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May 4, 2014 — The University of Wyoming is committed to competing successfully at college football’s highest level and never would consider moving down, UW and state officials say.
The idea of moving from the Football Bowl Subdivision -- the highest level of NCAA Division I -- to the Football Championship Subdivision was raised in a package of articles that appeared in two Wyoming newspapers in their Sunday editions. Such a change has not been and will not be considered by UW.
“One of the university’s goals is to make sure our students leave prepared to compete and succeed in a global environment -- and believe that there are no limits to what they can learn and do,” says UW President Dick McGinity. “That commitment to excellence at the highest levels applies to intercollegiate athletics just as much as any other part of the university. The notion of moving to a lower level of competition in football has never even been considered. Instead, we are focused on raising performance in all areas, including athletics, because the people of Wyoming expect nothing less than a nationally and globally competitive university.”
That is a goal shared by Governor Matt Mead, who is committed to investing in UW to make it a top-tier university. Wyoming lawmakers and other elected officials also support the state’s only four-year public university. That commitment is demonstrated in continuing major appropriations for facilities and operations, including athletics, and shows that the people of Wyoming are firmly behind UW competing at the highest levels, in football just as in other areas.
“UW has a proud history. It shows that while Wyoming may be the least-populated state, our university knows what it takes to succeed nationally and internationally. In the classrooms, laboratories and on the football field, our commitment to excellence has never wavered,” the governor says. “We want all of the Cowboys and Cowgirls to compete at the highest level in every regard. That’s why we have chosen to invest in UW -- its students, faculty, facilities and Athletics Department -- and that’s why so many alumni also give generously.”
In support of that statement, 72 percent of those responding to a recent poll taken by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle said they did not want UW athletics to move down from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
UW Athletics Director Tom Burman acknowledges that there is a widening financial divide among the 10 FBS conferences, including the Mountain West Conference, that make up the new College Football Playoff system. But he says UW can remain competitive with its partners in the Mountain West Conference and other FBS conferences around the country, with continued support from the people of Wyoming. He points to the successes of the Athletics Department’s fundraising arm, the Cowboy Joe Club, which expects to exceed 5,000 private donors this year -- which would make UW the first Mountain West university to reach that mark.
“The financial landscape of college athletics is changing. But our university, state Legislature and donor base all have shown their willingness to change with it,” Burman says. “With that support, we’re confident we can manage any additional pending costs that might come as a result of the national discussion about NCAA deregulation.”
Burman describes the Cowboy Joe Club as a “viable, energetic, successful fundraising organization.”
“The UW athletics budget may never be at the top of the Mountain West, but we have plans for it to grow,” Burman says. “And we know we can be much more successful if we combine the resources of the private sector, the university and the state of Wyoming.”
The UW Athletics Department is participating in a university-wide strategic planning process aimed at lifting the performance of all UW units. Athletics Department strategies for boosting competitive success will be included in planning documents scheduled to be presented to the UW Board of Trustees later this year.
There is no conflict in the university’s efforts to succeed in both academics and athletics, says UW Board of Trustees President Dave Bostrom of Worland. In fact, the combination is synergistic. Bostrom points out that many of UW’s top private donors for academic programs made their first contributions to the university in athletics.
“Our athletics programs serve as an important front door for the university,” Bostrom says. “Top-flight athletics teams provide a rallying point and build pride in people across our big state, as well as those alums who live out of state. That benefits the entire institution.”
Burman says the hiring of new head football coach Craig Bohl -- who came to UW after winning three straight national titles at the FCS level at North Dakota State University and was part of two FBS national titles as an assistant coach at Nebraska -- is a clear indication of UW’s potential to contend for conference championships, succeed at the FBS level and attract high-quality national coaches.
“Coach Bohl wouldn’t have come here if he didn’t think he could compete with the best teams in our conference and schools across the country,” Burman says. “Many FBS schools would love to have a coach of Craig’s caliber leading their programs. The fact that we were able to hire him shows UW’s commitment to a consistently winning football program, as well as his confidence that Wyoming has all of the ingredients to make that happen. There’s good reason for the excitement that is building around the Cowboys.”