook, New Rodeo

Sometimes it's easy to get a bad case of NOWWTCHAITDTWS. It's nice to get a coach in town who wants to be here — just like we do.

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This fall, a beloved but ultimately losing head football coach at the University of Wyoming lost his job. When a replacement was sought, locals began The Chant: “No One Will Want to Come Here and If They Do They Won’t Stay” — or NOWWTCHAITDTWS for short.

As fans bandied about names of various replacements, it was as if The Chant were part of the coach’s name. “What about the coach from Indianapolis, Gene NOWWTCHAITDTWS, or the guy from Nebraska, Ted NOWWTCHAITDTWS. Nah, he’d never come here. Nah, he’d never stay.”

The same worry we posed about potential coaches became our explanation for why Wyoming doesn’t often recruit the level of athlete who gravitates to USC or Florida: “Why would any really gifted athlete want to come to Laramie, this small town with long winters at 7,200 feet? There is nothing to attract young folks from hoppin’ urban hometowns.” Or, NOWWTCHAITDTWS.

When we read about potential replacement coaches we peered between the lines for staying potential. “Oh look, this one was born in Idaho and moved to Ohio when he was 10. But at least he knows what it’s like in the rural West.” Conversely, “This one has never been out of Philadelphia. He wouldn’t last one season here.”

The Chant isn’t confined to the matter of coaching in our windblown valley. It extends to recruiting for folks in various professional positions, as well. Laramie is not alone among small towns in its tendency to burn through physicians, city managers, city engineers, city planners and the like. Doctoring, managing, engineering or planning the activities of a small rural community can only be fulfilling for so long, we are sure. Eventually, we worry the newcomer will get bored with the limited night life, or frustrated with the narrow shopping choices, or scared by the coyotes that wander town streets at night, and move on.

Never mind that we, who are here, seem to cope just fine. To fill those jobs, we look for outsiders who ,we hope, can be content to find their nightlife on a TV set, their shopping on the internet, and don’t mind sharing their shrubbery with hungry antelope.

Photo: Jurek D.
Laramie, Wyoming, in the early morning.

But back to football. The beloved coach, Joe Glenn, came here from a successful stint with the Division I-AA University of Montana Grizzlies. Coaching the Division I Wyoming Cowboys would be a step up, by most measures. We weren’t too worried that he’d spend one or two seasons at this school of 10,000 students and start polishing his resume. Sure, we had a little scare when our team managed to defeat UCLA in the Las Vegas bowl a few years back, but Coach Glenn stuck with us in spite of having other opportunities. A more charismatic or enthusiastic human being has never been born, but unfortunately for those who care about having a winning football team, ultimately Coach Glenn had too little to show in that regard. So after six seasons, the man who once was our dream coach was out.

Photo: Julianne Couch
Coach Dave Christensen meets Cowboy Joe Club members at his recent booster event.

A few days after the firing, the school president and the athletic director boarded the university plane and flew to Columbia, Missouri, to talk to their next dream coach. Then they flew him back here, in between our December snow squalls and his December conference championship and bowl games. Miraculously, to those of us with a small-town inferiority complex, aggravated by said small town’s location in the least populated state in the country, he liked what he saw. So now, Dave Christensen, former offensive coordinator with the Missouri Tigers, is our head coach.

By the way, the enrollment at the University of Missouri is 28,500 ““ almost exactly the population of the town of Laramie.

I was in the room a few days ago when Coach Christensen addressed a group of university boosters for the first time. Most people I talked to in the crowd were astounded that we landed a coach not from another Division I-AA program, or an unknown linebackers coach at a community college, but the highly regarded offensive coordinator of a nationally ranked team from the mighty Big 12.

For the past six seasons, our old coach had a slogan that fans chanted in call and response from one side of the stadium to the other. It was “Powder River, Let “˜Er Buck.” At the booster rally, the new coach introduced his new slogan: “It’s a Whole New Rodeo.”

It is hard to imagine that declarative statement being hollered by fans next time our boys in brown and gold take the field. But it beats NOWWTCHAITDTWS.

Julianne Couch is a writer living in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a regular Yonder contributor.

The lights of Laramie