A Scout's Take on New Wisconsin Badgers Head Football Coach Paul Chryst

Bob FoxContributor IDecember 20, 2014

FILE - This Dec. 28, 2010 file photo shows Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst speaking at a news conference for the Rose Bowl, where Wisconsin will face TSU, in Los Angeles. A person with knowledge of the decision says Pittsburgh has hired Chryst as its head football coach. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement has not yet been made.  (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
Nick Ut/Associated Press

This past Wednesday, athletic director Barry Alvarez welcomed former Pitt head coach Paul Chryst home and introduced him as the new head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers.

Chryst was indeed coming home, as he said in his press conference.

"I remember being a paperboy and delivering six papers to the stadium," Chryst said. "I had one of my worst wipeouts on my bike on the railroad tracks. I went down and went to heal myself at the doughnut shop right down the road.

"I remember as a kid sneaking in and playing on the field.

"This is a pretty special day."

Before Chryst became the head coach at Pitt for three years and had gotten the football program back on track (19-19 record), the Madison native had lettered for the Badgers for three years at quarterback and had been an assistant coach for seven years, including six as offensive coordinator from 2005-2011.

I believed that Chryst was a natural fit for the Badgers as their new head coach and wrote about that last week when there was rampant speculation about him coming back to the Badgers.

On Friday, I had an opportunity to talk with scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE's Steve Duemig Show.

I wanted to get Landry's take on Chryst coming back to Wisconsin to be their new head coach. He said:

"Paul Chryst was the worst-kept secret around. He was the guy that Barry [Alvarez] strongly considered, if you remember, when Bret [Bielema] left. But he had only one year at Pitt, and Paul wasn't going to do that if after just getting there at Pitt.

"Timing is everything. But there is no doubt that is a dream job for him. As you mentioned, he played at Wisconsin and he understands the landscape there. I think it's not only a good fit, but a really good coach who did a good job trying to turn around the problems that they have at Pitt."

Landry then talked about some of the obstacles that head football coaches at Wisconsin face when they take on that job.

"Overall, just a thought, it's been an issue, and we addressed it when Bret left. Here's the thing about Wisconsin, it's a great job and it's a great program. A couple of things that people ought to know that maybe they do not know, and I'm sure Bob is aware of this," he continued.

"Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue are a little bit different in terms of recruiting. They have some restrictions academically that go above and beyond the NCAA. It's very difficult to compete in that area. And it's very difficult when you are not getting paid from an assistant [coach] standpoint at a competitive level.

"Barry will tell you that they pay competitively, but Wisconsin is in the bottom 10 percent of the Big Five schools in terms of their pay to the assistants. That's a fact. I would submit to you that Wisconsin is much better than a bottom 10 percent Big Five school.

"So, I think a lot of it has been we are going to try and do it our way, and we're going to be cost-cutting, and that's fine, that's their business. But I think the program has produced a great deal. Gary [Andersen] was very classy when he said he wanted to get back to the West Coast, but the realities are that those two things had a huge factor.

"Yes, Oregon State, Corvallis, is part of the country where Gary is from, and that's convenient, but trust me when I tell you, even though it's not admitted, that the salaries for assistants and the academic requirements are two stumbling blocks, hurdles, that you have to overcome.

"Paul is willing to embrace that. I think the last two coaches got frustrated with it, Gary in a big hurry got frustrated with it."

Andy Manis/Associated Press

Time will tell if Wisconsin will pay their assistant football coaches at a higher level in the future. It's difficult to see the academic standards getting lowered.

Still, if one looks at the football program over the past 20-plus years, the success has been outstanding.

From 1990-2005, Alvarez was 118-73-4 and won three Big Ten championships and also three Rose Bowls. Overall, Barry was 8-4 in bowls, including the Rose Bowl he coached in after Bielema left for Arkansas shortly after the Badgers won the 2012 Big Ten title.

Bielema was 68-24 in seven years and the Badgers won three more Big Ten titles under him. Bielema was just 2-4 in bowl games, however.

Andersen was 19-7 in two years with the Badgers and won the Big Ten West Division this year. Andersen and the Badgers lost in the one and only bowl game he coached in. 

After Andersen left for Oregon State, it means that Alvarez will once again handle the head-coaching duties for the team as they face Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.

Bottom line, even with the obstacles that the football program at Wisconsin faces, the success overall in the past 20-plus years has been very good. As Landry said, Chryst is embracing those impediments.

And Paul should know, having been both a player and a coach at Wisconsin previously. I see Chryst getting similar, if not better results than his two predecessors as a head coach of the Badgers over the next several years.


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