Jan. 11, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. - Todd Graham announced Friday.
Thomsen was previously hired by coach Graham in December 2011 as an assistant coach, but Thomsen left ASU the following February to become the offensive line coach at Texas Tech. He took over as the Red Raiders' interim head coach two days after Tommy Tuberville resigned to take the head coaching job at Cincinnati.
"Chris has proven himself at all levels of college football and now he has a chance to show the rest of the Pac-12 what he is capable of," coach Graham said. "I'm really looking forward to having Chris back on our staff and I can't wait to see what he has in store for our running game next season."
Thomsen will inherit a Sun Devil running backs group that averaged more than 200 rushing yards per game this past season, which ranked second in the Pac-12. Its 2,669 total rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground were both third-most in the conference in 2012.
The team's 205.3 rushing yards per game is the second-best mark in ASU history in the past 25 seasons, and junior Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster, who both earned All-Pac-12 recognition, will return in 2013. Grice led the team with 1,104 all-purpose yards, including 679 rushing yards and 425 receiving yards, and Foster ranked second with 1,026 all-purpose yards.
Grice finished the season with 19 touchdowns, including 11 rushing and eight receiving, to rank third on the school's single-season scoring list. He collected 315 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the team's final two contests, including 156 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Territorial Cup win over Arizona, and was named the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Offensive MVP after rushing for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Foster, who earned Freshman All-America honors, was one of six true freshmen in ASU history to start the first game of his career. His 38 receptions and 533 receiving yards are the second-most receptions and receiving yards, respectively, by a freshman in a season in school history.
Prior to his first stint at ASU, Thomsen spent the previous seven seasons as head coach of the Division II Abilene Christian Wildcats, From a 4-6 debut in 2005, Thomsen led the Wildcats to a 47-15 record over the final six seasons and six straight trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs. His final record at ACU over seven seasons was 51-21.
Thomsen turned the ACU program into a perennial contender under his watch, winning the Lone Star Conference South Division Coach of the Year award four times. He led the Wildcats to an undefeated regular season in 2010 and twice won 11 games. ACU, in fact, is one of just four programs in the country 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.) in that elite category.
Before 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. For his efforts, Thomsen was voted the LSC South Division Coach of the Year four times in his seven seasons in the league. Known for his high-powered offenses at ACU, Thomsen's tenure is perhaps most famous for the 2008 NCAA Division II playoff game against rival West Texas A&M, when the two teams combined to break 45 NCAA Division II records in a 93-68 Abilene Christian victory. That season, ACU led the NCAA in yards per game (558.8) and points per game (52.3) and scored at least 40 points 11 times and at least 36 points in all 13 contests
In 2007, ACU had one of the nation's most prolific offenses, ranking first in NCAA Division II football in scoring (49.2 ppg), second in total offense (544.8 ypg) and sixth in passing offense (314.0 ypg). The Wildcats also led the nation in fewest sacks allowed (eight in 13 games).
While at ACU, the two-time AFCA Region IV Coach of the Year 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.
Before becoming the head coach at Abilene Christian, Thomsen served two seasons as offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Central Arkansas. He began his coaching career in 1994 as a graduate assistant at ACU before spending two seasons as the offensive line coach and one as the defensive line coach. He was named the Wildcats' offensive coordinator in 1998, spending two seasons in that position. After spending two seasons away from football, he got back into coaching in 2001, spending two years at offensive coordinator at Wichita Falls High School before joining Central Arkansas.
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. He was TCU's Male Athlete of the Year in 1991. Thomsen went on to play for two seasons in Oakland's minor league system. After retiring from baseball, he returned to the college gridiron, playing one season at ACU. He was a First Team All-Lone Star Conference tight end for the Wildcats, earning Second Team All-American honors. 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.
Pending the contingent completion of his human resources paperwork, Thomsen will begin his tenure immediately at Arizona State.