Chryst silencing critics at Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. — Paul Chryst was a feel-good hire in the winter of 2014.
The Wisconsin native, who had played and coached at UW, returned home after three years as the head coach at Pittsburgh.
He was introduced as UW’s 30th head coach on Dec. 17, 2014. That came one week after athletic director Barry Alvarez learned Gary Andersen was leaving before the end of his second season in Madison to take over the Oregon State program.
Still stinging from the stunning departure of Bret Bielema, who left UW for Arkansas just days after the 2012 Big Ten title game, Alvarez was determined to land a quality coach who also viewed UW as more than a rental property to use before looking for a permanent home.
Chryst was the obvious choice, though he wasn’t universally embraced. Some UW fans expressed concern about his 19-19 record in three seasons at Pittsburgh, including a 5-9 mark in games decided by seven points or fewer, and wondered whether he had the chops to recruit well enough
to keep UW in contention for Big Ten titles.
After two seasons, Chryst and his assistants have done just about all they can to silence any critics. UW is 21-6 under Chryst, including an 8-5 mark in games decided by seven points or fewer, and has one Big Ten West Division title and two bowl victories. The 2017 Big Ten meetings are set to be held today and Tuesday in Chicago and the Badgers, who navigated a brutal schedule to finish 11-3 and No. 9 in both national polls last season, received 31 of 38 first-place votes from a panel of Big Ten voters to win the 2017 West Division title.
“I’m one of those who did have some questions about Paul as a head coach after the time at Pitt,” Lee Barfknecht, a longtime columnist for the Omaha World-Herald said. “But I think going back to Wisconsin totally got him into his comfort zone. And maybe being out of his comfort zone at Pitt helped him grow as a coach. He probably had to deal with some things he hadn’t seen or dealt with before.
“I think he is such a handwith-glove guy with what is going on at Wisconsin. I was really impressed with the job the coaching staff did last year — with the offensive line injuries and the line being far below what Wisconsin folks are used to. …” UW’s three losses last season each came by seven points — to Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. Those teams finished No. 6, No. 7 and No. 10 in the final Amway coaches poll.