We're happy to unveil a series that will run from now until Wisconsin finds a new head football coach ... or until we get really annoyed that they haven't appointed one yet. We planned on getting this bad boy kicked off tomorrow morning, but Paul Chryst went and expedited the process by issuing a statement.
This is the Wisconsin coaching candidate Q&A session, where we sit down with a blogger who covers a team that currently employs a candidate for the Wisconsin coaching job. We're kicking things off with Chryst, the current head coach at the University of Pittsburgh and the former offensive coordinator at UW. If you haven't read it yet, Andrew did a breakdown of Chryst's candidacy, which you should go check out.
Here's my Q&A with Cardiac Hill, SB Nation's Pitt Panthers blog.
B5Q: What was your initial reaction when you heard there was a new opening at Wisconsin?
Cardiac Hill: To be honest, I was a bit numb. First came the thoughts of Chryst, obviously, but then came the thoughts that we could quite easily be going through all of this yet again. And once you've gone through it, the same thing happening again always seems possible. It's not that this is a slam dunk. Wisconsin surely has other candidates in mind and to declare this a done deal at this point would be lunacy. But the initial reaction for Pitt fans has to be 'here we go again.
B5Q: Obviously, Paul Chryst is a candidate for the Wisconsin job. It's too early to tell whether or not he's interested, but how do you feel about his job performance after one year.
CH: I took at shot at grading Chryst recently and gave him a C-. If C is average, I think Chryst fell just short of that. Pitt didn't have a great team this year, but at 6-6 in the fairly weak Big East with several players that will be in the pros, that's not quite enough in my mind. Sure, he was only a first-year head coach, but the staff didn't have the team ready to play in the season-opening loss to Youngstown State. Didn't have them ready to play on the road against UConn. And didn't have them ready against Syracuse, either. With Pitt's schedule, the team should have had a minimum of seven or eight wins and they fell short of that.
Chryst's game coaching was also a bit suspect at times. Before the end of the first half against Louisville, Chryst's staff made a horrible decision to go for it on 4th down near midfield. Instead of carrying the momentum of a lead into halftime, the team gave up a late field goal and fell apart after that. In a mind-boggling decision, he did the same thing against Notre Dame and had it not been for a missed field goal by the Irish, the team would have again given away points. Chryst has the makings of a good coach for sure, but it's pretty clear that he has some work to do.
B5Q: Take us through your thought process during the Todd Graham fiasco last season.
CH: I remember driving into work that day and hearing he was rumored to be gone. It was a lot less easy to believe since the previous coaching disaster of Mike Haywood wasn't the same type of situation. The first thing I thought of was that the guy continually kept selling everyone on the things he wanted to do at Pitt over time. I didn't buy it at first and said as much on numerous occasions at the start, but after hearing it so much, you start to believe it. After we knew he was gone, personally, I was just looking for stability. Regardless of what Pitt fans will tell you, the university made a mistake in hiring Wannstedt. They went from a team that averaged nine wins over his last three years to ... this. So, instead of a trendy hire, I wanted a guy that would probably be around for a few years. That seemed like it would be the case, but no one could have predicted the Wisconsin job being open this quickly.
B5Q: This is a different situation than last year, but how annoyed would you be at losing another coach?
CH: Losing Chryst would really be difficult, but as long as he doesn't openly deceive the fans on his way out, I think most rational fans would understand it. It's not Graham leaving for a completely foreign destination under the guise of wanting to be near family, it's a guy leaving for his alma mater. Not only that, but he coached there as well. Chryst clearly has a lot of ties there and if he's offered the job, it'd be hard to blame him. The thing that would really hurt is that Pitt would be going through the same situation yet again. Not only that, but they just secured a big-time recruit, five-star offensive lineman Dorian Johnson, and are in play for a couple more. The Panthers were putting together a potentially outstanding recruiting class and losing that would be difficult on the program.
B5Q: Is there some part of you that would understand Chryst going to Wisconsin, but nowhere else, or do you not care about that at all?
CH: Yeah, absolutely - Chryst going to Wisconsin is completely understood ... at least on my end. But if he left for Cal or something, I mean, come on. Here's the thing that's going to sting Pitt fans, though. Chryst had nothing to do with the way Dave Wannstedt was fired, Michael Haywood getting into trouble, or the Todd Graham fiasco. If Chryst is offered any job that he feels is a step up, he's perfectly within his right to take it. I get the 'ZOMG HOW CAN HE DO THIS TO PITT AFTER ALL WE'VE BEEN THROUGH?!?!' argument, but none of that is his fault. The coaching profession is like few others and while wanting to demand loyalty from coaches sounds good, it's not really fair.
That said, it'd be a heckuva lot more difficult to blame Chryst for leaving for Wisconsin than it would be for a program with which he has no ties. If that happened, there'd be full-on outrage - guaranteed.
B5Q: Any other thoughts?
CH: Please don't let this happen. That is all.
Has Cardiac Hill's opinion changed your opinion of Chryst at all?