The Wyoming Cowboys are not be confused with a great program, but instead are known for a school that reminds opponents they are at 7,220 feet while in Laramie, Wyo, and just OK football at times. The success at Wyoming football has also been either just above or below being an average team over the course of their history.
Outside of the terrible Vic Koenning era, which saw a 5-29 record between 2000-02, the Wyoming football team is typically winning at least four games or more per year. That is nothing great but considering Wyoming is the least populated state in the union and has maybe two FBS caliber high school players each year -- so not being just absolutely terrible is a surprise.
Over the past 30 years, Wyoming has six bowl appearances, two of those are wins, 17 non-losing seasons and only five of those seasons have seen the Cowboys have three wins or less. Again, seeing Wyoming is not historically bad each and every year is amazing; these really bad seasons occur about once or maybe twice a decade.
SB Nation's Steven Godfrey did an excellent long form story on Wyoming football a few weeks back, and he spoke with now former president Bob Stemberg about the state of the Wyoming athletics.
... Sternberg commissioned a $35,000 review of the men's basketball and football programs from an outside consulting firm.
In short, even though Sternberg insists no blame is to be laid on any one player or coach and that the move was a "systems approach" to large-scale issues, the review claims that a culture of acceptable mediocrity persists inside Wyoming's two largest revenue-generating sports.
"There were a lot of heads in the sand. People thought certain things were acceptable, and they were wrong," Sternberg tells me Sunday afternoon. "You can talk about the altitude and the cold and the distance from a particular airport, but the reality is that we're not where we want to be. It's not like this is the first year football hasn't been where we want it to be. It's a trend."
Here is that line one more time: "the review claims that a culture of acceptable mediocrity persists."
The football team has not been a complete train wreck over the years and have very few truly awful seasons and have mixed in a bowl appearance here and there, but overall they are just an OK team with very few highs or lows. So the sentiment that being average is OK or the norm is accurate.
This brings us to current head coach Dave Christensen. Compared to his predecessor, Joe Glenn, he is just slightly ahead of the former coach with two bowl appearances to just one for Glenn, and a 30-34 record in just over four seasons while Glenn finished with a 30-41 record through six full seasons.
Christensen has also struggled beating good teams, and his last win against a team with a winning record was against San Diego State back on Oct. 29, 2011.
The reason in my opinion that Christensen should be on the hot seat has less to due to with his record, since he has as many wins in almost five seasons as Glenn had in six full seasons, but it is how he is losing this year especially with the talent he has on the offensive side of the ball.
Christensen fired his defensive coordinator Chris Tormey after a pair of games where the defense gave up over 50 points, but the defense has not played any better under the newly promoted Jamar Cain. In his two game as the defensive coordinator Cain has not improved the production as the defense has allowed 48 points to both Boise State and Fresno State. Yes, those are the best teams in the Mountain West but the defense is not showing any improvement.
The firing of Tormey marks the third defensive coordinator in the Christensen era, and there is no one else left to blame if his teams keep getting blown out and the offense sputters.
The talent side of the equation is more perplexing because quarterback Brett Smith is arguably the best Wyoming quarterback to come through Laramie in a very long time. He has shown plenty of times that he is clutch and can make plays. Plus, the Cowboys have a big play wide receiver in Robert Herron, and other contributing receivers in Dominic Rufran, freshman Tanner Gentry and Jalen Claiborne; all who are having pretty good years.
The 2013 seasons started off great with some people, including myself, saying that Wyoming has the offense to compete with the best of the league, and after a few games that seemed to be the case. What appeared at the time to be an aberration by losing to Texas State; that game is now looking like the start of their current skid. The following game Wyoming needed to hold of New Mexico rally to win that game, and since then they have lost four straight games by an average score of 49.75 to 20.75. However, against San Jose State the Cowboys put up 44 points.
Losing four of five games in the fashion that Wyoming has, including getting blown out by rival Colorado State, should be a cause for concern and there is no one left to blame besides Christensen. His offense is sputtering and he changes defensive coordinators all too often, so the logical step is to look at the man in charge of the program.
By Wyoming standards Christensen would appear to be safe for at least another year, but this tailspin is unacceptable, and if this Wyoming team can not put together a win against a 0-10 Hawaii team then it makes sense to show him the door. The way Hawaii has played with a healthy running back Joey Iosefa and quarterback Sean Schroeder playing fairly well, the Warriors have a shot to win this game. Playing the Warriors are what the Cowboys need to break this slump, but nothing should be taken for granted with how Wyoming has played the past six games.
The Cowboys have been two wins away from bowl eligibility for over a month and now the only way to get to a bowl game is by getting past Hawaii and Utah State. The ironic thing is that those two games are contests that Wyoming has the ability to win and still make a bowl game. Earning a bowl bid would deem this season a success since making the post season is not a common occurrence for Wyoming, plus it would keep Christensen around.
Basically what it should come down to is if Wyoming loses to Hawaii then Christensen should be out, but if he wins Hawaii -- as he should -- then he is safe for another year.
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