Exclusive: Interim Head Coach Chris Thomsen|
Chris Thomsen, who led Division II Abilene Christian to seven of the best years in ACU football history, was named offensive line coach at Texas Tech in February 2012 and will lead the Red Raiders to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas as interim head coach on Dec. 28 against Minnesota.
While at ACU, Thomsen helped turn the program into a national contender as he led the Wildcats to a 51-21 record during his seven seasons as head coach. He earned the Lone Star Conference South Division Coach of the Year award four times during his tenure after leading the Wildcats to the NCAA Division II playoffs six consecutive seasons. ACU is one of four schools to have reached the NCAA Division II playoffs in each of the last six seasons, joining Northwest Missouri State, North Alabama, and Albany State (Ga.).
Prior to Thomsen's arrival in 2005, ACU hadn't won a Lone Star Conference championship since 1977 and hadn't won an outright championship since 1973, but Thomsen led ACU to undisputed league crowns in 2008 and 2010, posting perfect regular seasons in both years.
While at ACU he's coached four NFL draft choices (Danieal Manning, 42nd pick, second round by the Chicago Bears in 2006; Johnny Knox, fifth-round pick by the Bears in 2009; Bernard Scott, sixth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009; Clyde Gates, fourth-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2011); an NFL Pro Bowl selection (Knox in 2009) a Harlon Hill Award winner (Scott in 2008), the award that is the NCAA Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy; and a Gene Upshaw Award winner (Sam Collins in 2008), signifying the top lineman in NCAA Division II football.
Thomsen's 2010 team not only won the LSC championship outright, but also became the first team in program history to post an 11-0 regular-season record. ACU finished the season 11-1 after losing to Central Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The 2010 Wildcats won four games against top-25 teams, including three on the road, none bigger than a 41-34 win over rival West Texas A&M on Nov. 6 in Canyon. The Wildcats rallied from 14 points down to start the fourth quarter to beat the Buffs. The Wildcats finished the season ranked seventh in the nation in total offense, ninth in passing offense, second in scoring offense, and led the nation with just eight turnovers. Thomsen was voted the LSC South Division Coach of the Year for the fourth time in six seasons.
The 2008 Wildcats also became only the second team in the program's 87-year history to finish unbeaten in the regular season (10-0, joining the 1950 team on the short list), and they also recorded at least 10 wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. ACU finished the season 11-1 after losing in the quarterfinals to Northwest Missouri State.
However, in the second round of the playoffs, the Wildcats played the greatest offensive game in school history in a 93-68 win over LSC rival West Texas A&M. The two teams combined to break 45 NCAA Division II, NCAA Division II, LSC and ACU single-game records, and the Wildcats set school and LSC records for points and yards in a game.
ACU led NCAA Division II in yards (558.8) and points (52.3) per game, and scored at least 40 points in 11 of 13 games and scored at least 36 points in all 13 games during the 2008 campaign.
Thomsen was voted the LSC South Division Coach of the Year for the third straight season, and for the second time in three seasons he was voted the American Football Coaches' Association Region IV Coach of the Year.
In the 2007-08 seasons combined, the Wildcats scored a whopping 1,267 points in 25 games (50.7 ppg) and racked up 13,772 total yards (550.9 ypg). In those 25 games, the Wildcats scored at least 40 points in 21 games, 50 or more points in 13 games, 60 or more points in four games, 70 or more points in two games and at least 90 points once.
In 2007, he led the Wildcats to the program's first 10-win season since the 1977 team went 11-1-1 on its way to the NAIA Division I national championship. ACU had one of the nation's most prolific offenses, ranking first in NCAA Division II football in scoring offense (49.2 points per game), second in total offense (544.8 yards per game) and sixth in passing offense (314.0 yards per game).
The Wildcats also led the nation in fewest sacks allowed (eight in 13 games, 0.62 sacks per game), and were fourth in fumbles lost (five). In fact, in the last two seasons they have committed just 29 turnovers (losing only eight fumbles) while creating 57 turnovers for a plus-28 turnover margin in their last 24 games. In 2006, the Wildcats started 7-0 on their way to the program's first NCAA Division II playoff appearance.
Before becoming the Wildcats' head coach, Thomsen had been an assistant at the University of Central Arkansas the previous two seasons where he served as the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bears.
Thomsen, who played high school football in Vernon, Texas, was a second team all-America as a senior at ACU in 1993 after leading Lone Star Conference tight ends in receiving with 34 catches for 426 yards and eight touchdowns. He helped the Wildcats finish 7-3 in 1993 on his way to earning first team all-LSC honors. He was named to the school's all-decade team for the 1990s.
Prior to transferring to ACU, Thomsen played football three seasons (1988-90) and baseball one season (all-America and all-Southwest Conference with 21 home runs and a .373 batting average) at TCU before being selected in the 17th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Oakland Athletics. Thomsen went on to play for two seasons in Oakland's minor league system.
In the 1991 season, Thomsen became the only TCU player in program history to hit for a home run cycle in a March 1, 1991, doubleheader against NE Louisiana. In the first game, he had an inside-the-park home run, a three-run home run and a two-run home run. In the second game he had another solo home run and a grand slam. He was 5 for 7 with five homers and 11 RBI in the doubleheader.
He went on to earn first team all-SWC and all-America honors and was also a member of the SWC Post-Season Baseball Championship all-Tournament team. He was voted the TCU Male Athlete of the Year in 1991. He earned a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from TCU in December 1993 and received his master's in secondary education from ACU in 2000.
After his playing career was finished at ACU, Thomsen joined the Wildcats' coaching staff in 1994, first as a graduate assistant and then working his way up to offensive line coach, recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator, and, finally, assistant head coach. In 1998, the Wildcats finished 18th in the nation in passing under the direction of Thomsen, who was the offensive coordinator.
He left ACU after the 1999 season to go into private business, but got back into coaching in 2001, when he served as the offensive coordinator at Wichita Falls (TX) High School for two seasons. The Coyotes won back-to-back district titles and led the district in scoring both years (34 points per game in 2001 and 42 in 2002). The Coyotes, in fact, set the school's single-season record for most points in a season in 2002, and the quarterback set the school's single-season record for touchdown passes.
Thomsen moved on to Central Arkansas in 2003 where he served as the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. In 2003 he coached an offensive line that opened the holes for the leading rusher in the Gulf South Conference. In 2004 the Bears were an offensive juggernaut, ranking in the top 10 in NCAA Division II football in points per game (38.1) and yards per game (477.7).
Thomsen and his wife, LeAnn, reside in Lubbock.