Monday, December 1, 2008
Christensen named UW coach
Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen will become the 31st head coach in Wyoming football history.
University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman officially announced Monday that Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen will be the new head football coach of the Cowboys. He becomes the 31st coach in Wyoming football history.
“We are thrilled to be able to attract a coach with the experience that Coach (Dave) Christensen brings to our program,” said Burman in a release. “He is one of the great offensive minds in college football, and he will bring a very exciting brand of football to Jonah Field.
“The plan he presented to us for building a comprehensive program was the best we heard in our search process. I am confident that he will put an outstanding coaching staff together, and that they will hit the ground running. With Dave leading Cowboy football, I believe our program will make dramatic progress in the coming years and return to a position of prominence in the Mountain West Conference.”
Christensen agreed to terms with Wyoming on Sunday. His contract as new head coach will pay him a base salary of $180,000 per year for five years. With academic, competitive and revenue incentives, Christensen’s total package could exceed $750,000 per year.
Christensen was named the 2007 National Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Rivals.com and was also runner-up for the 2007 Frank Broyles Award, which honors the top assistant coach in the nation each season.
He has helped lead the Missouri Tigers to the Big 12 Championship game each of the past two seasons -- 2007 and 2008.
His 2008 Tiger offense has averaged 45.0 points per game to rank No. 4 in the nation in scoring offense. Missouri has averaged 344.3 yards passing this season, which also ranks No. 4 in the country, and the Tigers have accounted for 509.4 yards of total offense per game, ranking No. 6 in the NCAA.
Missouri was ranked No. 13 in last week’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings.
The 2007 season saw Missouri conclude the season ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press ranking. That was the highest season-ending ranking in school history for the Tigers. Mizzou finished the season by defeating Arkansas, 38-7, in the Cotton Bowl, giving the Tigers a school record 12th win on the season. His 2007 offense ranked No. 5 in the nation in total offense (490.3 yards per game), No. 8 in scoring offense (39.9 points per game) and No. 9 in passing offense (314.1 yards per game).
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be given the opportunity to lead the Wyoming Cowboy football program,” said Christensen. “The opportunity to become a head coach is something I’ve been preparing for my entire career.
“This is a great job at an outstanding university. Wyoming has a rich football tradition, and combined with the new, state-of-the art facilities, I know we can win here. I have already begun to put my coaching staff together, and we will strive to provide the people of Wyoming with a great product in all phases of the game. I can’t wait to get started, and my family can’t wait to become a part of this great state and this great University.
“I want to thank Tom Burman and President Buchanan for the confidence they’ve shown in giving me this opportunity. I also want to thank Gary Pinkel (head coach at Missouri), who I have coached with for the past 17 years, for his friendship and for the opportunities he has provided me professionally through the years.
“Finally to the Wyoming players. I am a blue-collar coach, and I know that the Cowboys have a reputation for being a blue-collar team. I can’t wait to get back to Laramie, meet all of you and go to work.”
Christensen will coach in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday in a game to be played in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. Missouri earned its spot in the Big 12 Championship game by virtue of winning the Big 12 North.
He is also expected to coach in the Tigers’ bowl game to conclude this season, but has already made plans to have assistant coaches in place at Wyoming as quickly as possible to begin recruiting for the Cowboys.
Due to Missouri’s preparation for this week’s Big 12 Championship game, Christensen returned to Columbia, Mo., on Sunday. He and Burman will be available on a teleconference for Wyoming media on Tuesday at 5 p.m.. He will be introduced to Wyoming fans and media at a press conference in the coming weeks.
Christensen has served as an assistant coach under Gary Pinkel since 1992 -- first at the University of Toledo from 1992-2000 and then at Missouri from 2001-2008. Christensen has been Pinkel’s offensive coordinator since 1997, and has coached the offensive line the past 16 seasons. He is in his eighth season as Assistant Head Coach on Pinkel’s staff.
Beginning in 2005, Christensen devised and implemented one of college football’s most exciting, no-huddle, spread offenses.
A year ago, Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, while Christensen’s offense scored a school record 558 points, far surpassing the previous Missouri record of 399 points in a single season.
In addition to Daniel’s fourth-place finish in the 2007 Heisman Trophy voting, Christensen’s offensive unit had three other Tigers earn national honors. Senior tight end Martin Rucker and freshman wide receiver Jeremy Maclin were both Consensus First Team All-American selections, marking the first time in Missouri school history that it had two consensus First Team All-Americans in the same season. Senior center Adam Spieker was named a finalist for the Rimington Award, which honors the nation’s top offensive center each season. Spieker also earned Third Team All-America honors from Associated Press.
Three additional Tiger offensive linemen earned All-Big 12 honors in 2007, including Tyler Lullen (a Second Team selection), Colin Brown (Honorable Mention All-Big 12) and Kurtis Gregory (Honorable Mention All-Big 12).
Recognized by his peers as one of the top coaches in the country, Christensen was the runner-up for the 2007 Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year Award in 2007. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.
The Tigers finished the 2006 season with the nation’s No. 8 ranked offense, averaging 425.6 yards per game, and that included the nation’s No. 10 ranked passing attack, at 276.2 yards an outing. Two of Christensen’s linemen earned All-Big 12 honors, as senior tackle Joel Clinger earned First Team honors by league coaches, while Clinger and center Adam Spieker both earned honorable-mention status from the Associated Press.
Christensen’s offense underwent a major transformation to a spread, no-huddle attack in 2005, and was very successful in ‘05. His attack, executed by record-setting quarterback Brad Smith, ended the 2005 season ranked in the top four in the Big 12, and in the Top 40 nationally in three major categories - rushing (205.3 yards per game - No. 3 in the Big 12 and No. 17 in the NCAA), total offense (429.8 ypg - No. 4 in the Big 12 and No. 24 in the nation) and scoring offense (30.8 points per game - No. 4 in the Big 12 and No. 34 in the country).
Despite going to battle each week with a young offensive line that featured just one senior starter, the offense jelled right away, as the Tigers rolled to 657 yards in the 2005 season opener against Arkansas State. That was just three yards shy of the school record. Three of Christensen’s linemen won All-Big 12 honors in 2005, led by senior left guard Tony Palmer, who earned First Team league honors for the first time in his career. He was joined by sophomore center Adam Spieker and junior right tackle Joel Clinger, who both won honorable mention acclaim by league coaches. Palmer eventually became a seventh-round draft pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.
In 2003, the Tiger rushing attack proved to be one of the most potent in the nation, as MU led the Big 12 Conference, and ranked sixth nationally with an average of 237.5 yards per game. That marked the first time since 1960 that MU won a conference rushing championship, when the Tigers led the old Big Eight with a mark of 249.3 yards per game. Its 3,087 rushing yards for the season ranked second in school history. Senior center A.J. Ricker and senior tackle Rob Droege each earned First Team All-Big 12 honors for their play in 2003, while sophomore guard Tony Palmer earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 status. Ricker and Droege both signed free agent contracts in the spring of 2004 with the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. Scott Paffrath signed a free agent deal with the Washington Redskins following the 2005 NFL Draft.
Under Christensen’s guidance, Mizzou featured one of the most potent attacks in school history in 2002. The Tigers averaged 30.0 points per game, and the 360 points scored were the third-most in MU history at the time. Christensen’s balanced run-pass attack turned redshirt freshman quarterback Brad Smith into one of the nation’s most talked about players, as he became just the second player in NCAA Division I-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Mizzou’s emphasis on a disciplined attack also produced an offense that led the nation in fewest turnovers, with just 11 offensive giveaways in 12 games.
In his final seven seasons at the University of Toledo, the Rockets’ offense set or reset some 75 school records. During that period, the Rockets had an undefeated and MAC championship season (11-0 in 1995) and three MAC West titles (1995, 1997 and 1998).
In 1999, Toledo was 10th in the country in rushing (239.2) and led the nation in yards per attempt (5.35).
Christensen came to Toledo from Idaho State University where he coached the offensive line, tight ends and running backs for two years. Prior to his stint at Idaho State, he served two years as an assistant coach under Don James at the University of Washington. He also played football for the Huskies from 1980-82.
Christensen coached Andy McCollum, the center for the St. Louis Rams while at Toledo. Another lineman, Colin Westerich, made the Sporting News All-America Team in 1999.
Christensen earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Western Washington in 1985 and a master of science degree in college instruction and sports science from Eastern Washington in 1988.
He and his wife Susie have three children, Katie, D.J. and Emily.