Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen has been fired, the university announced Sunday afternoon.

The action took place a day after Wyoming's 35-7 defeat at Utah State concluded a 5-7 season, its second consecutive losing season under Christensen. The Cowboys finished 4-8 in 2012.

“We have come to a point where our football program has not achieved at the level of success that we expect, and we know from past experience that we can be successful,” Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman said in a release. “It is with that in mind that we move forward in search of a new leader for Cowboy football."

Christensen signed a five-year contract extension worth $1.2 million annually after the 2011 season. He has three years left on that contract. Wyoming will pay him his base salary of $190,008 for the remaining three years of his contract for a total of $570,024. The buyout will be paid with non-state dollars, Burman said.

After announcing the dismissal, Burman said in a release that a national coaching search will begin immediately. The status of the team's assistant coaches was not commented upon.

Christensen -- previously the offensive coordinator at Missouri and Toledo -- finished with a 27-35 record, including 16-23 in Mountain West play. His team went only 5-27 against teams that finished their seasons with winning records, and 0-14 against ranked teams.

After Wyoming's 48-7 defeat at Boise State on Nov. 16 Christensen acknowledged that the Cowboys were still nowhere near the conference or national elite.

"We’re not to their caliber in any way, shape of form," Christensen said. "We’re trying to get there. We’re not even close to the 16th team in the country. And had Boise not had some injuries they’d probably be ranked right now also. They’re both [Fresno State and Boise State] very established programs with great depth and a lot of big-time playmakers, and we’re working to get there.”

Christensen's tenure wasn't only filled with losses and disappointment. After the firing of former Wyoming coach Joe Glenn, Christensen was introduced as the Cowboys' 31st head coach on Dec. 1, 2008.

It was the longtime offensive coordinator's first appointment as head coach.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to be given the opportunity to lead the Wyoming Cowboy football program. The opportunity to become a head coach is something I've been preparing for my entire career," Christensen said at the time.

"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."

Christensen followed through on that declaration in his first season, capping a 6-6 regular season with a 35-28 double overtime victory over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.

After finishing a disappointing 3-9 in 2010, the Cowboys returned to bowl eligibility the next year, going 8-4 before losing to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl in quarterback Brett Smith's first season under center.

Since that time the Cowboys have gone 9-15.

Questions were raised about Christensen's leadership after his team's 28-27 defeat against Air Force on Oct. 13, 2012. Believing that the Falcons faked an injury late in the game, Christensen unleashed a verbal tirade directed towards Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun during the postgame handshake, all of which was caught on film.

"Not today," Burman said at the time, when asked if Christensen's job was in jeopardy. "He will be evaluated at the end of the year, just like we do with every coach. But I can tell you that he is going to be the head coach at Wyoming next year."

"Next year" has come and gone, and the Cowboys have missed out on another bowl game. After running out to a 4-2 start, Wyoming lost five of its final six games -- allowing at least 48 points in five consecutive conference games.

This included an embarrassing 52-22 Border War defeat to rival Colorado State at home,  the largest margin of defeat for Wyoming in the rivalry since a 40-0 defeat in 1925. It was Christensen's first loss in five Border War games.

Christensen fired second-year defensive coordinator Chris Tormey just over a week later, following a 51-44 loss to San Jose State on Oct. 26.

“I felt that we needed to make a change at this time to give our football team and the young men on it the best opportunity to win our remaining four regular-season games,” Christensen said on Oct. 29.

But the bleeding didn't stop, and the Cowboys lost three of their next four by large margins.

Wyoming dealt with off-the-field distractions during the 2013 season as well. After the season-opening 37-34 defeat at No. 18 Nebraska, former UW President Robert Sternberg agreed to a contract with consulting firm Collegiate Sports Associates, instructing the firm to evaluate the competitiveness of the football and men's basketball programs.

The final report, delivered on Nov. 1 and made public on Nov. 4, highlighted a "pervading opinion that 'good enough is good enough' in football and basketball. Thus, there is not a sense of urgency and accountability that accompanies programs with high expectations for competitive success."

However, the report also gave a firm vote of confidence for Wyoming's head coaches, Christensen included.

"The Athletics Director and head football and basketball coaches are highly competitive veterans that know and understand their respective jobs, have the experience and expertise to carry them out, and are passionate about their programs and University of Wyoming," the report stated.

Following his team's season-ending defeat at Utah State on Saturday, Christensen said Wyoming isn't far from turning things around. His players stressed the need to assess themselves to improve.

“I think everybody has to do a little bit of self-evaluation, and just continue to work and continue to try our best to get better and learn from it," Smith said. "I think that’s what we’re going to do.”

Sophomore defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, who finished with team highs in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (6.5), said all the Cowboys need is more time.

“I feel like we just have to keep working and growing as individuals and players. There’s nothing wrong with the program," Yarbrough said. "I feel like we just have to keep growing and developing, and it’ll all come together.”

When asked after the game if he'll be Wyoming's head coach next season, Christensen smiled and calmly replied, "As far as I know."

Less than a day later, the "Christensen Era" in Laramie officially came to a close.

Burman said a new coach can jump-start a new era of winning.

“Wyoming football has been successful at many periods in our history,” Burman said. “When you combine that great tradition with the investment we’ve made in developing outstanding football facilities that are among the best not only in our conference but in the West, we believe that we can achieve great success again.”

Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Mike.Vorel@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.

(21) comments

Triple BB

Whoever is running things above Tom Burman needs to fire his sorry azz. That guy can't pick a winning coach to save his backside and all he's good for is wasting money. Get rid of Tom Burman.!!!

Kool Kat

Fire Burman and recall Christensen


Dave please take Tommy with you! We need an AD who can take us to the next level, Tom has proven he is not that guy. Remember when he hired a search firm, paid $35,000 and we got Schroyer?Remember when he fired the winningest coach since Brandenburg?Remember when he fired Joe Glen the most popular coach since Paul Roach?Remember when our non-conference sced didn't include The N.Dakota states, UNC's and culinary schools? He is not the caliber, he does not have the connections, and he barley has much support except for his daddies friends in Laramie. If you really love Wyo like you say you do, please do is all a favor and step down


North Dakota State would destroy Wyoming.....and I'm saying that as a season ticket holder.

conservation know it all

So who is Tom's solution? Please speculate on replacements. The best QB Wyoming has ever had has 1 more year.


UW needs to drop down to the FCS level where they can compete with more in-state kids on the roster. Nuff said.

conservation know it all

You are probably right, unfortunately. It is sad to see the lack of Wyoming players on the roster.


As I stated 6 years ago..... FIRE BURMAN, and be done with it!

The Dude Abides

Interesting...between the Sternberg fiasco and the firing of Christiansen, UW's poor hiring practices have cost the university over $2 million dollars in this past month. It's obviously time to raise the tuition again...and let's not replace those retiring professors...and heck, a fifth year of frozen UW salaries should do wonders for morale. My granddaddy had it right: "Democrats take your money and give it to the poor, while Republicans take your money and give it to the rich."


The anti-Burman people are probably correct here. I'm sure Burman realizes his job is toast if the next coach isn't a winner. But make no mistake; all these coaches work their butts off to built a winning program. They simply can't recruit blue chippers to come to Laramie. Once in a while we get lucky and land a quality player like Brett Smith but not often. And why would a hot-shot coach want to come to Wyoming for a mere $190,000? Shoot, there are graduate assistants in the SEC who make a great living. Bottom line: money. If we want to compete on the field then we'd better compete in the pocketbook. If not, then drop down to the FCS.

Kool Kat

Wells written comment, pokesnbroncos, it is not that Christensen is a bad coach or a great coach (whom I happen to like). But, a coach - any coach - trying to recruit to a community that shows little regard towards college sports. Is a program of the past not the future.
I agree with many shouting for Burman's resignation or termination, it starts with the AD, then works down. After all, it is the AD;s decision on who to fire and who to fire, and when to hire/fire.
The next Wyoming Football Head Coach had better have "extra-sensory-perception" when taking that job in a scuz hole like Laramie. By using mental telepathy to change the hearts of the bad attitudes in and around Laramie.
Then use that same ability to mentally convince quality athletes to come to a windy and often cold Laramie to play outside. Burman would have to find that coach in Las Vegas and bribe either Siegfried or Roy.
Then announce having a brain-storm session over the CSA report and adjust in accordance to its report.. I think at that time, we'd see a MWC Champ rise with a couple BCS wins, and heavily recruited by the PAC12 or Big12.


Okay, I will say it. Wyoming should do their very best to get into the Big Sky Conference. The Cowboys have no business thinking they can compete with the really big boys while they could compete each and every year for the d2 championship. We cannot recruit even a 3 star athlete to the football program, much less the top tier kids but we can compete every day with the Montana and Lehigh teams. If we don't we can just go on being the crummy little team that the big schools pay off for the victory each pre season. We will never have the money to beat Ohio State or UCLA, and if we accidentally did they would just call it the fluke of the year so why not get in a league we can be the winner of. Everyone knows I'm right here so let's get with the program, It will be better for all of us


Unfortunately......"murrykins" has hit the nail on the head here. Low population in the state, Laramie located in the far SE corner of the state, 7220 feet in elevation, windy, and very cold....not many "Blue Chips" wants to play in this situation. We go out and get unranked players, a few one star atheletes, and on occation a few 2 stars.......and we hope and pray that they are "sleepers" and will develope into quality 3-5 stars...etc. etc......and unfortunately it just doesn't happen. If we moved down to FCS status we would be more competitive.....this will put more people in the stands if we are actually WINNING games. We can still keep CSU on the schedule as a non-conference game............maybe we can then sign more instate players like CKIA stated above.


At some point, in this never ending cycle of coaching failures the person doing the hiring needs to be held accountable. So hold Burman accountable.

As much as I hate to say it, WY should take a hard look at becoming an FCS school. We can't compete with the big boys especially in football. We would be hard pressesd to compete with the upper level FCS schools. We do need to remember we won't get D-1 recruits but maybe we are getting that many now.

Seymore Butts
Seymore Butts

Wyoming should just drop down a division and call it a day. Not FBS material.


I like Mr. Burman, but he needs to hold himself responsible for this mess. Coach Dave had to go, granted, but there should be a limit as to how much buyout money is paid out. A half-million dollars, whether in state or out, is pretty high. Coach Dave will make more money as an assistant at a D-1 school anyway. It will be interesting to see who we get. One thing is for sure, Tom needs to go!

Cody Coyote

What took them so long ?

If it only takes four months to run off a UW President without even trying very hard, why was coach Christiansen still drawing a UW paycheck after a couple seasons ?

I agree with most of the posters here. Shoulda been a " two fer ". Fire Burman , too....


I completely disagree with the comments that Wyoming is incapable of success in the MWC or division 1. All those comments fall inline with the audit that our culture is "Good enough, is good enough". In fact it supports a culture that says "bad is good enough".

The bottom line is athletes want to succeed. If you are dedicated to success, you can recruit, motivate, build excitement and execute. Build a program that shows anything less then excellent is unacceptable. How do you get there...we have a good start with great facilities. Now start paying your staff at levels that shows just how dedicated we are to athletics. Let your recruits see that you are willing to be the best by paying your coaches. Then set the expectation with your new coaching staff.

I believe Sternberg was on the right track...but we fired him.


Let Tommy Boy go , before we have this same conversation in five years-- We dedicated pokes fans can hang ,but every 10 years or so we would like to have our players suceed. So we will bank on Tommy Boy's decesion again, for another 5 years.Saddle up


I believe we all agree Burman's job is on the line with the next football coach he hires. I'm not sure he'd be willing to take a pay cut, but former USC interim coach Ed Orgeron seems to be one of those no-nonsense kind of guys with a proven track record. Again, money is going to be a problem. Wish I would win the darn lottery so I could toss some cash into solving this problem.

conservation know it all

USC was rumored to offer to pay Orgeron $1,000,000 as assistant head coach, Christenson's total compensation was $1,200,000. The $190,000 figure you mentioned earlier was Chirstenson's portion of salary paid by State funds.

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