Nov. 19, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. - An old football rivalry will be renewed this Saturday when the Wyoming Cowboys and Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors play for the first time since 1997 and compete for the Paniolo Trophy that has been a part of the series since 1979.
Wyoming and Hawai'i first played each other in football back on Nov. 18, 1978, with Hawai'i winning that first meeting in Honolulu by a score of 27-22. The following year, a group of Hawaiian residents, with roots in Wyoming, donated a stauette of a Cowboy preparing to toss a lariat. The donation was made as a way to strengthen the bond of friendship between the two schools, while symbolizing the competitive nature of the rivalry. At the time the traveling trophy was introduced to the rivalry both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference, as Hawai'i joined the WAC in 1979.
The traveling trophy was named the Paniolo Trophy. Paniolo is the Hawaiian word for Cowboy. For the next 19 years, from 1979 to 1997, the two teams competed for the Paniolo Trophy. Wyoming leads the Paniolo Trophy series with 12 wins to Hawai'i's seven victories. The overall series is led by Wyoming 12-8, when including Hawai'i's win in the inaugural 1978 game.
After Wyoming's 35-6 win in the 1997 meeting in Honolulu, the series between the two schools ended. Due to the rotating schedule of the then 16-team WAC, Wyoming and Hawai'i weren't scheduled to play in 1998. In 1999, Wyoming joined the Mountain West Conference.
The series was interrupted for 15 years. When Hawai'i was invited to join the Mountain West Conference, beginning in 2012, the two schools began discussion of a renewal of the Paniolo Trophy competition. But over that 15-year timespan the Paniolo Trophy was lost, which became a story in itself. Each school searched for it, but it was not to be found.
Enter a new group of Hawai'i fans to continue the tradition. The Paniolo Preservation Society, a 12-year old group dedicated to preserving Hawai'i's rich Cowboy heritage proposed a new trophy. Led by the Society's President, Mrs. Patricia C. Bergin, a bronze maquette, featuring Hawaiian native Ikua Purdy roping a wild stag bull, was donated to the two schools in 2013 to mark renewal of the series. Purdy became the first Hawaiian inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999.
The bronze is a reproduction of a larger work by noted western sculptor Fred Fellows. The reproduction measures approximately 20" long and 12" high.
Purdy won the steer roping at the Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1908. In 2008, the Paniolo Preservation Society celebrated the Waiomina Centennial Celebration as a joint honor along with the State of Wyoming, the City of Cheyenne, the State of Hawai'i and Purdy's hometown of Kamuela, Hawai'i. More information on the Paniolo Preservation Society may be found at: paniolopreservation.org.
A key individual in coordinating establishment of the New Paniolo Trophy was Dr. Billy Bergin, a regent emeritus of the University of Hawai'i. Dr. Bergin coordinated the establishment of the new trophy between the two universities. He is a former board member of the Rodeo Historical Society of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and currently serves as a member of the board of the Western Heritage Museum itself.
Upon sending the bronze maquette to the University of Wyoming, the bronze was mounted on a newly-constructed walnut base with brass plates on the base. Engraved on the brass plates are the scores of the previous games and the inscription, "Originated during the 1979 football season when a group of Hawai`i residents with roots in Wyoming created a traveling prize to be presented to the winner of the Wyoming-Hawai`i football game. It was originated to strengthen the bonds of friendship between these two universities. Paniolo is the Hawaiian term for Cowboy. The two institutions thank the Paniolo Preservation Society for donating this beautiful bronze featuring Hawaiian Cowboy Ikua Purdy."
"We are very appreciative of all the individuals who were involved in creating this new Paniolo Trophy," said University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman. "I know both schools share a great sense of pride in this rivalry. It is also obvious that this rivalry means a lot to the fans, as fans have been instrumental in establishing both the original Paniolo Trophy, as well as this beautiful new trophy. We want to welcome the Hawai'i football team and their fans back to play in Wyoming this Saturday, and we look forward to the tradition of the Paniolo Trophy continuing for many years into the future."