A longtime voice for Wyoming Cowboy athletic events steps away from the mic
Jack Nokes, the longtime public address announcer for Wyoming Cowboys football games, has retired from the mic after 41 years. Though primarily known as the announcer for football, Nokes also served as announcer for other university athletic events over the years as well, including Cowboy basketball during the Fenis Dembo era in the 1980s.
“The other basketball that I did was for years I was the community chairman and the PA announcer for the Cowboys shootout when it was held here in Casper,” Nokes said. “I think it was actually 25 seasons. I did every game, the PA of every game except two, and those two, I actually went over and did radio while Kevin [McKinney] and Dave [Walsh] were at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, and I think it was ‘87 and ‘88. So yeah, I mean, it's been an interesting ride.”
Nokes was also a long-time sports anchor at KTWO-TV in Casper, a stint he held twice, from 1974-80 and from the mid-1990s to mid-2010s. He also did sportscasts for K2 Radio when both stations were under the same owner. This led to his decades-long gig with the university, but not without some hesitancy.
“I had done the sideline mic for the University of Wyoming broadcasts and I was actually employed as a stockbroker then, and Kevin called me one day and asked me if I wanted to be the PA announcer for football,” Nokes said. “My first reaction was, ‘Well, what about Walt?’ Walt Miller was my predecessor, the only predecessor. He started in 1950, when they first opened the stadium [and] lived in Cheyenne. [When I] was an insurance man, [he] actually wound up being a client of mine when I was a stockbroker, and I was like, ‘Kevin, nobody replaces Walt. That's impossible. He is the voice.’ And you know, 40 years later, Kevin and I've talked about it and we both agree, for us, the voice of War Memorial Stadium, isn't me; it's Walt Miller.”
There have been a lot of Cowboy home football games since the early 1980s when Nokes began his stint. And he’s announced for most of them, save a few.
“Prior to this year, I had missed I think five games in 40 years,” he said. “I missed the first four this year because of some health issues, but of those five games, I had missed only two of them. And I'm sure of this, [they] were because the roads were closed or too bad to travel, which is amazing. We think about Shirley Basin and how nasty it can be in the fall and winter. [A] couple others, I missed one because of a job and I think to others, when one of your kids gets married or two of them gets married, they like to have you at the wedding, but pretty good. When you think about it, it's a bigger commitment than people realize.”
A lot has changed over the last four decades as the role of PA announcers has changed and technologies for sports have advanced.
“It was basically just me on my own, [and] over the years that has evolved now to where there's a game site producers plugged into the band and plugged into the people down in the TV studio who are putting up the instant replays and stuff,” Nokes said. “There's a lot more activity going on than there was, that's been the biggest change.”
Nokes also said PA announcers have become public personalities in their own right many times, making public appearances, which didn’t used to happen years ago.
“They get paid, and they go out and do public appearances and stuff,” he said. “It wasn't an art form, if you will, that it's become now.”
His connection with the coaching staff also brought about more work in addition to the expertise coaches provided about the different sports.
“Jim Brandenburg and I were good friends while he was coaching, obviously,” he said. “But my days in the media and the football led into, ‘Do you want to do basketball too?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. I'm young. I can drive across Shirley Basin.’”
Nokes’s initial aspiration was to land a play-by-play gig during his early years as PA announcer. But even though that didn’t happen, he relished the role he had for so many years.
“People used to ask me when are you going to give it up, and I always said, ‘Well, here's the deal. I'm going to quit being the PA announcer when they build a new press box or I turn 100,” he joked. “And I said probably 100 is happening first.”
However, improvements to War Memorial Stadium, including the Wildcatter suites and the facility at the north end zone are some of them that he listed. The relationships with those he’s worked with over the years have also proved to be a valuable part of the job as well. He estimated he’s worked with over 50 spotters over that time, helping him sound as good as he did.
“People asked me how many miles I've driven and covering Wyoming football, basketball, media conferences, spring games, media day, signing day, I got at least 400, maybe 500 trips on that road,” Nokes estimated. “I mean, when you do it for almost 50 years, even if you go down there ten times a year, 500 trips, I used to always tell people, I'm on my 12th or 13th generation of antelope families out and Shirley Basin. Unfortunately, I haven't hit any of those guys, but yeah, so it's been a long ride.”
Nokes hasn’t met his replacement, saying they haven’t crossed paths. His new job is looking to enjoy retirement as much as possible and his family in his post-PA years.
“I had no idea it’d last that long,” he said. “I'm glad it did. It's been a great run and I love the association with people in the press box, too.”