George Howard, the University of Wyoming rodeo coach for the past two decades, died in a hunting accident Sunday in Converse County. Howard died at a Casper hospital, according to a news a release from UW.

The news of Howard’s death was announced Monday by the university.

Howard has been the head coach of the UW rodeo program since 1997, and worked before that as an assistant coach.

In his time leading the programs, the Cowgirls won two College National Finals Rodeo championships, the last coming in 2009. The UW women’s program has also finished in the top 10 a total of 10 times, the last coming in the spring when the Cowgirls finished second.

The Wyoming men’s rodeo team has placed in the top 10 four times during Howard’s tenure.

Howard also coached the Cowgirls to eight Central Rocky Mountain Region titles and four for the Cowboys.

Individually, six UW rodeo athletes have won CNFR titles.

“The UW community is saddened to learn of the death of Coach Howard,” UW president Laurie Nichols says in a news release.

“He touched the lives of many cowgirls and cowboys during his 20 years as the coach of our rodeo program, and we appreciate the leadership he provided for so many years.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and many friends, including our rodeo student-athletes, past and present.”

Howard’s recruiting centered on athletes who grew up on family-owned ranches and many of his athletes had agricultural backgrounds.

“We’ve had good success getting good students here,” Howard said in a 2013 story on the UW website.

“First, I look for those students who I know will pass their classes and who are dedicated to getting an education. I’m more excited for them to achieve their degree than winning a national championship.

“I think it goes back to the state’s tradition that hard work is what sets his rodeo team members apart from other athletes.”

This season, the UW women’s rodeo team was second in the CRMR standings through the fall schedule while the men’s team was eighth.

The spring schedule begins March 16-18 with the Gillette College Rodeo. UW will host the final regular-season rodeo April 26-28.

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