Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 12, 2014

In less than 48 hours, it appears Wisconsin lost and gained a coach in a stunning turn of events for one of the Big Ten?s premier programs. Gary Andersen shocked the Badger Nation when he bolted for the Oregon State job on Wednesday. Now, Wisconsin is expected to tab Pitt coach and native son Paul Chryst to assume command, according to multiple media reports including this one from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The school isn't expected to make an announcement today but Chryst is a familiar face for Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who probably wanted to hire someone he knew personally. He also wanted someone who understood the program after getting burned by hiring an outsider in Andersen.


Reports say Andersen yearned to be out West, where his roots are planted. He also supposedly was irked by rigid admissions standards. Whatever the reason for Andersen?s hasty and stunning departure less than a week after leading the Badgers to the Big Ten title game, Chryst is on board to quell the waters for a program he knows well.

Update: The school issued this statement from Alvarez on Friday morning.

?We are continuing the process of finding our new head football coach. We have not offered the position to anyone. In accordance with University of Wisconsin hiring policies, the earliest we could make an offer to a candidate is Wednesday, Dec. 17. Any accepted offer would be contingent upon approval by the UW System Board of Regents.?

Chryst was born for this job, a native of Madison, Wis., and former Badger quarterback (1986-88) who also was an assistant for Wisconsin on two occasions.

Chryst first stint in Madison was in 2002 as tight ends coach under Alvarez. Chryst returned in 2005 to serve as offensive coordinator until 2011 before landing the head coaching job at Pitt.

He always has been considered a bit of coaching prodigy, advancing quickly up the ranks and often being a hot commodity. The 49-year-old Chryst worked in the NFL as a tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers (1999-2001) and as offensive coordinator for Wisconsin-Platteville (1993), Illinois State (1995) and Oregon State twice (1997-1998) and 2003-04) under Mike Riley, who recently took the Nebraska job. Chryst even has coached in the CFL.

Chryst pushed the buttons on some good offenses in Madison, first under Alvarez (2005) and then under Bret Bielema (2006-11), helping the program reach the Rose Bowl after the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Chryst?s 2005 attack established school single-season standards for scoring average (34.3 ppg) and points (446), as the Badgers tallied at least 40 points six times that season. Chryst?s offense kept clicking the next season in helping Wisconsin finish 12-1 in Bielema's debut.

Chryst reportedly was wooed by the Dallas Cowboys to be offensive coordinator late in his Wisconsin tenure. He also supposedly was a target for the head coaching job at Minnesota before Tim Brewster was hired in 2007 and at Purdue before Danny Hope was hired as head-coach-in-waiting in 2008.

Chryst eventually left Wisconsin, landing the head coaching job at Pitt in 2012. But he didn?t have great success in the Steel City, going 19-19 overall and 10-13 in ACC play in three seasons with three bowl bids for a program often in coaching tumult. Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood and Todd Graham all were hired or coached full-time for the Panthers since 2010 before Chryst arrived.

Wisconsin was rocked by the departure of Andersen to Oregon State, just two years after Bielema shocked the program by abruptly bolting for Arkansas. Andersen went 19-7 overall and 13-3 in the Big Ten in two seasons. Bielema went 68-24 overall and 37-19 from 2006-12.

This is a stable program that has been among the best in the Big Ten in recent years. Bielema led the program to three consecutive Rose Bowl bids from 2010-12. Andersen took Wisconsin to the Big Ten West title this season before losing 59-0 to Ohio State. The Badgers subsequently earned a bid to the Outback Bowl to play Auburn, a game in which Alvarez will coach.

Chryst will inherit a roster that?s primed for continued success. Quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will be back, along with running back Corey Clement and over half of the defense. The offensive line must be fortified with guards Dallas Lewallen and Kyle Costigan gone along with tackle Rob Havenstein.

Bottom line: Chryst should be able to hit the ground running with big success, as this team may be the pick to win the West in 2015.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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