POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 26, 2011
When the University of Hawaii ended a streak of football losses to Wyoming in the 1980s, a Rainbow gestured to the vanquished at midfield at Aloha Stadium and proclaimed, "The Cowboy is comin' home!"
At a Cowboy Joe booster club meeting in Cheyenne, Wyo., a few seasons later, then-Wyoming coach Paul Roach stirred the faithful with a promise to "bring the Cowboy back where he belongs."
But these days, as UH and Wyoming look forward to renewing their once-thriving football series in the Mountain West Conference, "the Cowboy" — aka the Paniolo Trophy — is missing in action.
Begun in 1979, when UH debuted as a Western Athletic Conference member, the Paniolo Trophy was a bronze statuette of a cowboy on horseback twirling a lasso. It was donated by the Wyoming Paniolo Society, a group of Hawaii residents with roots in Wyoming.
The problem is that at some point just before Wyoming and UH last played in 1997, a year before the breakup of the WAC, the trophy was lost.
Wyoming, which won the last five meetings, was thought to have had it. But Wyoming associate athletic director Kevin McKinney said, "We have looked everywhere for it here and it is not to be found. (We) were talking about it and we seem to remember that it had been damaged and was in a shop over there for repairs."
But, McKinney added, "(we're) not totally sure about that."
Neither is UH, which said it has conducted its own search without success.
Not long after the MWC's December 2010 announcement that UH would join the conference in 2012, Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan sought a way to rekindle rivalries with former WAC teams the Warriors will be joining in the MWC. He said he asked sports information director Derek Inouchi to contact Wyoming and Air Force, two schools with which UH had trophy series, about the whereabouts of the hardware.
Air Force sports information director Troy Garnhart said the Kuter Trophy, which debuted in 1980, was located "in one of the trophy cases in the football office." Athletic director Hans Mueh said the Falcons, "would love to start this up again."
The Kuter Trophy is named for the late Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, the first head of the Pacific Air Forces Command in 1957.
Earlier, Donovan said he had brief talks with Fresno State about coming up with something symbolic of that series.
In 2008, Fresno, Calif., radio station KFIG suggested a "golden screwdriver" in remembrance of a 2002 game at Bulldog Stadium where it was alleged a screwdriver was thrown at then-UH coach June Jones and went so far as to sponsor a contest to come up with one.
Donovan said, "We'd like to have some sort of a trophy for the Fresno series, but I really don't think it is going to be a screwdriver."