Saturday, January 28

Wisconsin Football: Five Burning Questions following the firing of Paul Chryst


Wisconsin football parted ways with Head Coach Paul Chryst in the midst of his 8th season at the helm. Many think the change was needed but now the Badgers venture into somewhat uncharted waters. In those waters, you and many others likely have a lot of questions about what is next. Here are the ones that have been most on my mind.

Was this solely Chris Mcintosh’s call or were boosters pushing for change?

Just last week Athletic Director Chris Mcintosh did not sound like he was going to make any rushed decisions and a week later Paul Chryst was out as Head Coach. If Mcintosh thought this was the best move for the football program I give him credit for making the decision, sticking to it, and executing it right away but I wonder just how much other people were at play in making this decision.

Obviously, boosters are always involved in these type of decisions as buyouts are usually a huge piece of the puzzle that needs to be figured out but I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to know if Chris Mcintosh wanted to make this change or if he was guided to that decsion by outside factors. I’d imagine it’s probably a bit of both but this is something I have been wondering about since the announcement Sunday night.

New Mexico State v Wisconsin

Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

2. Is Jim Leonard’s interim tag a moot point?

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has taken over as Wisconsin football’s Interim Head Coach but is that interim tag just a placeholder? We will have to wait and see. To me, it feels like it is. Making this change this early in the season does allow Wisconsin to give Leonhard a trial run to see what he can do, but he isn’t really set up for success at this juncture.

Leonhard now has the tall task of managing a lot of different things outside of the X’s and O’s of coaching the defense. He’ll now have to manage a locker room that is likely upset, a coaching staff that is a little uneasy, and the recruiting world which will now bring a lot more questions from both commits and prospects. That’s a tough thing to have to try and do, especially on an interim basis, while also winning games. It will be interesting to see what Mcintosh’s expectations are and whether Leonhard is already “the guy” or if this gets to a true coaching carousel at some point. To me, I think Leonhard already has this all but locked up but nothing would shock me at this point.

3. What other coaches are on the hot seat?

Whether it be Leonhard or someone else in the long term they’ll have the responsibility of assembling a staff that they feel can give them the most success. To me, there will now have to be some tough calls on who sticks around from the staff side.

Now if Wisconsin hires a new Head Coach, say, Lance Leipold, he’ll likely be bringing his own staff with him which means this current staff is likely out. However, if Leonhard is in fact the guy you likely have less turnover but you can’t just let Paul Chryst go and move on with everyone else. Chryst was not the only issue at play.

Offensive Coordinator Bobby Engram was just brought in this off-season but if Leonhard has other names in mind to run an offense you’ve got to make that change and give him his shot to hire his staff. Leonhard has worked with many of these guys for many seasons so it will be interesting to see who else might stick around.

Obviously, you can’t scrap an entire staff in week 6 but it will be interesting to see who remains on staff after 2022. Paul Chryst was responsible for a lot of these hirings and if you were comfortable letting him after the success he had others have to be going too. Frankly, it would be a failure to fire Paul Chryst and not make other major changes along with it.

Illinois v Wisconsin

Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

4. How do the players respond?

A college football locker room is a very interesting place. You’ve got a lot of different personalities from different places all working together to achieve the same goal. Most of the players in that locker room are likely to be upset about this decision and it will be interesting to see how they respond in the coming weeks now under Leonhard.

The energy has been lacking at times from this team in 2022 and I am eager to see whether they come out with more energy this week or not. If they do, is it rallying behind Paul Chryst or are they now trying to prove themselves for Jim Leonhard or whoever might be next? All of these are fascinating points to consider and something Wisconsin football has not dealt with for as long as I can remember.

5. What’s next for Paul Chryst?

I do believe this was the right decision for the future of Wisconsin football but I can also give credit and appreciate what Paul Chryst has done for Wisconsin. He deserves your respect. At the time of his hire, Chryst was the perfect fit for the job and I think he did a great job in stabilizing Wisconsin during some rocky times.

Usually, when a coach gets let go they take some time off and then look for the next job. However, with Chryst being a Madison native and being part of Wisconsin football for decades as both a player and coach it’s hard to imagine him taking over another position somewhere else. The other option is the life of TV as an analyst but we all know Paul Chryst has zero interest in that. It’s clear Chryst has a love and respect for Wisconsin football and I hope he gets that same respect from the fanbase as he moves on to whatever’s next.



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