Next up on our list is a name that I'm very interested in. Perhaps I'm more interested in this one than a lot of folks because I live in Denver and Denver tends to cover the Wyoming football program but I'm sure others are aware of the success that Dave Christensen is having at Wyoming and have heard his name tossed around.
Now the first thing you'll have to get over is an 11 year stint on the resume spent at a school to the East. But I encourage you to look past that because Christensen has worked on staff with a coach in Gary Pinkel who has built a program that wasn't all that much further along than Kansas when he took over. At this point I don't think you can really make a great argument for Kansas and our program over Missouri's and Pinkel has that thing rolling in a way that I think we'd all love to see in Lawrence.
But let's quit the gushing over the Tigers and move on to Dave Christensen, our next potential head coaching candidate for the University of Kansas.
Dave Christensen is a Washington native. He was born in Everett Washington and played football at the University of Washington from 1980 through 1982. This is of course where he met Gary Pinkel. Pinkel was the wide receivers coach at Washington at that time and would eventually become offensive coordinator in 1984.
While the two met in the early 80's, they wouldn't reconnect in a coaching situation for quite some time. Christensen would go on to earn his masters degree from Eastern Washington in 1988 while coaching at the high school level during that time as well. It would be the season following his graduation that he would join his Alma Mater's staff at Washington as the offensive line coach in his first major collegiate coaching gig.
Christensen would go to work for his former coach Don James who is one of the more successful head coaches in Washington's history. James was the coach at Washington from 1975 to 1992 and would win National title in 1991. Quick sidenote, James started his career as a grad assistant at Kansas in '56 and '57.
Now Christensen would only coach at Washington for one season before heading to Idaho State for two. Then we see Christensen and Pinkel reconnect at Toledo in the MAC. Yes I know we're all a little down on the MAC at the moment but plenty of good coaches have come out of the MAC, just not our last one.
Pinkel and Christensen along with much of the current Missouri staff would spent the next "decadeish" at Toledo. Christensen would start out as an offensive line coach before moving to offensive coordinator for the final seven years of that stint. During that time he Rockets' offense set or reset some 75 school records. During that period, the Rockets posted an undefeated and Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship season in 1995 and won three MAC West titles (1997, 1998 and 2000). Oddly enough, the Tigers and Christensen have become known for their spread attack and passing game, but while at Toledo they were one of the premier running teams in the country.
When Pinkel took the Missouri job in November of 2000, Christensen would join him and continue on as Pinkel's offensive coordinator. Now here's where it gets a little fuzzy because I'm not about to research Missouri football but Christensen was at Missouri until heading out to Wyoming in 2009. He coached Brad Smith and Chase Daniel and led Missouri to one of their more successful offensive stretches in school history. The only thing I will point out is that during this time Kansas split the Border War series an even 4-4.
Now in his third season at Wyoming, Christensen took over for Joe Glenn in 2009 and took over a Wyoming team that had struggled to finish above 500 for several seasons. Entering his first season Wyoming was picked to finish last(9th) in the conference and Christensen wasn't given much of a chance to make a splash in year one. Christensen finished 4-4 in the conference and 7-6 overall while winning the New Mexico bowl(glamorous yes!).
In his second season the Cowboys took a step back but they did face Boise State, TCU and Texas in 2010. All three were top 5 teams at the time. The Cowboys schedule was 5th in the nation and they were a young team finishing just 3-9.
But what Christensen has done this year is exactly the type of improvement you'd like to see from a young team that has gained that level of experience. Wyoming has one game remaining against a Colorado State team that is struggling and likely playing for a lame duck coach and if they can win that one they will finish 5-1 in the conference and 8-4 overall. That finish obviously puts them in line for a bowl game (2 in 3 years for Christensen) and gives them a 3rd place finish in the MWC behind TCU and Boise State. All in all not bad company.
There is a lot to like about Christensen and I'm sure Missouri fans will speak fairly fondly of him but you do have to look past that obvious connection which at the end of the day shouldn't be a concern with the shift in the whole Border War rivalry. I think Christensen's name is going to start popping up with a few openings in the coming weeks, I guess we'll see if Zenger likes the look of things out in Laramie and if he gives Christensen a look.