Protect the Borders! Colorado State and Wyoming still playing on

When one comes west of the Missouri River, they may not realize what is the oldest, and one of the most highly contested rivalries in that region. Well, all it takes is a trip to Fort Collins, Colo., or Laramie, Wyo., to figure that out.

In those towns, homes of Colorado State University Rams and the University of Wyoming Cowboys, respectively, that are separated by about an hour and fifteen minutes on U.S. Highway 287 or an hour and a half on Interstates 25 and 80, nothing is better than beating the Rams or Cowboys.

As Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said in an article by Casper Star-Tribune’s Ben Frederickson, “The Border War is the biggest and most important football gave every year in this program. And it will always be that way, I imagine, until the end of time.”

The Border War is not only the oldest west of the Missouri, it is the second-oldest west of the Mississippi (to the Border Showdown) and has been contested since 1899 when Wyoming took a trip down to Fort Collins and lost to the Rams, 12-0.

The schools have met each year, with the exception of 12 years, for a total 104 times since that day in late November 1899. Early on, it did not even seem like this was much of a rivalry.

The then Colorado Agricultural College Aggies won six out of the first seven games against the Cowboys, and the one that the Aggies did not win was the series’ first game in Laramie, and it ended in a 6-6 tie.

In 1910, the game was once again played in Laramie, and the Cowboys secured their first win in the series by shutting out CAC, 10-0. The Cowboys would travel down to Fort Collins the next season and gain their first road victory in the Border War by a score of 27-0.

Winning would become very rare for the Cowboys, as over the next 31 match-ups,as the Aggies, who in 1935 would become the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, or Colorado A&M for short, would go on to win 24 of the games, tie four, and only lose three games. That included three five-game winning streaks and two-four game winning streaks for CAC/CAM.

It was then that the Aggies fortunes turned sour, because from 1949 until 1973, the Cowboys ruled the War, winning 21 of the 25 gams during that time, which oversaw the change of Colorado A&M to Colorado State University and the adoption of the Ram as the mascot in 1957. That stretch of absolute control included winning streaks of 10 games and seven games. Those winning streaks were separated by a single win for the Rams, a gigantic upset, where the unranked Rams beat the #10 Cowboys 12-10 in Fort Collins.

The Bronze Boot on display at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., in 2007. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Bronze Boot on display at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., in 2007. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the midst of Wyoming’s seven-game win streak, the ROTC detachments from both schools came together and CSU Army ROTC cadre member, Maj. Vic Fernandez, came up with an idea for a trophy that could be taken home by the winner of each year’s game. The trophy that Fernandez came up with, and that was later accepted, is a size eight parachute jump boot, set in bronze and put on a walnut base, that was worn in Vietnam during a tour in 1966-67 by Capt. Dan. J Romero, who served as a ROTC instructor at CSU. The trophy was first awarded in 1968 to the Cowboys, who beat the Rams 46-14 in Fort Collins. The trophy has come to be known as “The Bronze Boot.”

Since the institution of the Bronze Boot, the rivalry has been much more balanced. The Cowboys finished that seven-game win streak in 1974, and since then, neither school has had a winning streak of more than four games (CSU: 1999-2002, Wyoming: 2009-present), although Wyoming has a chance to change that this weekend.

This rivalry also has one of the more unique traditions in all of college sports. Each year, the Friday before each game, the ROTC detachment from the visiting school runs from their stadium to the Colorado-Wyoming border, and hands off the game ball to the ROTC detachment of the home school, who then runs it back to their stadium. And this is no small jog. The Colorado-Wyoming border rests 39 miles from Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, Colorado State’s home stadium, and 26 miles from War Memorial Stadium, Wyoming’s home stadium.

Now, it can be said that this rivalry is forgotten by most of the country because in most years, Colorado State and Wyoming are just, frankly, not very good. But, when the two teams meet on the gridiron each fall, the atmosphere is electric, regardless of the records of the two teams. None of that matters. All that matters to the players is getting their hands on the Bronze Boot so that it stays in Fort Collins or Laramie for the next 12 months.

Colorado State and Wyoming will meet on the gridiron for the 105th time this Saturday. The game is sure to be intense, and hopefully will spark a resurgence in the rivalry that will ensure that it will never be forgotten.

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