With this week’s news that former Wisconsin football coach Gary Anderson has accepted the same position at Oregon State, all eyes and ears will be focused on Badgers’ AD Barry Alvarez’s search.
And that search very well could lead to Pitt head coach Paul Chryst.
If offered the job, for Chryst the decision should be a no-brainer. He should be on the first flight to Madison and not think twice about doing so.
There’s nothing wrong with a coach like Chryst leaving Pitt for what is perceived as his dream job.
Chryst is a Wisconsin boy, who could have the opportunity to return not only to his home, but his alma mater as well. He was a three-year football letterman as a quarterback at Wisconsin and earned his degree in 1988. Opportunities like that don’t come by often for a football coach and this time, unlike two years ago, it will be hard for Chryst to pass up the opportunity, especially since he could be going to a better program.
The real question in all of this, coming from the Wisconsin perspective, is has Chryst done enough as a head coach at Pitt to make him one of Wisconsin’s top candidates.
By hiring Chryst, Alvarez knows he will have stability in terms of a head coach. If Chryst ends up taking that job, he will be around for a long time.
The question here though is Alvarez ready to sacrifice wins and losses for stability?
Chryst just finished his third season at Pitt and has gone 19-19 with the Panthers. That record comes with some bad losses mixed in and also playing in an average ACC. The pluses here is that at Wisconsin Chryst would have better all-around talent and the Big 10 is just as average of a conference as the ACC, so at least on paper he should be able to do a pretty good job in Madison.
Before taking the Pitt job, Chryst spent seven seasons as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator under both Alvarez and Bret Bielema. He had been considered a serious candidate for the job two years ago, but since Alvarez had helped him get the Pitt job only a year earlier, Alvarez didn’t feel comfortable trying to lure him away so soon.
That may not be the case this time around.
The negative here for Chryst is that 19-19 is still 19-19 and that doesn’t jump out as a head coach that should be a hot candidate for many jobs.
Because of that, you can expect names like Dave Doeren (Wisconsin’s former defensive coordinator), Bo Pelini, Greg Schiano and others, who have had a better track record as a head coach.
There will also be names that haven’t had head coaching experience like Dave Aranda (Wisconsin’s current defensive coordinator), Pat Narduzzi, Darrell Bevell and plenty of others who have been waiting for the right opportunity.
However Chryst will likely be at the top of the list despite his lack of success as a head coach.
If he is offered the job, and I see no way that he turns it down, the Pitt program will suffer once again.
You can say what you want about the lack of success on the field, but Chryst has been in town only three years and it was going to take a lot longer than that to turn this Pitt program around to begin with.
He’s starting to get some talent in town and it would be a shame to see Pitt have to start over once again.
If Chryst leaves, so does most of his incoming recruiting class, which is a bigger deal than people like to think.
There’s also the Steve Pederson issue.
If Chryst leaves and the Panthers are stuck looking for their fifth head coach since 2010, then Pederson likely has to follow Chryst out the door as well. He is linked to all these hires and the Panthers simply can’t keep dealing with this coaching carousel.
Chryst’s potential exit should mean it is time to start over at the top as well. The big issue here for Pitt isn’t as much Chryst leaving as it is Pederson being the guy to hire a new coach.
At the end of the day, Chryst to Wisconsin makes perfect sense.
There’s a better than average chance that Chryst was very interested in the Wisconsin job the first time it opened up. The timing was horrible and he kept silent on the issue for days before issuing a statement.
The timing isn’t so horrible this time around.
The one thing that Pitt can do to try and keep Chryst in town is to offer him a contract extension now. However not many coaches get extensions after posting 19-19 records. But that’s a road that the Panthers will have to go down eventually next year with Chryst, so it wouldn’t be the craziest idea to see them do something now.
If Chryst’s phone rings, and that is still a big if that it will, you can’t fault him for listening. If someone called and offered you the job that you considered your dream job, you would pick up the phone as well.
There’s nothing wrong with that, nor is there anything wrong with Chryst packing his bags for Madison when he hangs up that phone.
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