Interview with Wyoming Director of Athletics Tom Burman, 6-6-11
From the time Tom Burman was named Athletics Director at the University of Wyoming on Oct. 9, 2006, the Wyoming Athletics program has enjoyed some of its most memorable moments in school history. From the Wyoming Cowgirl Basketball Team capturing the WNIT National Championship in 2007 to the Wyoming Football Team's dramatic, double-overtime victory in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl, Wyoming Athletics has experienced numerous successes on and off the field of competition.
Fundraising and season-ticket sales have reached record levels in Burman's six years directing the UW Athletics Department. Numerous facility projects have also been completed under Burman's direction.
The 2011-12 season was one of the most successful in recent Cowboy and Cowgirl history. The football and men's basketball teams both earned postseason bids. Cowboy Wrestling finished 19th at the NCAA Championships -- its highest finish since 1996. Cowgirl Soccer reached the Mountain West Conference Championship game for the first time in school history, and four UW coaches earned Conference Coach of the Year honors -- Dave Christensen in football, Danny Sanchez in women's soccer, Tom Johnson in men's swimming and Mark Branch in wrestling.
In 2011-12 Wyoming once again improved its finish in the Learfield Sports Director's Cup competition, which measures each NCAA Division I University's competitive rank among its peer universities. The prior year, 2010-11, Wyoming recorded its highest rank since the 2003-04 season.
Before becoming A.D. at Wyoming, Burman had previously served as an Associate Athletics Director at UW from 1995-2000. He served as Athletics Director at Portland State University from September 2000 through March 2006. Burman returned to UW in March 2006 as Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement with the UW Foundation, before being tabbed by President Tom Buchanan as the eighth athletics director in UW history.
"I care deeply about this University, the success of UW Athletics and the well-being of our student-athletes," Burman said upon his hiring. "We will build a program that wins championships, is a source of great pride to our alumni and generates enthusiasm across the state. The future starts now."
Some of the accomplishments that have been achieved during Burman's tenure as Director of Athletics at the University of Wyoming include:
Resources dedicated toward academic success and student-athlete welfare since 2006 have increased nearly 100 percent.
University of Wyoming student-athletes posted their highest combined annual grade-point average in over a decade in the 2011-12 academic year. When combining the grade-point averages of all student-athletes from Wyoming's NCAA-sanctioned sports for the 2011-12 fall and spring semesters, UW student-athletes achieved a 3.04 grade-point average for the academic year. That ranks as the highest from the period beginning with the 2001-02 academic year. The 3.04 grade-point average also exceeded the overall UW student population GPA of 2.91 for the 2011-12 academic year.
During the 2011-12 academic year, a total of 101 UW student-athletes earned Academic All-Mountain West Conference honors. In addition, 60 student-athletes earned Mountain West Conference Scholar-Athlete honors. Senior track and field student-athlete Greg Miller became the first UW student-athlete to earn Mountain West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in the spring of 2012.
In both the 2011-12 and 2010-11 academic years, 10 out of UW's 17 athletic teams earned a cumulative team grade-point-average of 3.00 or higher.
In the most recent APR (Academic Progress Rate) information released by the NCAA in the summer of 2012, all of Wyoming's 17 sports not only exceeded the current 925 benchmark set by the NCAA but all 17 sports also exceeded 930, which is the benchmark that the NCAA is moving to in future years.
Cowboy Joe Club revenue grew from $2.1 million in 2006 to $4.2 million in 2010.
Ticket revenue has dramatically grown, including a 63 percent growth in football season tickets since 2007.
In the summer of 2011, season-ticket sales for Wyoming Football surpassed the 10,000 season-ticket mark for the first time in school history.
The overall UW Athletics Department budget grew from $21 million to over $27 million for the 2011-12 budget year.
In 2012-13, Wyoming Athletics begins the third phase of its Athletics Facility Master Plan. As a part of that third phase, fundraising has begun for a $30 million Arena-Auditorium renovation project. Also included in the third phase is a goal of building a new natatorium for the men's and women's swimming programs, and in the fall of 2012 ground-breaking took place on a new $1.2 million golf practice facility.
In the spring of 2010, UW Athletics completed a $38 million athletics facility campaign under Burman's direction as athletics director.
Burman spearheaded over $50 million in facilities projects in five years, including: construction of a new $11 million Indoor Practice Facility; construction of the Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites addition to War Memorial Stadium; extensive renovations to the east side of War Memorial Stadium; significant upgrades to the UniWyo Sports Complex for volleyball and wrestling; and completion of a new $3 million Indoor Tennis Facility that opened in the spring of 2011.
The Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites opened for the start of the 2010 football season, and features 12 luxury suites and 256 club seats. The suites were sold out months before the opening, and club seats were over 90 percent sold.
Renovations to War Memorial Stadium have focused on modernizing areas of the stadium that benefit fans, specifically new and improved concession areas, restrooms and seating.
Burman hired head football coach Dave Christensen prior to the 2009 season, which drew high marks from several national and local media reviews. Christensen led Wyoming to the 2009 New Mexico Bowl Championship, becoming the first Cowboy head coach to win a bowl game in his first season. In 2011, the Cowboys returned to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl with an 8-5 record. It was the first time that Wyoming had earned two bowl bids in a three-year period since 1988-90. The Cowboys' fourth consecutive victory over archrival Colorado State in the fall of 2012 marked the first time that had been accomplished since 1970-71. Christensen earned Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in 2011. Following the season Burman negotiated and signed Christensen to a contract extension that runs through December of 2016.
In the spring of 2011, Burman lured Larry Shyatt away from his position as Associate Head Coach at the University of Florida to return to Laramie and take over as head coach of Cowboy Basketball. Shyatt had been part of two National Championships with the Gators and had previously served as Wyoming's head coach in the 1997-98 season. Burman's hiring of Shyatt received numerous positive reviews, including an "A" rating from ESPN.com. Of the 19 coaching hires that ESPN.com rated, Wyoming received one of only five "A" ratings. In Shyatt's first season back at the helm of Cowboy Basketball, the Pokes posted their first 20-win season (21-12) since the 2002-03 season and earned a postseason bid to the College Basketball Invitational. Thus far in 2012-13, the Cowboys had reached the Top 25 of the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
Burman hired Mark Branch as Wyoming's new wrestling coach prior to the 2008-09 season. The former two-time national champion at Oklahoma State University, Branch led Cowboy Wrestling to a 19th-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships. That was the best finish for the Cowboys since 1996. Branch was named the Western Wrestling Conference Coach of the Year for the third time.
The 2011-12 season was a very successful one for UW Athletics. The Cowgirl Soccer team earned its first-ever appearance in the Mountain West Tournament Championship match, as head coach Danny Sanchez earned MW Coach of the Year honors. Burman hired Sanchez prior to the start of the 2008 season.
The swimming and diving programs had another successful season, with head coach Tom Johnson winning his fourth conference Coach of the Year award in 2012.
Cowgirl Tennis achieved its highest national ranking in the history of the program in 2012, reaching a high ranking of No. 56 out of over 300 women's tennis programs in the nation.
Carrie Yerty, who was hired by Burman as head volleyball coach in the summer of 2008, led the Cowgirl Volleyball team to a 21-11 record in 2012, notching its third consecutive 20-win season. That is the first time in school history that Wyoming Volleyball had recorded three consecutive 20-win seasons.
Cowgirl Basketball has achieved unprecedented success under the direction of head coach Joe Legerski. Wyoming won the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) National Championship in the 2006-07 season, defeating Wisconsin, 72-56, in the championship game in Laramie. In 2007-08, the Cowgirls earned the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. In both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Wyoming again received bids to the WNIT where it advanced to the third round both seasons.
Burman scheduled the most-anticipated event in the history of War Memorial Stadium when the No. 9 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers came to Laramie on Sept. 24, 2011, for the first time. It marked only the second time that a Big Ten team appeared in Laramie and followed a 2009 appearance by the Texas Longhorns.
Burman also negotiated the 2009 appearance of the No. 2 ranked Texas Longhorns in War Memorial Stadium. The Longhorns made their first-ever appearance in Wyoming and went on to play for the 2009 National Championship.
In addition to Texas (2009) and Nebraska (2011), Burman has also negotiated future football contracts with Oregon (2017), Missouri (2018) and Washington State (2018) that will bring each of those teams to Laramie.
From 1997-2000, Burman was Wyoming's Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs. During that time period, he was instrumental in raising funds for the $9.4 million Rochelle Athletics Center. His first position at his alma mater was as Associate Athletics Director for Development, serving as Executive Director of the Cowboy Joe Club from 1995-97. He began his intercollegiate athletics career as Director of Marketing and Promotions (1993-95) at the University of Idaho in Moscow. From 1990-92, Burman worked as a project manager for the sports management company DeWilber & Associates in McLean, Va.
Burman earned a bachelor of science degree from Wyoming in 1988 and an M.B.A. from Robert Morris University in Coraopolis, Pa., in 1991.
Burman is 47 years old, born Jan. 4, 1966. He and his wife, Kathy, have two sons, Drew and Nathan.