COLUMBIA — Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen showed up at the Tigers’ football offices Monday wearing a tan shirt and dark brown pants.
Those are the colors at the University of Wyoming, where Christensen interviewed for the Cowboys’ vacant head coaching position during the weekend. Sunday, the Casper Star-Tribune first reported that Christensen had been offered the job, and that he had accepted.
On the Big 12 Conference coaches’ weekly teleconference, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel confirmed that Christensen was the new Wyoming coach, and would leave Columbia after the Tigers completed their bowl game. A post on the Wyoming athletic Web site also says that Christensen “has been selected as the new head coach of the Cowboys,” reporting that, with incentives, he could earn about $750,000 a year.
But despite the wardrobe revealing his intentions, his current boss giving his blessing publicly and the reports, Christensen acted as if he was only a candidate for the Cowboys’ job, not their next coach.
“I have not signed any contract with Wyoming, so I cannot comment at this point in time,” he said. “Nothing is etched in granite yet.”
But at this point, it appears to be a mere formality that Christensen will sign a contract and replace Joe Glenn as the Cowboys’ new coach. The only question is when that will occur.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported Sunday that Christensen might return to Laramie, Wyo., to formally sign a contract and meet with Wyoming media on Monday. But at 4:30 p.m., Christensen was still in Columbia, and he said he had spent the past three hours “in the darkroom” watching film of the Oklahoma Sooners, Missouri’s opponent on Saturday in the Big 12 championship game.
“I have an obligation here to the University of Missouri, to our players and to this program,” Christensen said. “It’s very, very important to me to make sure everything’s finished out at Missouri, and that I give my absolute best to help this football team win the next two football games.
“The university, the program, the kids, coach Pinkel have been so good to me that it’s the least I could do to finish the job I have here.”
Christensen and Pinkel both said that Christensen’s departure will not be a distraction for the Tigers in their preparations for Oklahoma. Christensen is not expected to leave the state of Missouri until after Saturday's game in Kansas City this weekend, and Pinkel doesn’t want any excuses for his team anyway.
All Pinkel wanted to talk about concerning Christensen was how proud he was of his soon-to-be former assistant.
“I’m very happy for him,” Pinkel said. “I’m very pleased that he’s getting an opportunity, I had the same opportunity 18 years ago. He’s done a tremendous job at Mizzou, he’s overcome a lot of adversity. I wish him all the luck.”
The feeling was mutual among the Missouri players, who recognized what Christensen’s departure for a head coaching position meant to their program.
“It means a lot, it means that people want what this program has,” tight end Chase Coffman said. “It’s success that we have, and they want it at their program. Just being able to have our coaches go out and do that, it gives them a great opportunity. It says a lot for our program that we’re making great coaches here. They do a great job, and I hope the best for him.”
Christensen has interviewed for head coaching jobs in previous years, including last season, when he was a finalist for the Washington State job, which went to Paul Wulff. He was considered a candidate for the job at the University of Washington before he agreed to become the Cowboys’ coach.
Christensen said that he was content at Missouri and would have remained content had he stayed in Columbia, but he wanted to be a head coach.
“It’s just an opportunity to have a chance to run your own program and advance my career,” he said. “When a great opportunity presents itself, it probably doesn’t matter what field you’re in, you’re going to look at your options.”
Like Missouri, Wyoming is the only Division I-A program in its state, and Christensen thinks the task of rebuilding the Cowboys will be similar to what he and Pinkel did at both Missouri and Toledo.
“It’s a great state that has a lot of rich football tradition,” he said of Wyoming. “They’ve got great administrative staff and support. They’ve got great kids, blue-collar kids that work hard. They’ve got the resources to be successful, and I think it’s going to be a great job.”
That didn’t make leaving the program where he has spent eight years any easier.
“I’ve been with Gary since 1980, so we’ve been together a long time,” Christensen said. “I’ve spent more time with him than I have with my parents. Anytime you’ve been with somebody that long, it certainly will be different.”
If the Tigers’ future schedule does not change, it will be even more different for Christensen in 2011. Currently, on Sept. 17, 2011, he is scheduled to return to Columbia with his Cowboys as the visiting coach. Missouri will then visit Wyoming the next year.
BRIDGES SIDELINED: Missouri cornerback Castine Bridges will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Bridges was helped off the field late in the third quarter of Saturday's 40-37 loss to Kansas. Coach Gary Pinkel said Bridges, a senior, is unlikely to return in time for the team's bowl game.
"They think it's significant," Pinkel said. "It's unfortunate. He's done a lot for our program, so that's certainly going to be a loss."
Tru Vaughns, a senior, went on the depth start as the replacement starter for the Tigers' Big 12 championship game Saturday night against Oklahoma.