The University of Wyoming’s chief fundraiser lashed out at Athletics Director Tom Burman in the aftermath of football coach Dave Christensen's postgame tirade last month, saying the head coach tarnishes the school.
UW Foundation director Ben Blalock, in an email sent to Burman on Oct. 21, said the organization “is feeling ‘foolish’ in funding an ‘f-bomb screaming loser.’” Christensen cussed out Air Force coach Troy Calhoun following Wyoming's loss on Oct. 13, accusing him of cheating by having a player fake an injury. A video of the one-sided exchange was later posted on YouTube and became Internet fodder.
Through a public records request, the Star-Tribune obtained a series of emails from top school officials that details the university's response to the aftermath of Christensen's actions. The exchanges showed that the fourth-year head coach apologized to Gov. Matt Mead and other UW leaders and illustrated a growing unrest between the school's fundraising arm and the athletic department.
The Star-Tribune filed its Freedom of Information Act request with the university on Oct. 23, the day after Christensen was suspended and fined by Wyoming. UW officials released the information on Friday.
"At this time -- the UW Foundation is feeling ‘foolish’ in funding an ‘f-bomb screaming loser’. Sorry to be harsh," Blalock, whose department raises $38 million annually, wrote to Burman. "But, I am starting to get hammered myself with the UW Foundation Board. I take my responsibility very seriously in helping the UW Foundation Board make “good decisions.” Right now ‘do not’ feel that I have guided a ‘good decision’."
Christensen's postgame comments to Calhoun after UW's 28-27 loss were recorded by an Air Force employee and then sent to the Mountain West Conference to be reviewed. Afterward, Christensen and Burman issued a string of apologies. The embattled coach released a prepared statement on Oct. 14 that issued a blanket apology for his behavior. The following morning, Burman sent an email to Air Force Athletics Director Hans Mueh that also apologized for the coach's comments.
“Please accept my apology for how Dave Christensen responded after the game,” Burman wrote in the email obtained by the Star-Tribune. “He let his emotions get control of him and he just snapped. It is in no way reflective of how we feel about the Academy -- or its players. It makes no difference to me if the qb [Connor Dietz] did take a dive to let the back up get prepared at that critical juncture or if he was truly hurt. We need to maintain our composure at all times when we represent a state and a university.”
The situation appeared to have subsided -- the conference issued a public reprimand -- until the video surfaced on YouTube on Oct. 18. As the video circulated the following day, Burman sent an email to Christensen about an attempt to have the video removed from the Internet. Burman told Christensen that a “VP of Youtube” said only the person who posted the video could remove it. He also said the Mountain West had confirmed that the video online was the one it received from Air Force to review. They could not determine who exactly posted it, though.
“At this point,” Burman wrote, “if you care enough to have it removed you might have to eat crow and beg Calhoun and maybe he will instruct whomever posted it to remove … your call.”
At this time, Burman had not yet reprimanded Christensen. That same day, he told the Star-Tribune that there would be no further action or comment regarding the issue. But that stance shifted after the Wyoming football team returned from a 42-14 loss to Fresno State on Oct. 20.
The day after the Fresno State loss, Blalock sent the heated email. The correspondence, sent at 12:11 p.m., blasts Christensen and poses the UW Foundation Board members' questions to the athletic director.
“From the day of the Foundation investment in Dave -- the Pokes have gone 1-7???,” Blalock wrote. “There is the ‘layman’s view’ that the Pokes were not competitive in the bowl -- as Dave seemed to spend more time that weekend focused on his contract than preparing for the Bowl game. And, now 1-6 this season. And, now the YouTube ‘f-bomb’ fest by Coach Dave????"
On Dec. 17, 2011, the day the Cowboys fell to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl, Christensen and UW agreed to a five-year contract extension. He receives $1.2 million annually.
"Guide me … I need to know what to say when my Board members call me and question ‘the investment’ in Dave?????," Blalock continued. "I know we said the ‘obligation’ from the Foundation would likely be only 2 years as Coach Dave ‘vaulted his career’ to a BCS school. But, we know the commitment could be 5-years??!!! And, it is doubtful that any BCS schools are lining up to recruit Coach Dave. At the rate Dave is going — would be nice to know that Coach Dave is ‘committed’ to win with the Cowboys — and, committed to accomplishing something in Wyoming."
Hours later on Oct. 21, at 3:56 p.m., Christensen sent an email titled “My sincere apology” to Blalock and the following university leaders: UW President Tom Buchanan, the UW board of trustees, Mead and Burman.
“Last Sunday, after our football game against Air Force, I called Tom Burman to apologize for my behavior after the game and for embarrassing the University of Wyoming,” Christensen wrote. “I also issued a public apology on Sunday afternoon and was hopeful that would put an awful situation behind us. Unfortunately, this past Friday, my inappropriate behavior went viral and I had an opportunity to see myself in a mirror. What I saw wasn’t pretty. I have reached out to Troy Calhoun so that I can personally apologize to him and The Air Force Academy, and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each one of you. I am sure that you are all very disappointed, but no one can be more disappointed than me. I have let you all down, my University down, my team down and most importantly my family down. You have my word that I will make this up to each and every one of you. I take great pride and responsibility in my job as the Head Coach at The University of Wyoming and we will build a football program that you can be proud of on and off the field."
The next day, Burman announced that Christensen had been suspended for one week and fined $50,000 for his actions. He resumed his responsibilities as head coach on Monday and will coach the Cowboys in today's Border War against Colorado State.