Wisconsin Football: Top 5 Candidates to Replace Bret Bielema
In a shocking move nobody could see coming, current Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema will leave the Badgers for the same position at the University of Arkansas according to a report by Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports.
The news was greeted with mixed emotions, with many Razorback fans excited at the prospect of bringing in a coach with three straight Rose Bowl appearances, while a majority of Wisconsin fans aren't sad to see Bielema bolt from Madison.
Who coaches the Badgers in the Rose Bowl is a different story, as it appears Bielema is no longer an option (h/t Adam Hoge). Perhaps Barry Alvarez will come down from his AD position and coach the team (h/t Rick Pizzo)?
Details continue to surface by the second, but for now, let's take a look at the top 5 candidates Wisconsin should be considering to replace Bielema.
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The offensive mastermind who helped develop the dominant Wisconsin offenses before his departure after last season, and the current Pitt head coach, is perhaps the No. 1 option to replace Bielema.
Chryst coached the Panthers to a 6-6 record in his first season at Pitt, nearly pulling off an upset in South Bend against the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
From 1986-88, Chryst played quarterback for the Badgers and he was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2005-11. He was also the tight ends coach in 2002 under Barry Alvarez and is a native of Madison.
Not only does Chryst have all these ties to Wisconsin, but he also helped bring high school 4-star quarterback recruit Bart Houston to the Badgers and was instrumental in convincing Russell Wilson to transfer to Wisconsin in 2011.
Houston decided to remain committed to Madison despite Chryst's departure. It would be interesting to see the two reunite and how it would affect the quarterback situation heading into the 2013 season.
UPDATE: Chryst announced shortly after 8:00 p.m. ET that he is "committed to the Pitt football program and the University of Pittsburgh" (h/t Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
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Another man with Wisconsin ties, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell played quarterback for the Badgers and led them to a Rose Bowl victory in 1994 over UCLA.
Since then, Bevell has gone on to put together an impressive coaching pedigree, including time as a coach on the offensive side of the ball with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and now in Seattle.
Bevell has expressed interest in returning to Madison one day, the place where he helped bring the Badgers to national prominence as a player (h/t Dave Heller). Whether or not he is ready for a move to the college game, a level he hasn't coached at since 1999 with Connecticut, is another story.
Either way, he is a legitimate option that athletic director Barry Alvarez should look into as he delves into his coaching search.
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Fresh off a thrilling MAC Championship victory over Kent State, Dave Doeren recently accepted the head coaching position at NC State after leading Northern Illinois to a 23-4 record in two seasons.
Prior to his time with the Huskies, Doeren was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and was with the school from 2006-10 as a coach who also worked with the linebackers. Even though Doeren just took the job with the Wolfpack, it's possible he didn't officially sign his deal with his new school.
His work as a defensive coordinator, and in his short time at Northern Illinois, shows that Doeren is a proven winner, and he is also a year younger than Bret Bielema at 41 years of age.
All things considered, it could be a bit of a long shot for Doeren to return to Madison, and even since his departure, Wisconsin has maintained a relatively strong defense, in part thanks to the next man on this list.
UPDATE: A source close to Doeren told ESPN.com that Doeren is not a candidate to take over the head coaching position at Wisconsin (h/t Adam Rittenberg).
Other names that have recently come up are Jacksonville's associated head coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who played under Barry Alvarez in the mid 90s, Boise State's Chris Petersen according to a source (h/t Jeff Potrykus of jsonline.com), Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, a former assistant at Wisconsin who was also born in Madison (per a source), Western Kentucky's Willie Taggert (per SBNation), and Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
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The co-defensive coordinator along with Charlie Partridge, Chris Ash is in his third season with the Badgers.
Ash and Partridge have done an excellent job of keeping the Wisconsin defense near the top of the Big Ten after Dave Doeren left to take over the head coaching vacancy at Northern Illinois. Partridge would also be an option to replace Bielema, but reports have indicated that Partridge will follow Bielema to Arkansas (h/t Ken LaVicka ESPN760).
That leaves Ash as one of the longest tenured coaches in Wisconsin despite only being in his third season with the Badgers, which is in large part due to the coaching overhaul Wisconsin underwent following the Badgers' Rose Bowl appearance last season.
Ash could very well be named the interim head coach for the Rose Bowl game. That is, unless he follows Doeren to NC State.
By hiring Ash, Wisconsin wouldn't be getting a proven winner, but it would be keeping the head coach in house who is young with a defensive mindset.
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The only one of the top head coaching options without ties to Wisconsin, Miami (FL) head coach Al Golden might be looking for a safe haven to land at with the ongoing allegations in Miami.
Golden's Hurricanes were banned from bowl play the past two seasons due to the Nevin Shapiro Ponzi scheme, and yet Golden was still able to lead Miami to a tie for first in the ACC Coastal Division, which would have led to the Hurricane's first ACC Championship Game appearance since 2004.
Prior to taking over at Miami, Golden helped rebuild the football program at Temple. Golden is only 43 years old, and luring him to a school that already has a winning environment in place would be an interesting prospect.
This suggestion comes out of left field, but he could certainly be someone on Barry Alvarez's radar. Perhaps a more realistic candidate who could land in the top five, with Chryst seemingly out of the equation, is assistant head coach and offensive coordinator of the Pitt Panthers, Joe Rudolph.
Rudolph left Wisconsin along with Chryst, but strongly considered staying in Madison, the place he played his college ball and coached from 2008-11.