Kevin McKinney was a kid the day Bob told Wyoming that it was true. He was moving one state over to coach football at Nebraska.

McKinney remembers going to the news conference with his dad. Bob Devaney had been Wyoming's coach for five years and had won four Skyline Conference championships and had a record of 35-10-5. The football coach was, as he would be in Lincoln, seemingly larger than life, the man who owned every room he walked into.

"Very much a fit with Wyoming people," said McKinney, who is now Wyoming's senior associate athletic director for external operations.

It was almost 55 years ago when Devaney skipped across a state's border and immediately began changing the way Husker football is viewed. McKinney didn't have many years on him at that point but he understood what was leaving the  state. "I remember how broken-hearted I was."

Nebraska and Wyoming will meet on the football field for the eighth time on this fine September Saturday. Seven previous games have resulted in seven Husker wins, although a couple left Nebraska fans squirming, including a 10-point escape of Wyoming by NU's 1994 national championship team.

And yet the greatest historical intersection involving the two schools came off the field, from December of 1961 to February of 1962. Those were months of twists and turns that didn't always point to Devaney being Nebraska's next head coach.

You can also understand why some in Wyoming were unclear why Devaney would want to take the Husker job given his popularity in their state, the fact he still had almost five years on his contract, and because ... let's just be blunt, Nebraska football stunk.

Since the 1940 Husker team had gone to the Rose Bowl, the program had posted just three winning seasons over the next 21 years. Bill Jennings had just been let go after finishing 3-6-1. He suggested on his way out that Nebraska couldn't be good at anything in athletics. It didn't have enough support from people in the state.

"At that time, people here ... kind of felt that was a lateral move and they just couldn’t understand why he was doing it,'" McKinney said. "Wyoming has been highly successful with him here."

Nebraska did have one thing going for it, though. It was in the Big Eight. The league wasn't viewed nationally in the same light as the Big Ten, but the Big Eight had Oklahoma, which had rattled off a 47-game winning streak only a few years before.

Taking a job at Nebraska, and attempting to go head-to-head with Boomer Sooner made the job an upgrade from competing in the Skyline Conference where, as much as Devaney won, Wyoming still made only one bowl trip in those years.

Yet as much success as Devaney had just one state over, his name was not the one initially showing up early in December of 1961 about who newly hired Husker athletic director Tippy Dye might hire.

Mike Babcock, who has covered Husker athletics for 38 years, worked as a beat writer and a columnist at the Lincoln Journal-Star, and now writes for Hail Varsity magazine, can tell the story of how Nebraska and Devaney ended up together as well as anybody.

He has researched it thoroughly and written plenty of words about it. He knows fun little facts, such as the one about Devaney coming to Nebraska to talk about the job under an assumed name. Don Bryant told him once before that Devaney's alias was "Mr. Roberts."

It's also worth noting that from when the search began in early December through mid-December, there was an assumption that Dye, who had just come from Wichita State, would bring along his football coach, Hank Foldberg.

Fate intercepted. Foldberg had another job offer more to his liking, becoming the head coach and athletic director at Texas A&M. His Aggie teams would go 6-23-1 the next three years.

Enter UNL chancellor Clifford Hardin into the story. Hardin had been head of the agricultural department at Michigan State and knew the football coach there, Duffy Daugherty.

As Babcock explains, Daugherty was asked if he'd be interested in the Husker job. Well, no, but he pointed to a former assistant he had at Michigan State. A guy winning a lot of games down in Wyoming.

Publicly, though, Devaney's name didn't emerge until later in December. Babcock points out that one of the names being speculated upon in the local papers was that of Cletus Fischer, who had been on Jennings' staff and would ultimately remain a Husker assistant through 1985.

Fischer was well-liked by the high school coaches in the state, particularly in the Omaha area. Other names were thrown into the air, including the coach at Ohio University and even the high school coach at Boys Town.

But as it got deeper into December, the local papers had the search down to three: Devaney, Utah's Ray Nagel and Utah State's John Ralston.

It was in early January when Nebraska announced Devaney as its next head coach, but it was still complicated. The Cowboys hadn't yet released him from his contract. According to Babcock, that didn't happen until Wyoming's Board of Regents finally voted to do so in early February.

Still, staffers who had worked for Devaney in Wyoming began to get started that January in Lincoln: John Melton, Jim Ross, Mike Corgan, Carl Selmer.

Babcock once wrote this great Melton quote about the situation, "When I decided we were going to come to Nebraska, I go down to the bank in Laramie, get my money out and get it transferred here. The president of the bank in Laramie calls me in and says, 'John, sit down a minute. I want to talk to you.' He says, 'You're making a big mistake.' He says, 'Those farmers will kill you in Nebraska.'"

Go 101-20-2 and win two national championships in 11 years as Devaney and his staff did at Nebraska, and those farmers will end up buying you drinks.

Especially for those who fully understood how far from glory Husker football was when Devaney started in Lincoln.

"Devaney once said the facilities at Wyoming were better at the time, but players here were better," Babcock said.

The head coach was paid a beginning salary of $17,000 a year to build a winner. More than the governor made at the time, as Babcock understands it. When the Miami Hurricanes showed interest in Devaney a couple years later, the salary jumped to $19,000.

It's hard to gauge exactly what the initial reaction was to the Devaney hire here all these years later, but we do know a crowd of only about 27,000 showed up for his first Husker game, against South Dakota.

"So it wasn't like people came out and they were clamoring to see where this thing was going," Babcock said.

Winning got their notice soon enough.

Back in Wyoming, the Cowboys didn't just fall apart either. The 1967 team even appeared in the Sugar Bowl.

But keeping coaches for long periods of time there has been a challenge. Fred Akers coached there, but just for two years. Pat Dye coached there, but just for one season. Dennis Erickson coached there, but just for one year.

"The fact (coaches) have moved on to bigger programs, there's still people that just couldn't understand it. Because they're from Wyoming, they think this is the best place," McKinney said. "The mentality is to get as good a coach as you can and utilize what he's got as long as you can."

The hope for Wyoming football is to find that guy who not only wins games, but doesn't hurriedly move on after doing so.

"That's what we're trying to get out of right now with Craig Bohl," McKinney said.

Yes, now it's the Cowboys who have a head coach with Nebraska connections.

And whatever sourness there was about Devaney leaving Wyoming for Nebraska is long past. McKinney uses the word "tremendous" to describe the coach's legacy with the Cowboys.

"It's not quite what he did at Nebraska, but I think everything's relative. He meant every bit as much to Wyoming as he did at Nebraska."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.