Monday, December 8, 2008

Christensen:The foundation is here

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen talks to Wyoming media and fans Monday during his first news conference in Laramie.

By Richard Anderson

New Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen has hit the ground running in Laramie.

Christensen, who was selected head coach just a week ago, has been juggling his duties with the Cowboys, as well as finishing up as offensive coordinator with Missouri, as the Tigers prepare for the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 against Northwestern.

As was the case when he met the media for the first time on a teleconference last week, Christensen was well prepared for his debut Monday in Laramie, with a news conference to a packed house in the War Room at the Rochelle Athletic Center.

Christensen opened by saying he takes great pride in being named the 31st football coach at the University of Wyoming.

“I researched this program quite a bit before taking this job. I truly believe it is a place where I can lay a foundation to have a very successful football team,” Christensen said.

Despite this being his first head coaching job, Wyoming president Tom Buchanan said it was Christensen’s preparation that impressed him.

“From the very beginning of our conversations, it was apparent to me that Dave knew a lot about the University of Wyoming and Cowboy football, and he had given a lot of thought about the direction that he would take the UW program if given the opportunity,” Buchanan said. “I was very impressed with his commitment with recruiting the right kind of athletes for Wyoming, building depth and talent in the program and putting together and inspiring a strong coaching staff.”

Christensen said he took the Wyoming job because he believes it has the ingredients to win and he credits Buchanan, UW athletics director Tom Burman, along with the Wyoming state legislature and Gov. Dave Freudenthal for making that possible.

“After having that interview, I knew the support was there,” Christensen said. “We can get it done here and win at a high level. I told the kids today -- we met this morning -- we expect to compete for a Mountain West championship, we expect to go to bowl games and we expect to win. We’re not hoping, we expect to do those things. Wyoming has built great facilities over the past years and now we have something to recruit to.”

Christensen said a friend and colleague compared the support at Wyoming to that of the support in Nebraska. This was even before he decided to take the job.

“It’s the only show in the state and they are dying to have a competitive team and a winner,” Christensen said. “Obviously, the fan support is important.”

Although the Cowboys have struggled in Mountain West Conference play in the six years under Joe Glenn (15-31), Christensen said he compares the situation he and Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel inherited when they began at Missouri.

Actually, he said there is no real comparison.

“When we took over the program in Missouri, it was in shambles,” Christensen said. “We were able to turn it around in eight years … we finished fourth in the country last year and are a Top 20 team this year. This program is in much better shape than we were in there.”

Christensen said he met with his players Monday morning and laid it on the line with them about what he expects from them. He said he told the Cowboys that the program was going to be based on three values -- academic integrity, social responsibility and competitive excellence.

“When a kid comes to the University of Wyoming, he is going to get an education and we will hold him accountable to get that done,” he said. “Everyone knows wrong from right and we will hold them accountable to make the right choices both on and off the field, whether they are in town or out of town. We expect to win, we expect to go to bowl games and that’s what we are going to do.”

Christensen said the Cowboys are blue-collar, tough-minded men, just like himself.

“They are excited about it, they know that when they come back, what it is going to take to get to that next level,” he said. “They are willing to make that sacrifice and work hard for us. Those are the kind of kids you want to work for you. We don’t have a lot of academic issues, we have good kids in the classroom and good kids in the community and we’re going to continue to strive for them to excel in all of those areas.”

Near the end of the news conference on Monday, during a question and answer session with the media and Wyoming fans, Christensen was asked how many wins he would have at the end of his first year.

There was no hesitation in his answer.

“I don’t expect to lose any,” he said. “My plan is to win the first one, and then I’ll worry about the next one.”

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