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Coach of the Year award could pay off for university

Photo courtesy of Tyler Shomaker.
John Wristen (middle), head coach for the ThunderWolf football team, is currently in fourth place for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award. Photo courtesy of Tyler Shomaker.

Kara Mason

Colorado State University-Pueblo may have the best football coach in NCAA Division II athletics, and that could lead to a big pay off for the university’s Alumni Association.

John Wristen, head coach for the Thunderwolf football team, is currently in fourth place for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award. The award includes a $20,000 grant to the alumni association of the school with the winning coach and a $50,000 donation to a non-profit of the coach’s choosing.

Tracy Samora, director of Alumni Relations, said if Wristen wins, the association would like to use the money to help provide more scholarships for students.

“We’ve decided that three fourths would be earmarked for scholarships,” Samora said. Currently, the association sponsors one scholarship per year, and the $20,000 would help build the endowment fund, which would allow for more scholarships in the future.

The association is also considering using the money for a museum area in the Occhiato University Center. The area would either be incorporated into the center’s renovations, which will begin in February, or be in the form of an electronic kiosk.

“That’s kind of our pie-in-the-sky dream,” Samora said.

When Wristen made it into the top 15 two years ago, the association had planned to use the money for events and to build a discount program for alumni. Since then, the association has received a budget increase, which allowed those proposals to take place.

In addition to the $20,000 that would be granted to the association, the St. Mary Corwin Breast Center for Excellence would receive $50,000. Wristen originally chose the non-profit two years ago, and has chosen to stick with it.

The organization works closely with the athletic department. Each sport has a pink-out game where proceeds benefit the breast center. Additionally, St. Mary Corwin provides medical attention, specifically orthopedic surgeons, to CSU-Pueblo’s athletes.

Rochelle Wristen, director of public relations at the hospital and wife to coach Wristen, said the $50,000 would help create a physical location for the breast center. All of the center’s programs are in place, but don’t have an actual home.

To win the title of Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year, a coach has to first be voted into the top 15 by fans. Ten coaches are selected from Division I schools and the other five are chosen from the remaining three divisions. The fan votes account for 20 percent of the selection process.

Then, a committee of 57 individuals formed by Liberty Mutual evaluates the finalists. Liberty Mutual says the committee considers excellence both on and off the field, sportsmanship, integrity and responsibility. This is the most important part of the selection process with a 55 percent weight toward the final determination.

If a coach or his staff has any major infractions or integrity violations, they are automatically ineligible, the award website says.

The remaining 25 percent comes from 19 national media votes.