Reaction, thoughts to Christensen suspension and fine

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.

  • Ron smith

    I already expressed my thoughts, Robert. Life is what happens with or without one’s plan. Coach Dave should talk to Tiller. After a 6-5 year Tiller told (I think it was Bob Hammond) I wasn’t having fun nor were the players. I said next year we are going to have fun. They went 10-2 and Tiller got a Big Ten Job. Circle the wagon Coach Dave have fun and grow next year’s team. This years war is over let the Rodeo begin because it’s a hell of a lot more fun. Just ask any real Poke.. The only win you need is aganist the “Sheep”

    • Toby Homi

      Great response Ron…very well put. He really should talk to Tiller.

      • mike randolph

        Coach Christensen is too damn arroagant to seek advice from someone who knows what they are doing. Hell, he cant even take credit for the poor coaching in the games, he sure in the hell wont ask for help…

  • Mc

    I have not seen what we thought we’d see from Christensen spread explosive offense, a defense with speed and depth or size. Can’t see it coming next year either maybe I am missing something on the field. Its so much easier having fun and playing football than losing and saying have fun. Ask any fan or player. I don’t have much respect for Dave Christensen and think the suspension and fine is appropriate. He certainly lost his cool as a result of the mounting frustration he and the team are living. One thing for sure, its getting easy to say, wait till next year because thats what we will have to do again, wait till next year.

  • Jim Gunter

    I agree with you Robert the kids act like there not having any fun. So my lowly advice would be to D ave is these kids mostly came to Wyoming mostly because of you,don’t have them leave because of you. Dave want’s to be like Nick Saban ,but he dosen’t have 50 5star recruits to work with, when one screws up put one possible better in. I’ve said it for two years now, to much attrition at Wyoming.He needs to lossen up a little,show a little positive attitude once in awhile. If I was Burman I’d watch these kids play the rest of season,if they look disinterested the rest of way I’d tell Dave you need a change of address. We’ll see If the kids won’t to save his job.

  • Reuben Teuben

    Burman stood by his coach in the days after the game and then changes his mind a week later. Gives the FB coach a huge guaranteed contract and now the whole thing is a mess.
    I think Burman got the message from someone up the food chain that he’d screwed this up.Its always been hard to believe anything he says. (See Schroyer disaser-UW Basketball)
    This wont help.
    Time to clean house all round

    • Parson

      I think this suspension says more about Burman than Christensen. It is obvious that Burman, who I don’t think originally wanted to suspend Christensen, bowed to pressure, even though what he did was the right thing to do. Suspending Christensen a week after the fact strings out the issue and makes it harder on the team to adjust. Burman handled this badly all the way around. Perhaps he should be suspended as well, or fired.

  • Mark

    I thought he deserved a suspension based on how bad the altercation looked live on Root Sports. I imagine this is all Burman had to go on. The you tube video and its display on Deadspin was shocking. I believe Burman had no idea at the degree in which Christensen acted until he saw the video days after he publically supported him. How unsportsmanlike DC was to a coach (Calhoun) who has a great, solid reputation, was inexcusable and offensive. Plus, throw in the fact it was military day and homecoming and it really makes you question just what kind of man/coach would act like that? How does he act when the cameras are not around? The you tube video is not only damaging to Christensen’s long-term reputation but also to UW overall. This will sting for a while and DC needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide if ‘his’ way is really working. I don’t think it is. He needs to regroup, reevaluate himself just like he does players and figure out why he and this team went off the tracks so it doesn’t happen again.

    • Ty

      Dave’s actions are inexcusable, but I don’t think Calhoun is as well respected as you make him out to be. He has turned the AFA into a much better football team, but many people have stated that he does this sort of stuff fairly often. I don’t like what DC did but I will not support Calhoun. On Saturdays those boys are football players and Calhoun is a coach. Being enrolled or employed at a service academy does not give you free reign to bend and/or break the rules.

      • Dave Golden

        Ty: But the AFA didn’t bend or break any rule at the end of that game; so your last point is dubious at best. I have to tell you that as a veteran (Army, not Air Force) it was embarrassing and baffling to see and hear the rant from a man who calls himself a leader of our youth. I believe his words and phrases were intentionally as slanderous and hurtful as he could think of at the time. Please, let’s keep Penn State in mind and remember that the health and safety of our students and children must always be of utmost importance in our schools.

  • FRANK

    He should have been fired. DC is an arrogant, overpaid, underachieving coach who is not man enough to take responsibility for his team. Instead, he constantly blames his players,
    other coaches, other players – anyone but himself. This incident revealed to the world his true character. UW needs to start over.

  • robert

    Outbursts such as these happen all the time. It doesn’t mean it is right, but coaches & players that have passion for a violent sport like football sometimes get caught up in the emotions of the moment. I think that happened to DC & I am certain if he could get a do over it would not happen again. Everybody does things in life they wish they could have back. This is DC’s moment. I for one still support him. I think the talent level is light years ahead of what it was 4 years ago. As for attrition of players, that happened when I was at UW with Fritz & Akers as our coaches. I know for a fact living with the football players for 4 years in the dorms that some really did not like UW for a multitude of reasons. The you tube video I saw yesterday for the first time was disappointing, but guess who posted it? The Air Force Academy! Apparently Calhoun & DC have had words before. Lastly, Burman did the right thing. He gathered evidence, waited for the MWC to make a decision, consulted with the UW President & legal staff as far as punishment and also confided in alums & supporters to get their feedback. In other words it was NOT A RUSH to judgment. This punishment is a embarrassment to DC & I think he learns from it & becomes more motivated to prove he is not some hot head bad coach. Further, he is on notice, under the terms of his contract that UW, Wyoming’s ONLY University will NOT tolerate its reputation being tarnished. Period. So now we move on. I hope DC wins more than he loses, if not there will be a change, but not this year, unless DC decides to resign, which I doubt. As far as Burman, he did the right thing and has been a good AD. Generally making good hires except for Shroyer. I think we will be fine. It is time to move ahead & support our student athletes. BEAT THE SMURFS!

    • Wyo Fan

      I am curious Robert (and I’m not trying to be funny)……just what “image” is it that has been tarnished? In my view, I think that UW needs to develop a much better image. My kids have attended several UW football games (when they were in high school) and the image that they came away from UW with after each game was right in line with the way DC acted. Unfortunately, from their experiences, they decided that UW was not the school from which they wanted to be “further educated” even though both had full-ride academic scholarships to go to UW. I have to say I respect my kids decisions and respect the decision of Mr. Burman.

      • Timmy Jack

        So let me get this right, your kids went to a school like Alabama or Oregon, because their perceived image is really the most important thing….give me a break. UW is a special place for special people that aren’t catered to, regardless of the full ride’s. Go pat yourself on the back, and have a family hug. Wyoming is a great University, obviously your kids were above us.

        • Wyo Fan

          No, it wasn’t Alabama or Oregon. It was Texas A&M, the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio (the two oldest kids), and the third hasn’t quite decided where she will go (she’s a junior in HS), but at this time, UW is out of the question. And, I might add, I tried encouraging them to attend UW, but they would have none of it after their experiences. And by the way, for the two oldest, it was after spending two years each at Western Wyoming Community College. No, my kids weren’t above you (nor anyone else in Wyoming)….weren’t raised that way. The thing that you and the leadership at UW need to realize and fully grasp is that perception IS reality. One thing that you didn’t address in your comments Timmy Jack is …..just what “image” is it that has been tarnished? Like I said, DC’s actions fall right in line with how the student body acts at football games. And, its a REAL shame because it doesn’t have to be that way. Its time UW showed some class.

          • Timmy Jack

            Oh, so know A&M’s programs more meet you kids educational values. That is entirely different than Wyomings tarnished image expressed through some undergrads enjoying the WAR on a Saturday afternoon. I did my grad work at SMU, while the real Texas A&M was in the SWC. I traveled to Aggie land, watched SMU play at their stadium and it was a great experience. Saw the 12th man, and cadets in the military uniforms- and many in attendance tailgated and enjoyed the afternoon as well. The self-righteousness you display is understood; I stand by what my remarks mean. UW is a great school with effective leadership, this was a tough situation for us alumni and Cowboys to endure. One bad moment does not erase the history and quality of the UW, and I think we still have plenty of class people associated with our alma mater. Go Pokes.

  • Pete

    I couldn’t help but notice that he apologized to everyone except the Air Force coach.

    • Ty

      I think if you really knew what kind of man he is you wouldn’t apologize either…

      • Mark

        I don’t understand what this anit-Troy Calhoun thing is about. I live here in Colorado Springs and know several people that work in the athletic department at AFA. I have yet to hear one negative thing about Troy. He was honorable when he came in, replacing a legend in Fisher DeBerry and has done a fantastic job here. Let us remember that it was Dave Christensen that sought out the confrontation…no other MWC coach has done this to Calhoun over the years and if he had the reputation you are referring to it would have showed by now here in Colorado Springs or elsewhere in the MWC.

  • GApoke

    I am a Poke alum, contributor, and fan. I have supported the Pokes for almost 50 years. I have experienced the highs and the lows of our athletic program like every other Poke fan and remain proud of our traditions. I do believe that DC’s suspension was warranted, however, I also believe that this issue has diverted our attention from the central issue which needs to be addressed….Is DC the man for the job? His resume looked very good upon his hire, however, I lived just outside of Lincoln, NE when DC was the offensive coordinator at Mizzou. I can tell you that few Big 12 schools at that time feared Mizzou’s offense. They did respect the offense, but Mizzou was not the Big 12 champ during any of those years. I have no doubt that DC wants to win badly and is extremely frustrated right now, but is that enough for our program? A head coach is only as good as his supporting staff (coaches & players). DC’s coaching staff, specifically the coordinators, are retreads with resumes as failures at other schools. Is this why we can’t seem to make meaningful second half adjustments? Can this staff really teach and coach kids up? Our won/loss record shows who we really are. If we are fielding better players now than why are we under achieving? I really have no axe to grind with DC. He is probably a decent man who wants to win and field a team which makes all in Wyoming proud. However, in my opinion he has failed to do this. Unfortunately, I believe DC has lost the respect of this team and that is hard to reestablish once it is lost. He doesn’t seem to possess the skills needed to motivate his players or the Poke fan base. The answers to these problems lie somewhwere, but where? Good coaches design offenses and defenses that are best suited to their players capabilities. They don’t stick with systems that their players cannot execute….Is it the systems or the coaches? I wish DC would have been successful into his fourth year, but results don’t lie. We are foundering badly and we need to focus on the real issue….Is DC the man for the job?

  • Brian

    When you see the video, you can understand why UW suspended DC. I liked that he got fired up, just as with everything about DC these days, his execution fell short. The rant on YouTube was not befitting of a HC.
    The DC era has been perplexing at times especially after winning the New Mexico Bowl in 2009 with mostly Joe Glenn recruits. Then we have a terrible season, losing close games, then 8-5 with another bowl, now we are in year 4 with the best QB we’ve seen in a long time, but are falling way short of expectations.
    Honestly, I think this suspension could be good for DC and the Wyoming program especially if this team pulls out a Win this week. If anything DC needs to re-evaluate how he coaches and how he interacts with Laramie and the Wyoming fan base as a whole. If they win, then we’ll probably hear about how the players won it for the coach and the coaches DC has brought in which affirms that DC is heading in the right direction. If they lose, then maybe DC will ponder how he is directing this program a little further. In the end, DC needs a little more Joe Glenn than he probably wants to admit.
    Look as a humble fan, all that I want is a team that competes at the top half of the conference, goes to a bowl game every other year or so. If this team ends up 4-8 or 5-7, then that’s not the most terrible season given that we’ve had a good share of plain dumb bad luck.

  • John Wayne

    Brian
    You had a great response. I have always told my kids what Joe Glenn’s answer was to a lot of life issues…He would say”Just be a good guy.” I do believe that if DC would embrace that same philosophy then it would be very unlikely that he would have been reprimanded and suspended.. He has some great players, they don’t have to win this weekend , but they do need to give Boise State a war, just like Glenn’s players did in his last game. The pokes did not win that one, but his players never quit, and CSU new they had been in a game. Hopefully, the Cowboys will get a few breaks because I have never seen a team get so many bad breaks in a season. They deserve some luck and prayer and so does DC.

    • Geno

      LOL, Good guy that flew the bird to to an opposing coach when he was too frustrated.

  • Brian

    Wow Wyoming made national headlines. Flipping through yahoo home page articles and there’s a pic of DC screaming. Not the way I want to have UW looked at…
    Now more than ever this episode is a defining moment for DC.
    At his this point if the FB gods were kind they would say the Wyoming fan has endured enough and grants us 5 wins. I will certainly retract my not buying season tickets next year if they do!

  • Grizz

    I spent the majority of my adult life in mid level management for a Fortune 100 company. During my tenure I saw a lot of good people come and go. The reason most left was because they were not performing to the standards set by the company. Their leaving had nothing to do with their character or whether or not they were good, decent people. It had everything to do with them not performing.

    Whether you like it or not, college football is a big business. DC gets paid a lot of money to do his job. I think most people would accept an average performance out of him. The question is “what is average?” In sports one would assume average is winning 50% of the time. So, DC only has to finish 6-6 most years and the fans probably wouldn’t say too much. I say that’s a pretty good gig for anyone.

    Ask yourself this. The next time you get on an airplane would it be OK if the pilot only got the landing right 50% of the time? He/she is making a heck of a lot less than $1.2 million a year with a heck of a lot more responsibility, yet he/she is expected to get it right 100% of the time. This same adage holds true in many professions (doctors, lawyers, police, firemen, etc.). Only in athletics is it acceptable to just be average (there are a few exceptions, the major college powers come to mind, but for the most part smaller schools like Wyoming will accept average).

    I’m not saying DC has to win 100% of the games. What I am saying is he needs to be held to a higher standard than we hold him to today. Heck, I would be happy if the Pokes “averaged being average.” But they aren’t even close to average under his tenure. It isn’t the kids that are the problem.

    As I look at the comments I see a lot of people willing to support him both financially and emotionally. His failures are not from a lack of support. At some point DC needs to look at the guy in the mirror and admit he’s in way over his head. The University of Wyoming, its athletes, its students and its fans deserve better. And don’t tell me you can’t find a coach that would love to spend some quality time in Laramie, especially while collecting $1.2 million for his trouble. GAPoke said it best. It’s time to quit settling for retreads and tolerating less than average performance. This standard should also apply to Burman. Hey, he’s a nice guy, but his track record on coaches is starting to look a bit suspect. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to hold all of these high priced execs, coaches, etc. to a much higher standard.

  • PtKSKs

    @GAPoke — I think you are right in asking the question…Can this staff really teach and coach kids up? IMHO the answer is no. Instead of teaching and coaching a player, they are discarded and moved to the 3rd string or practice squad until they ‘get it’…..(really they are to learn from the Grad assistants….who REALLY know what’s going on? yeah right.)

    And there’s alot more swearing/cussing going on AT the players during practice, but not necessarily coming from DC…..but from the one who is in charge this week…..

  • Jim Gunter

    Hey PTKSKS this is the second negative thing you have said about Pete. Would you care to state the issues you have with Pete. I don’t know where your employed,but in my world and maybe college football you can say pretty,pretty please so much and people just don’t get it so you have to use a different route,that might mean cussing a little to let them know your serious.

  • PtKSKs

    @Gunter — sorry if it seems negative, just truthful and factual.

  • John Wayne

    How long does it take for a football program to recover after having your Head Coach being reprimanded, suspended and fined? How long will it take to repair the creditability of the program without firing both the AD and the HC?. What impact will it have on recruiting if the current coaching staff stays? Will season tickets lose interest? While it is difficult to answer any of these questions, one thing for sure, they need to be addressed now. Whoever, is selected to repair the program, will need to consider more in state recruting to increase fan support.

  • John Wayne

    Will season ticket holders lose interest?

    (correction)

  • Dee

    Neutral party here – not associated with either program but found the timeliness of the suspension interesting. Frustration from your coach is understandable with only 1 win this season (and let’s be honest, a 3 point win over the mighty 1-7 Idaho Vandals is nothing to write home about). Every program goes through this. It’s just that not every program brings national attention to themselves during the bad years. What your coach did was inexcusable – period. I don’t think there is any debate from anyone on that point. Regardless of whether it was caught on film or not, this was going to come out. But now it seems that the AD didn’t take any action until peer pressure demanded it and that only makes the situation worse. I have no doubt that your coach feels worse about this than any other human on the planet. He coaches his players to be fired up and play with emotion but to remain within the rules and boundaries of the game. However, the example he gave them was that respecting your peers, opponents and the game is not a priority. We have all seen questionable calls, questionable tactics by opposing players and coaches and downright dirty play at every level of every sport. But to launch a vicious personal attack is not the answer. Do it as a player and you hurt your team and yourself. Do it as a fan and you might land in jail. Do it as a coach/leader and you lose respect. He has fired up every team left on the schedule starting with powerful Boise. I have no doubt that he has already apologized to the other coach in person and that doesn’t need to be made public. I hope your coach has learned something from this and is able to filter that into his teaching of the athletes. Very few, if any, of those boys are going to have football as a profession. Teach them to be good men, coach.

    • Wyo Fan

      VERY WELL put Dee. I especially like your last line….”teach them to be good men…” Now we are getting some where!!