MADISON -- Wednesday evening was a homecoming of sorts for Paul Chryst, who was introduced as the Wisconsin Badgers' next head football coach Wednesday night. The Madison native and Wisconsin alumnus will enter next season as the 30th coach in Wisconsin history. Chryst comes to Wisconsin after being the head football coach at Pitt the last three seasons, going 19-19 over his tenure as the Panthers' coach.
Really, it's a return home for Chryst, a Madison native. The press conference was filled with personal anecdotes about growing up in town, his job as a paperboy, sneaking onto the Camp Randall Stadium field, his time as a player at UW and how his late father, a former head coach at UW-Platteville, would react to both he and Bo Ryan being head coaches at Wisconsin. Chryst went to high school in Platteville and his dad was familiar with Ryan.
Chryst was a coach for the Badgers during the 2002 season, coaching the tight ends, and then again from 2005-11 coaching tight ends and quarterbacks while handling the offensive coordinator duties as well. He has previously had coaching stints as an assistant with West Virginia, UW-Platteville, Illinois State and Oregon State. Chryst returns to the Badgers after former head coach Gary Andersen resigned last week to take the job at, interestingly enough, Oregon State.
Alvarez started Wednesday;s press conference by saying that the his beliefs were affirmed about what type of a job Wisconsin had open after many well-known coaches and assistants reached out to him. Last week, Alvarez said he wouldn't flinch when hiring a new coach, proclaiming that Paul Chryst's name was the first that came to mind when Andersen resigned last week after accepting the head coaching position at Oregon State. Chryst's name was not only the first on Alvarez' list, but was also first on many reporters' and fans' lists as the top candidate available for the Badgers.
"The first person I thought of when Gary Andersen informed me that he was leaving was Paul Chryst," Alvarez said. "Paul had worked with me in the past. I have great respect for him both as a football coach and person. He and his family will be great fits for our university and our community."
Chryst seemed very comfortable at his homecoming press conference after being away from Wisconsin for three years. He attributed his success to the coaches he had worked with previously and had been able to learn from, as well as the players who he has coached. Chryst was not bashful in describing what the moment meant to him.
"To be able to do this and come back home to Wisconsin, it truly is special."
Chryst said that he reflected on what his alma mater meant to him recently when his son, Danny, was applying to school at UW-Madison. One of the questions asked what made the university a place where he looked forward to going to school and made it appealing.
"As we were going through [the application], it dawned on me that there's a spirit that is undeniable," Chryst said. "For us to be a part of that is something that you truly don't take for granted and I couldn't be more fortunate."
As the offensive coordinator for Wisconsin, Chryst's offenses led the Big Ten conference in scoring for three consecutive years from 2009-11. He also coached six of the top 10 total offensive seasons in Wisconsin history.
|Wisconsin's offense under Paul Chryst, 2005-11|
|Points / game (rank)||Pass yards / game (rank)||Rush yards / game (rank)||Yards / play (rank)|
|2011||44.1 (8th)||234.3 (61st)||235.6 (11th)||7.0 (5th)|
|2010||41.5 (5th)||199.5 (75th)||245.7 (12th)||6.7 (13th)|
|2009||31.3 (25th)||213.1 (66th)||203.8 (15th)||5.9 (33rd)|
|2008||27.5 (47th)||188.1 (84th)||211.2 (14th)||5.8 (34th)|
|2007||29.5 (50th)||208.0 (72nd)||200.8 (22nd)||5.7 (41st)|
|2006||29.2 (26th)||211.5 (50th)||161.7 (37th)||5.6 (44th)|
|2005||34.3 (14th)||228.4 (51st)||168.2 (37th)||5.7 (35th)|
Chryst thanked Alvarez for the opportunity and said that it meant more to him than Alvarez would ever know. While he said that Wednesday was a "great day" by his standards, he was looking forward to the future and what it holds for both himself and his teams at Wisconsin.
"As great of a day as today is, and it is, it's a great day, I also don't want it to be the best day," Chryst said. "I look forward to going to work and being with this group of players, and as we add players to this, to truly do something special."
Chryst said that because of all the factors that go into getting a job like the head coaching position at Wisconsin and being at the right place, at the right time, he wasn't sure if it would ever happen for him. But it did, and he and Alvarez broke down the sequence of events that allowed it to happen.
"I didn't know any of it was happening," Chryst said, "and then I had a chance to talk with [Alvarez] and be really candid and upfront with him."
Alvarez went on to say that he knew Chryst was the right "fit" because of his ability to recruit, the players that he has coached and his experience working with the former assistant. UW's AD also pointed to the timing of the opening and the ability to pry Chryst from Pittsburgh.
While Chryst fell short of saying that the job at Wisconsin was a destination job, instead stating that destination jobs are "earned" over time along with the right to stay in a position, he reiterated that the he was grateful for the opportunity.
"Coach Alvarez and I think what Bo is doing right now with hoops, they have earned the right to make it a destination job," Chryst said. "I sure hope to work to try and make it that. But you've got to earn that, I believe."
Chryst joked that coming home and coaching his alma mater had no pressure involved. He also won over the crowd of boosters and media with with his answer to whether he would buy back his home, which he sold to Andersen when the former Utah State coach moved to Madison in 2012.
"It depends on the price," Chryst said.
While rumors swirled that Andersen left because of the difficulty of admitting students into Wisconsin, Chryst brushed off that claim and said it wouldn't be an issue.
The next step for Chryst is to familiarize himself with the current players, begin his work at maintaining the committed recruits and hire a coaching staff. The new head coach said that he would begin assembling his staff Thursday, but it is still uncertain which current assistants he will retain and when he can start to make hires due to a state policy that forces a two-week open period for positions to remain open.
One assistant that is expected to stay on with Chryst is former player and current cornerbacks coach Ben Strickland, who has been credited with recruiting the state of Wisconsin well despite the criticism against Andersen's regime for its criticism toward in-state recruiting. Graduate assistant Josh Oglesby and tight ends coach Jeff Genyk both were in attendance along with current players Joel Stave, Corey Clement and Derek Watt.
Chryst has been rumored to bring offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, now the interim head coach at Pitt for the Armed Forces Bowl, and defensive coordinator Matt House with him to Madison. Chryst will also likely try to convince Dave Aranda to stay on as defensive coordinator and may retain other assistants as well, including recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Chris Beatty, safeties coach Bill Busch and running backs coach Thomas Brown. It has been also rumored that Chryst will try to bring back Tennessee Titans offensive line coach and former Wisconsin assistant Bob Bostad.
Chryst will attend bowl practices with the team throughout the coming weeks as the Badgers prepare for the Outback Bowl under the guidance of Barry Alvarez, while also hitting the recruiting trail.
Chryst hasn't head-coached a single game yet for the Badgers, but anticipation is at a fever pitch with a new regime on the horizon and nostalgic views of past success heading into next season.