Roland Christensen Receives 2009 Outstanding Achievement Award

Former Wisconsin-La Crosse and Winona State assistant coach Roland Christensen will be the recipient of the American Football Coaches Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Christensen during the AFCA Kickoff Luncheon on January 11, 2010 at the AFCA Convention in Orlando, Florida. The AFCA Board of Trustees created the award in order to recognize AFCA members, past and present, who have achieved outstanding success while coaching football.

“I would like to know why I’m getting an award like this,” Christensen said. “I guess I don’t think I’ve done anything to merit this kind of award. I’m not trying to be modest. I’m really happy to have the award, I just hope I can live up to the people that have gotten it in the past because I know they were great.”

Christensen coached football for nearly 60 years and coached award-winning players and future professional football players while winning national honors himself. He started his collegiate coaching career at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, serving as assistant football coach and defensive coordinator for the Eagles from 1960 to 1999. He was also a full time math professor for UW-L from 1960 to 1992.

In 39 seasons, Christensen helped establish one of the best football programs in the country and helped the Eagles achieve an overall record of 261-75-7, with 14 trips to the NCAA Division III playoffs and three national titles. His defenses were ranked among the leaders of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and they were known for being a hard-hitting opponent. Christensen’s defense at UW-L was ranked as the WIAC’s top defense nine times. In the Eagles’ drive to the 1992 NCAA Division III national title, UW-L’s head coach, Roger Harring, was sidelined with heart surgery two weeks into the season. Christensen took the reigns as interim head coach and guided UW-L to its first undefeated season in 38 years with a 12-0-1 record.

In the four decades Christensen coached at UW-L, the Eagles won the WIAC Championship 14 times and finished as the WIAC runner-up 10 times. Christensen’s defense produced 45 All-Americans. Christensen has also coached defensive players who have played in the National Football League: Joel Williams (Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1989), Ric Mathias (Cincinnati Bengals, 1998) and Mike Maslowski (Kansas City Chiefs, 1999-2003). 

Before retiring, Christensen coached at Winona State University, a NCAA Division II program, from 2000 to 2007. In seven seasons with Christensen coaching the defense, Winona State won or shared the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship six times. He also helped them to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs and two seasons later, won their first playoff game. In Christensen’s final season with the Warriors, Winona State won the NSIC championship and qualified for their fifth NCAA playoff appearance.

In a letter of recommendation, Matthew J. Entz, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at Winona State University, made the following remarks about Coach Christensen: “I could never repay Coach Christensen for all the help and insight he as given me. My friendship with him is one of the most treasured items I have in life. I cannot think of a man who as an assistant coach has positively affected so many people through an unbelievable coaching career as Roland Christensen.”

In addition to winning the 2009 Outstanding Achievement Award, Christensen was honored with the 1997 AFCA Division III Assistant Coach of the Year award. In 1998, he was also inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Past Outstanding Achievement Award winners include: Tim Marcum, Tampa Bay Storm (2003); Joe Moore, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, University of Notre Dame (2005); Homer Smith, Davidson College, Pacific University, U.S. Military Academy (2006); Ted Kempski, University of Delaware (2007); and Ken Donahue, University of Alabama, University of Tennessee, University of Memphis, Mississippi State University (2008).

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