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Wisconsin Football: Potential Head Coach List

We’d be remised if we didn't put one of our own together.

Syndication: USA TODAY Mark Hoffman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Let me start by saying that I think Paul Chryst represented the University of Wisconsin and the State of Wisconsin to the highest degree. He stabilized a program that had lost its identity in the years prior to his tenure and brought it back to its roots. I hope everyone can appreciate all the success he had during his time with the Badgers.

With that being said, the rumors and conversations about who may replace Chryst are now swarming. Here is B5Q’s shortlist for the next Head Coach of Wisconsin.

Jim Leonhard

Let’s be honest here. Chris Mcintosh is not making this move if Jim Leonhard isn’t on the staff right now. I’ve seen some people refer to this as the worst-kept secret in Madison. The badger brass has believed that Jim Leonhard would one day be a head coach for a while. Whether it was at Wisconsin or elsewhere was up for debate and with the pressure ramping up with every year he stuck around, this seems to be the only name that matters at this point.

Leonhard lives and breathes everything it means to be a Badger. He was a walk-on turned All-American safety from Tony, Wisconsin. He spent 10 years in the NFL before returning to Madison and quickly making his way to the defensive coordinator position. Leonhard has had the Badgers defense in the top 5 nationally in most statistical categories over his tenure and seems to be the clear-cut favorite to become the next head coach.

Lance Leipold

There isn’t a hotter name in the coaching carousel this year than Lance Leipold. Leipold played college ball at UW-Whitewater from 1983-1987. He later would become an assistant at his alma mater before moving on to be a graduate assistant under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin from 1991-1993. He became Head coach at UW-Whitewater in 2006 where he won six D-III national titles and held a record of 109-6.

In 2015 he was hired at Buffalo where he took a struggling program to 3 bowl games and two MAC East Division titles. Now, Leipold is the head coach of Kansas. A historically bad program that is currently off to a 5-0 start. The ties to the state of Wisconsin run deep with Leipold but whether or not he’s a fit for what Wisconsin is looking for is up for debate. There is a lot of season left this year, but his early returns are undeniable which is why his name will continue to be mentioned for the open position at Wisconsin.

Dave Aranda

Aranda is currently the Head Coach at Baylor where he won a Big 12 title in 2021. He was the Defensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2013-2015 and had a huge hand in turning the Wisconsin defensive culture into what it is today. He then moved on to LSU as their defensive coordinator where he won the National Title under head coach Ed Orgeron. In 2020, Arranda took over as head coach at Baylor where he now holds a record of 17-11.

Whether or not Aranda would want to flee the Big 12 for the Big 10 is a big question right now. The Big 12 is losing some allure with Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC in a few years and maybe a jump to a conference with better competition is more appealing. His name has been floated for a lot of different positions but Wisconsin isn’t out of the question.

Sean Lewis

An intriguing name with clear-cut Wisconsin ties. Lewis was a tight end for Wisconsin from 2006-2007. He was hired in 2018 when he was the youngest coach in the FBS at just 32 years old. He is currently only 36 and possesses a very strong offense-based mind. His offense is... much different than what Wisconsin has historically run but is that a bad thing? No. Last season, Lewis led Kent State to be top five in many offensive statistical categories. Lewis has led his team to two bowl appearances as well. He was formerly the offensive coordinator and QB coach at Syracuse and has the potential to help get Wisconsin over some of its woes on that side of the ball.

Even if Lewis does not get the Head Coaching job, I wonder if he would consider a move to the power five as an offensive coordinator. If Jim Leonhard were to win the job I think that should be his first call as he tries to fill out his offensive staff. Jumping from a G5 head coach to a P5 offensive coordinator isn’t unheard of but it is a “demotion” in terms of title which might be hard to make happen.

Luke Fickell

Fickell is a very interesting name to me. Just last year, as head coach of Cincinnati, he had the Bearcats playing in the college football playoffs. He’s a product of the Big Ten by way of Ohio State and was interim head coach there in 2011. Is this someone the Badgers would consider? I’m not sure, but he did take Cincinnati to its ceiling last year.

If Fickell is looking to get into a better conference, maybe Wisconsin offers him something that Cinncianti can’t in that respect. Especially with the changing landscape of college football, Wisconsin is positioned well in the Big Ten for the opportunity to play the best teams in college football moving forward. Fickell’s dream job might still be Ohio State though, and with Ryan Day always being an NFL vacancy name Fickell might continue to hold out.

Dave Doeren

Another coach with ties to the University of Wisconsin. Doreren was at Wisconsin from 2006-2010 as an assistant. He currently serves as the Head Coach of NC State where he holds a record of 68-50. Doeren had his best year in 2021 when NC State went 6-2 in conference play and 9-3 overall which included beating Clemson. NC State arguably has its best team this year and is off to a 4-1 start and ranked #14 in the AP poll. Is it possible that leaving the ACC for the Big Ten could be in the best interest for Doeren long term? Maybe.