Moving in on a milestone
By Eric Peterson
The Forum
Concordia football coach Jim Christopherson can vault himself into an elite class with a victory at Macalester Saturday.

A class that includes the likes of Eddie Robinson, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Tom 

Osborne, Pop Warner, Lavell Edwards, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. Itís the 200-win club.

But Christopherson Ė who recorded win No. 199 last Saturday at St. Olaf Ė said if the Cobbers beat the Fighting Scots this weekend, heíll take the victory in stride.

"If we win Saturday, when I wake up Sunday Iím probably not going to feel any different." Christopherson said. "Itís a milestone. Iíll probably enjoy it for a day or two but then you have to go on."

Christopherson might not feel any different if he hits 200 Saturday, but heíll reach a level that only 30 other coaches have been able to attain in all divisions in the history of college football (against four-year schools). Plus, Christopherson would become only the 18th coach in any division to win 200 at one school.

Christopherson said he remembers his first coaching milestone, victory No. 100, which came in convincing fashion Ė a 27-0 triumph over Mankato State in the Cobbersí 1982 homecoming game.

Christopherson took 14 years to get his first 100. One more win this season means Christopherson will have tacked on the second 100 in 15 years.

"Iíd be worried if we were getting a lot slower," Christopherson said.

But Christopherson has shown no signs of slowing down. Concordia has only suffered three losing seasons under Christopherson, who is in his 29th year.

And the Cobbers have also won two national championships and 11 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles with Christopherson at the helm.

Concordia defensive line coach Dale Hertel, who also played for Christopherson, said itís easy to see why Christopherson has been successful.

"You just have to look at everything in Jimís life," Hertel said. "Jim is very consistent. He knows the formula for winning and heís followed it."

Concordia offensive coordinator Bob Nick, who has been an assistant to Christopherson all 29 years, said Christophersonís winning formula is a simple one.

"Heís a very hard-working man," Nick said. "Heís very persistent about his program. He took over a good program and maintained it, and at times made it even better."

But Christopherson said coaches and players like Hertel and Nick have played key roles in approaching this milestone.

"It really wasnít Jim Christopherson that won 200 games," Christopherson said. "It was all those wonderful athletes and coaches and the administration that created an atmosphere for winning."

But Hertel said it is no accident Concordia has consistently had good talent. He said Christopherson is the best recruiter heís ever been around.

"Heís a great salesperson," Hertel said. "He believes in what he has to sell and he knows his product well. If you can recruit good players, it makes the Xís and Oís easier."

Christopherson has taken 29 years to fine-tune his product and build his record. And coaches who reach 200 not only have to build winning teams, they also have to build winning teams for a long period of time.

Christopherson said he has found ways to deal with the stress of coaching, which has helped his longevity.

Christopherson, 59, said he still jogs four days a week and in the summer, he spends plenty of time unwinding at his lake cabin with his family. Christopherson said he doesnít start worrying about the upcoming football season until Aug. 1.

"When he takes a vacation, he takes a vacation," Nick said. "But when it comes to time to work on football, heís totally dedicated."

So is 300 a possibility for Christopherson? He said thatís a question he canít even begin to answer.

"Iíve never looked long range," Christopherson said. "I always look at one year. People always ask me ĎWhen are going to retire?í I always say ĎLet me finish 1997 first, then Iíll decide about 1998.í Besides Iím too young to retire from work."

But when the day comes for Christopherson to step aside, he said heíll have no regrets.

"When I quit coaching I will do something else and have fun," Christopherson said. "But it will be satisfying to look back at all those great memories."

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