By now you know that Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman suspended football coach Dave Christensen Monday for one week and fined him $50,000 for his postgame, profanity-laced tirade with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after the Cowboys’ 28-27 home loss on Oct. 13.
Christensen won’t be allowed any access to the team or facilities this week, and Burman said he will be reinstated Sunday morning. Christensen will be paid while he’s suspended, but Burman said a week’s pay for Christensen is “significantly less” than the fine he levied.
The discipline was not only a result of Christensen’s reaction to Calhoun after the game, but also from the YouTube video that surfaced last last week that captured the outburst. Burman said he first saw the video last Monday — two days after the game.
Why didn’t Burman suspend Christensen sooner is what many fans are asking? Burman said he didn’t want to make a “hasty” decision and wanted to consult with school president Tom Buchanan and UW’s legal advisers to see if what he had in mind would fly. Burman said Christensen’s actions were a suspendable offense as soon as he saw the video.
Burman also said he didn’t have his mind made up about the suspension and fine before last Saturday’s 42-14 loss at Fresno State, but knew something more needed to be done other than apologies from Christensen the Sunday and Monday after the Air Force game.
“In my mind it doesn’t matter which game you suspend him for if you choose to make that decision,” Burman said.
According to Christensen’s contract, what he did could have resulted in a lot worse punishment. His new five-year, $1.2 million contract, which was signed in early January of 2012, states Burman, with the concurrence from Buchanan, may terminate an employees appointment upon written notice for a wide range of reasons, the first of which is:
“Conduct unbecoming of a member of the University athletic staff or which bring discredit to the University and causes serious harm to the University as reasonably determined by the University.”
Burman said he doesn’t plan on restructuring Christensen’s contract moving ahead, and expects him to be the coach next season, which is the second of his five-year contract.
“I expect him to be the head football coach at Wyoming next year and I expect him to get this program turned around and get us going in the right direction,” Burman said.
“Obviously, he’s created a hurdle that’s going to make it more challenging. He’s a dedicated guy and wants to be successful here more than anybody I’ve ever met. I think he will find a way and will his way to get this program turned around and back to a situation we were in last year sooner than later.”
Burman also said Christensen will be reviewed at the end of the season, like all UW coaches are, and they will talk about what things need to improve.
Wyoming is 1-6 overall, 0-3 in the Mountain West after an 8-5 season in 2011 and the program’s second bowl appearance in Christensen’s first three years. UW must win its last five games to become bowl eligible, and hosts No. 21 Boise State Saturday.
In a little more than 3 1/2 seasons, Christensen is 19-26 overall and 10-16 in the MW.
Assistant head coach Pete Kaligis will coach the team this week. Burman said he picked Kaligis, and since Kaligis was next in line in terms of the pecking order that made the most sense to keep some sort of normalcy.
But this is anything but normal. In fact, Burman said he’s not aware of anything like this happening ever within UW’s athletics department.
This is on top of a season where sophomore starting quarterback Brett Smith has missed two games and part of another with two concussions; and part of yet another game after getting ejected for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Injuries have mounted, the defense hasn’t responded well to new defensive coordinator and secondary coach Chris Tormey and four of UW’s six losses have been by a combined 13 points.
However, the Cowboys’ 42-7 loss at Fresno State was by far its most lopsided loss where it was dominated in every phase of the game.
This is what Burman said about feedback he got from fans and boosters after the YouTube video, which as of Monday had around 105,00o views: “I would be misleading you if I didn’t say it had some influence. It did have an influence, but an issue was an issue and that was the actions coach Christensen took against the Air Force Academy.”
I asked Burman if his chair has been getting warmer with all that’s happened in football this season — both on and off the field: “I guess the fair answer to that is yes. We’re 1-6, one of our most high-profile coaches has done something inappropriate. But it doesn’t influence any of the decision I make.”
Burman also said the two players he’s talked to about the decision, which I imagine are senior co-captains Nick Carlson and Luke Ruff since they were at the news conference Monday with Burman and Kaligis, were “shock and concern for their head coach.”
Burman said Christensen was “devastated” after he was told of his decision.
“He feels terrible,” Burman added. “He let his family down. He let his team down. He let his coaching staff down. He let the university down. If that means he’s humbled about it, I guess the answer is yes. But he’s definitely sorry for his actions and feels bad about it.”
As far as the $50,000 fine, Burman said he didn’t know where that money would go, but not back to football. Where do you think it should go?
What do you think folks? Good decision or bad one on the suspension and fine, which Burman said he isn’t sure where that will go and there was no logic in the dollar figure?
Too little, too late? Do you think the program will bounce back, whether it’s this season or next?
Would love to hear your opinions and feedback, and hope you participate on our new polls on the blog. See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and www.wyosports.net for more on this story.