Western Michigan has competed in football since 1906, when they played three games in their inaugural season. WMU (then Western State Teacher College) played at the current location of Waldo Stadium from 1914 until 1938, without the benefit of permanent facilities. In 1938 the school started a fundraising campaign. Those who donated were awarded tickets to the November 4, 1939 game against Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. At that game, the stadium was named after Plainwell native Dwight B. Waldo, the school’s first president and a strong advocate of Bronco Athletics.
The Broncos actually played two games at the new stadium before then on October 7 and 14, 1939 against Miami (Ohio) and Akron, winning both by 6-0.
Prior to 1939, Western Michigan’s athletic teams were known as the Hilltoppers. However, their game against Western Kentucky must have caused consternation. Both teams had the same name! At any rate, Western Michigan University chose a new mascot name, the Broncos.
WMU has had 11 perfect seasons at home, (1941, 1942, 1947, 1966, 1982, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2006, 2008, 2016).
WMU’s main rival is the Central Michigan University Chippewas and they play for the WMU–CMU Rivalry Trophy. Western Michigan University played in the inaugural International Bowl in 2007 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It did not win a bowl game until it defeated Middle Tennessee, 45–31, in the 2015 Bahamas Bowl.
P. J. Fleck was named as Broncos head coach on December 18, 2012, which, at the time, made him the youngest Division I FBS head coach. Under Fleck, the Broncos had their best season in school history. After six victories in a row, the Broncos were ranked at number 25 by the Coaches Poll, breaking into the top 25 for the first time in school history. A week later, the Broncos cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history by being ranked as the No. 24 team in the country.
Following the 10–0 start to the season, ESPN’s College GameDay announced the program would broadcast their weekly pregame show in Kalamazoo before the Nov. 19 game against the University of Buffalo. This marked only the second time a MAC school was featured by ESPN. The Broncos went on to defeat Buffalo, 38–0. Western Michigan ended the regular season with a 55–35 win over division rival Toledo. The win sealed their spot in the MAC championship game located at Ford Field in Detroit on December 2, 2016. The Broncos defeated Ohio in a tight 29–23 game. The win gave WMU the MAC title, sealed an undefeated regular season, and landed them in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin. WMU entered the Cotton Bowl at 13–0 overall with an 8–0 conference record. This earned WMU the end-of-year national rankings of #12 in the AP poll, #14 in the coaches poll, and #15 in the CFP poll.
WMU earned a trip to the program’s first “New Year’s Six” bowl, the Cotton Bowl, against Wisconsin. Unfortunately the Broncos fell behind 14–0 before making a comeback, losing 24-16.
Western Michigan’s attendance record at Waldo Stadium was set during the 2000 opener with 36,361 fans, while the 1999 season set a record for attendance average in a season with 26,874.
The stadium normally seats 30, 200 Bronco fans.