MELBOURNE, Australia — A crowd of 19,107 got its first taste of American football here Saturday night and voted it a huge success.
Financial problems virtually bankrupted the promoters, who had brought Wyoming and Texas El Paso halfway across the world to play a Western Athletic Conference game at 75,000-seat VL Park.
The game, won by Wyoming, 23-21, had no organized cheering sections, but that didn't bother the crowd. The fans apparently loved every minute of it.
Nearly all of them previously had seen American football only on television, where a National Football League game is screened each week.
"It's terribly confusing to start with, but it's quite easy to pick up, and once you understand it, it's great," Melbourne businessman Charles Chatfield said. "My greatest difficulty was in focusing on the roles of so many players. I have no idea of the finer points, at all."
Chatfield said he liked what he described as "long-distance throws."
The crowd, essentially made up of families, got extremely involved in the action, clapping and cheering loudly. Hardly anyone left before the end.
"I enjoyed it, but I would have liked to see more cheer squads," Melbourne housewife Linda Clayton said. "I thought it was great value for money, and I'd love to go again."
The crowd paid $10 (about $6.50 in U.S. money) for tickets.
Most simply were intrigued by what American football really was like.
"I was very curious, but it's been a worthwhile trip," student Bill Bass said.
Wyoming completed its season with a 3-8 record, while UTEP finished 1-10.
The game was the last for the coaches of Wyoming and UTEP.
Al Kincaid, Wyoming's coach since 1981, has been replaced for next season by former Idaho Coach Dennis Erickson. A replacement for UTEP's Bill Yung has not yet been named.
"Our players certainly enjoyed it, and the crowd seemed to," Kincaid said . "I hope the idea continues."
Yung said: "I think a lot of teams will want to come out here after this match. Despite their problems, the organizers deserve a lot of credit."
Both teams said they had been delighted with their reception in Australia.
"We didn't know what to expect, but the crowd was really great," said Wyoming quarterback Scott Runyan, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third in the come-from-behind victory.
Runyan wound up completing 12 of 25 attempts for 141 yards.