Roach, who was born in Wisconsin and graduated from Black Hills State College in North Dakota, has a romance with Wyoming that goes back to 1962, when he started a seven-year hitch as the Cowboys' backfield coach and offensive coordinator. He moved on to Wisconsin for three seasons, and from 1972 to '80 he was an assistant in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, coaching the Bronco running backs in Super Bowl XII. Roach went into the sports agent business for five years, but Laramie lured him back in '85 as executive director of the Cowboy Joe booster club. Over the next 10 months. Roach put 18,000 miles on his Buick, coaxing $386,000 out of Poke fans as he crisscrossed the vast state. As AD, Roach has encouraged boosters to buy life insurance policies naming Cowboy Joe as the beneficiary. That tactic has the potential of reaping another $1 million.
So the university's trustees knew what they were getting when they unanimously supported AD Roach's hiring of coach Roach: loyalty. That trait can't be underestimated in Laramie, where finding a coach who will stick around is about as easy as finding rap music on the radio. Roach is the fourth Cowboy coach in this decade—Erickson skipped off after one season—and he knew that continuity was important to his troops, so he told them he would only modify Erickson's system instead of scrapping it. "They were probably thinking, Let's give the old guy a go," Roach says.
The first spring practice was a mess, with an almost entirely new coaching staff improvising on the run. But while Roach had been off the sideline for a few years, his mind hadn't strayed far from football. He had never stopped scribbling X's and O's on tablecloths and had even suggested a new play each week to Erickson. "We didn't even pay attention to them," says tight end coach Mark Tommerdahl. By the fall, though, Roach was fully prepared and his extraordinary recall of playbooks past and present would give the Cowboys an ability to adjust during the course of a game.
Wyoming was picked to finish in the middle of the WAC this season, just as it had been in '87. The offense is balanced if not very talented; the defense aggressive if not very big. "Nobody on this team takes a play off now," says defensive tackle Pat Rabold. "Before, it was no big deal if you didn't make the tackle—someone else would."
And the enthusiasm is back in Laramie. "It's always a lot of fun when you can do something positive for somebody," says Roach. "Or some place."