Wisconsin's coaching search is essentially in a holding pattern, as the Badgers cannot make a hire until Wednesday. If the choice is indeed Paul Chryst, then it seems as though there could be announcement Wednesday and the introductory press conference on Thursday. Nothing is set in stone yet, of course.
Naming a head coach is the first trigger before assistant coaches are addressed, but the status of Gary Andersen's leftover staff at Wisconsin remains a hot topic. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a brief update Saturday night with two bits of apparently new information.
First, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is "interested" in remaining at UW. Between recent praise from athletic director Barry Alvarez and Aranda's apparent interest in staying at Wisconsin, Potrykus draws the conclusion that there are increased chances of Aranda staying put.
"Defensively," Alvarez said Friday, "replacing basically your entire front seven and your statistics are some of the best in the country."
Second, Potrykus reports "UW also appears in position to rehire Joe Rudolph," Pitt's assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Rudolph was Wisconsin's tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator from 2008-11 under Bret Bielema, and he has been pegged as likely to follow Chryst back to Madison. Rudolph is, however, a Belle Vernon, Pa., native, and he followed Chryst to Pitt in 2011 "in part to return home." Should Chryst indeed come to Wisconsin, Rudolph could be a head coaching candidate for Pitt athletic director Steve Pedersen.
While Rudolph has been the most talked-about Pitt assistant in this saga, there are a few more Wisconsin connections within Chryst's current staff.
Offensive line coach Jim Hueber came to Pitt in 2012 after 13 seasons at UW under Alvarez. From 1992-94 he was Wisconsin's running back coach; from 1995-2005, he was the offensive line coach who oversaw the development of three first-team All-American offensive linemen: Aaron Gibson, Chris McIntosh and Joe Thomas -- all eventual first-round NFL draft picks. Ron Dayne, of course, also won the Heisman behind UW's o-line in 1999.
Defensive ends coach John Palermo came to Pitt in 2013. He worked at Wisconsin from 1991-2005 in various capacities: assistant head coach (1991-2005), outside linebackers coach (1991-95) and defensive line coach (1996-2005). Palermo coached a pair of eventual first-round draft picks in Wendell Bryant (2002) and Erasmus James (2005), and in 2004, UW's entire starting defensive line was drafted.
Running backs coach John Settle came to Pitt in 2014 after three seasons coaching running backs in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers. He was Wisconsin's running backs coach from 2006-10, coaching P.J. Hill, John Clay, Montee Ball and James White.
Pitt director of Football Operations T.J. Ingels is in his first year at Pitt. Previously, he was a student assistant at Wisconsin from 2006-11. For four seasons, he was UW's head offensive student manager.
A few former Wisconsin players also currently work for Chryst. Mickey Turner, Pitt's assistant director of player development, was a tight end for the Badgers from 2006-09.Taylor Mehlhaff, special teams graduate assistant, was one of the best kickers in Wisconsin history from 2004-07. Jon Budmayr, offensive graduate assistant, was a Wisconsin quarterback in 2009-10 before his career was cut short by injuries. He worked under Andersen at UW last season. Ross Kolodziej, head strength and conditioning coach, was a Wisconsin defensive tackle from 1997-2000 before a seven-year NFL career. Brian Calhoun, assistant strength and conditioning coach, was an All-American running back for Wisconsin in 2005. Bill Nagy, strength and conditioning graduate assistant, was a versatile offensive lineman for Wisconsin before playing in the NFL from 2011-13.
That's a solid list, and while it can be tempting to automatically link them to Chryst's possible return to Wisconsin, it's important to remember that 1.) Alvarez has said several current UW assistants have expressed interest in staying on, and 2.) Not everybody's going to leave Pitt, especially if promotions are on the table.
Pitt not letting go of Chryst
Again, considering the holding pattern Wisconsin's search is in, the pace of reports has settled down since Thursday and Friday's craziness. Alvarez also said he has two more recruits to interview besides Chryst -- Greg Schiano was reportedly one on Thursday.
On Pitt's end, the focus has remained on final attempts at holding onto Chryst. On Friday, Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a Pitt source told the newspaper that Chryst "has indicated" he will accept the Wisconsin job if offered. On Saturday, Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Darrin Hall, a Pitt running back commit and one of the Panthers' two four-star recruits in the class of 2015, said he was told by Pitt officials -- specifically Settle and director of player development Bob Junko -- that Chryst "could stay if the university affords him changes."
"They have the impression he's staying there," Hall said of his conversations last week with running backs coach John Settle and director of player development Bob Junko, who told him Chryst met with chancellor Patrick Gallagher. "There are things (Chryst) wants changed, and if they can get it changed, he's staying."
Hall did not elaborate on what Chryst's requested "changes" are. Settle and Junko also told him that Chryst has met with Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher. Asked if he would honor his commit to Pitt if Chryst leaves, Hall said, "It really depends on who's leaving with him." He did say that "If Coach Settle leaves, I'm out."
This report is hard to interpret. On one hand, the longer Chryst-to-Wisconsin remains unofficial, the longer (theoretically) it remains possible that Pitt could find a way to hold onto him. On the other, what else is a recruit going to be told at this juncture? "Yeah, he's probably gone, but we're not sure yet" won't exactly hold a recruiting class together. Not to mention Hall, 247Composite's No. 23 running back for 2015, also has offers from Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and several other schools.
DiPaola also had a report on Friday that suggested that Pitt players were "laughing and joking with each other" following Friday's practice, "apparently at ease" with how Chryst is handling Wisconsin's pursuit. Nobody from Pitt has detailed how meetings with Chryst went on Friday, though athletic director Steve Pederson praised how Chryst was handling UW's interest by being "forthright" and saying, "[Wisconsin] is his alma mater. You can understand why this would give him pause to think about it." Pederson also added that he hasn't talked to any of the coaches who've reportedly inquired about the potential vacancy at Pitt.
"We have made it known to Paul and we have for some time that we would like him to be here for a long time," Pederson said. "That's never been an issue here.
"We are committed to him long-term and hope he will stay committed here long-term. I hope our coach will stay."
Asked if there is a chance that will happen, Pederson said, "I believe so."
Final interesting details from the report: if Wisconsin hires Chryst, Pitt would receive a buyout fee as has been widely expected. It's unclear how much that fee is, however. If Pitt releases Chryst for some reason before an official offer from Wisconsin, it would owe him the remaining two years of his contract, between $3 million and $4 million.
Also, Chryst is scheduled to attend an Armed Forces Bowl news conference on Monday in Fort Worth, Texas.