What a tribute.
Weber State busted out a classic Saturday at Stewart Stadium for its game against Montana. The football team donned a throwback logo, the “Flying W,” on its helmets to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its 1987 team, which was honored at halftime.
That 1987 squad, coached by the likes of Mike Price, Dave Arslanian, Bobby Petrino (current Louisville head coach) and Mike Zimmer (current Minnesota Vikings head coach), was the first team at the school to reach 10 wins and qualify for the (then Division I-AA) playoffs.
STORY & PHOTOS: No. 22 Weber State outlasts No. 24 Montana
The current team, ranked No. 22, faced off against No. 24 Montana. Both teams were 5-2 and part of the big logjam for second place in the Big Sky race.
The all-time series is markedly in Montana’s favor — 40-14 entering Saturday’s matchup, which was Weber State’s first big test since losing to Southern Utah on Oct. 14.
In Jay Hill’s rebuild of the program, which narrowly qualified for the playoffs last year, would this be the season — perhaps, the game — the Wildcats definitively took the next step? Or was Weber State a pretender?
The Wildcats answered emphatically. Weber State football is back.
By the time the available members of the 1987 team took the field and sang the fight song together at halftime, Weber State led 34-6. It was only that close after Montana used a 55-yard pass to key a scoring drive late in the half.
The defense was stifling, the offense efficient and, as a team, the Wildcats took advantage of every Grizzlies miscue — fitting of the day chosen to honor the program’s first playoff team.
WSU won 41-27.
The logo itself had its own story Saturday.
Bob Hunter, now the director of Weber State’s Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service, designed that logo, also called the “Go W,” while an undergrad student in 1967. Twenty years later, the Wildcats made the playoffs and, 50 years later, the logo was used to pay tribute.
Saturday was Hunter’s birthday.
For 10 days after the school announced it would use the logo on helmets for the game, WSU fans gave overwhelmingly positive feedback about its use and the accompanying merchandise sold for a limited time. Many called for it to be brought back into regular use.
It’s undoubtedly the most iconic mark in Weber State’s athletic history and seems to elicit school pride and enthusiasm wherever it’s seen.
While the school plans to use the logo for special occasions, Weber State athletics spokesman Paul Grua said there are not currently plans to make it part of the official, full-time logo lineup.
The Wildcats face Eastern Washington next week in a similar challenge. Both teams are ranked and are 4-1 in conference play.
We’ll find out if Weber State is a solid, playoff contender — which it has already proven — or if the Wildcats are of a conference-title caliber like the 1987 team.